Skip to content

Jimmy’s London

August 8, 2023
by the gentle author

Click here to book for my tours through August, September and October


Click here to buy tour gift vouchers for your family and friends


Excerpts from ‘This is London‘ produced as a guide for servicemen & women in 1944

In these war-time days, when official guide books are not obtainable, a quiet perusal of ‘This is London’ will be of inestimable service to visitors, making a ‘leave in London’ something memorable and, as Jimmy says, well worth keeping a diary of.

“ the Bank..”

I don’t know anything about London and the sooner I set out to learn the better and the quicker I’ll know it. There’s only one way to learn about any town and that is to walk as much as you can. It’ll knock some of the strangeness out of you. You won’t feel you’re a stranger in the place. You won’t feel as if everyone is looking at you and telling themselves that you are a stranger. Believe me, it’ll help you feel a lot better.

The Green Park

I wanted to walk along the pavements, to watch the people, to visit places whose names were so familiar to everyone in the world. Talk about walking the paths of history, I was tickled pink.

“…Charing Cross Rd as a Free Library…”

Whether you are a reader on no, it is well worth spending a few minutes, few hours for that matter, watching the various types of people who stand, hour after hour, at the bookshops, browsing. I’m firmly convinced that very many Londoners regard Charing Cross Rd as a Free Library, and I’m equally certain that booksellers look benignly on these non-profitable customers.

“…down Wapping Way..”

To find funny little pubs with funny little bars and mix with all kinds of people, I think it’s the wisest thing anyone could do and it’s what I’ve always longed to try. There are no tough spots. Go to the poorest quarter in the East End and you’ll meet with politeness. Go into a pub down by the docks. It may not be luxurious, but you’ll find that everyone is nice there. You’ll hear the occasional ‘damn’ and, if there’s no women in the place, you’ll hear much worse.

Dirty Dick’s I won’t forget in a hurry. A unique place if ever there was one. I think the story of the original landlord who allowed everything to get into such a disgusting state of dirt and cobwebs is more or less fictitious. It’s quite close to Liverpool St Station and, although it, like many other place, received some damage during the blitz, the landlord still carries on, just as do all other Londoners.

In Hyde Park, some of the orators take their job very seriously, others look upon it as a kind of rag, entering into cross-talk with their audiences with such obvious pleasure. I don’t think I would like to be an earnest speaker there for occasionally the heckling is terrific. How these speakers can possibly hope to make themselves heard, speaking as they do one against the other, is more than I can understand.

I went to Covent Garden Market and tried to understand what it was all about, tried to make sense of what the salesmen were saying. They have a jargon all their own while the porters astonished me by throwing enormous weights about with a nonchalance that is truly amazing.

In St James’ Park

Where else but in London could one see the unexpected glimpse of a State trumpeter, his tunic, the scarlet and gold of medieval pageantry, glinting in the sun – and the inscrutable eyes of an aged Chelsea Pensioner who watched him fixedly?

Of course, I’ve read my Pepys and that gives a very fair picture, but while I’m fond of seeing historical buildings, links with the past so to speak, I much prefer the present.

A fellow would have to be dead from the neck up if he couldn’t enjoy the London Zoo. The Zoo is obviously a Londoner’s playground, everyone is eager to see as much as possible and the groups around each cage or enclosure become, for the moment, a band of friends.

The Embankment where artists in chalk ply their trade and pray for fair weather …

… and schoolboys read ‘penny dreadfuls’ in the shadow of mysterious Egypt.

Thankyou London, for all those memories. Thankyou London!

12 Responses leave one →
  1. Peter J Washington permalink
    August 8, 2023

    2/6d, quite a price back then.

  2. Miguel permalink
    August 8, 2023


  3. Andy permalink
    August 8, 2023

    Much as I remember and mostly vanished now.

  4. August 8, 2023

    Wonderful snapshots — today parents would be blessed if their boys were huddled together like this, browsing through printed works…

    Love & Peace

  5. August 8, 2023

    Splendid collection. Thank you!

  6. John Cunningjam permalink
    August 8, 2023

    The Jolly Japes style of language seems as antique as that spoken in Shakespeare’s time

  7. Cherub permalink
    August 8, 2023

    The young lads engrossed in their books – now it’s all about scrolling on mobile phones 🙁

  8. August 8, 2023

    The photo of the boys curled up in the arms of the sphinx totally touched my heart. I’d like to believe that this was a spontaneous photo of a real event — yet every aspect of the composition is so
    art-directed and “posed”, I wonder. The trio of small boyish profiles, the jumble of limbs, and the boy’s hand placed on the heart of the statue — lovely and so narrative. One of the most tender-hearted photos I’ve seen — I will wonder all day what happened to these boys.

    Thank you, GA.

  9. August 8, 2023

    The boys reading is so touching, regardless of their taste in literature!

  10. Bernie permalink
    August 8, 2023

    Lynne is surely right in thinking that the boys nestling in the feet of the sphinx were posed by the photographer.

  11. Ros permalink
    August 8, 2023

    I am astounded by the sheep in Green Park! The Covent Garden photo is also rather good. And we wouldn’t tolerate the role of the polar bear any more I’m glad to say.

  12. August 13, 2023

    Great images of London’s history.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS