Posted by inka on Apr 1, 2012 in humor
It’s April Fools Day and, as you might have guessed, this post has to be taken with a pinch of salt. However, I was interested in the origins of the Day of the Pranksters and did some research. There are, in fact, several origins listed in the trusted Wikipedia, none of them particularly interesting and definitely not one origin that could be nailed as the source of April 1st.
In the Middle Ages, New Year was not celebrated on the 1st of January but from March 25th to April 1st. Until the Edict of Roussillion of 1564 decreed January 1st as New Year. Given the slowness of communication of the times, it took a few years until every citizen knew about the change and those who still celebrated New Year on the 1st of April were made fun off by those savvy fellow countrymen who already were in possession of the new date. Sounds a good enough explanation to me.
There are other reference to England and Chancer’s Canterbury Tales which apparently had a spelling error. The first British reference to ‘ Fooles Holy Day’ comes from John Aubrey in 1686. Reading on, I came to a list of famous pranks played on April the 1st and the funniest is the one which makes the title of this post.
Apparently in 1698 tickets were sold in London to watch the Washing of the Lions at the Tower of London and many people were tricked into buying them. This little scam seems to have endured times as I found another ticket dating from 1868.
From the Museum of Hoaxes
So, if you happen to be in London today, why don’t you head for the Tower, on the off chance that there are a few lions around in need of a good Spring scrub!!!
The Tower of London
Tower Walls as seen from the bridge
Happy Fools Day.
Posted by inka on May 23, 2011 in london
, Travel tips
Stories about London’s Tower Bridge
I love bridges. I love the illusion of effortless grace, as if the biggest and longest of them thumb their nose at the awed observer saying: Look at me, I defy gravity and don’t even break a sweat, whereas you tiny mere mortal, staring up at my soaring arches, will start huffing and puffing when you climb up and walk across.
Fortunately, the world isn’t short of bridges, so I can indulge in my passion in many countries and add to my collection in the folder called: Bridges crossed. The last addition is London’s emblematic Tower Bridge. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I lived in London for over 10 years and never got around to walking across Tower Bridge. It took a return trip as a ( sort of) tourist to finally do it.
Tower Bridge seen from St. katherine's Dock
I took the underground (subway for my American friends) to Tower Hill, alighted at the station and…failed to see the bridge! How could that be possible? I mean something as huge and famous as Tower Bridge can’t hide from view, can it? Luckily there was a tiny sign with an arrow pointing to the left and following it I came to some steps which led up to street level. And there was the solution to the bridge’s temporary invisibility: I was at the very beginning on the North side just above St. Katherine’s Dock and the bridge starts out humbly and level, recognizable only by the distinct turquoise colored railing. But then… step onto it and start walking and you are rewarded by fabulous views of the Thames and the skyline of London as well as the imposing structure of the bridge itself.
Starting my walk across the bridge
Some of the massive supports
A plaque showing what the bridge looks like when open
The Victorian engine room
The two bascules looming ahead, the high level walkway even higher above and traffic whizzing past. When the bridge was inaugurated in 1894, ship traffic on the Thames was thriving and that is why the bridge needed to open to allow the sail and steam ships to pass.
Story #1 has to do with the high level walkways which allowed pedestrians to cross the bridge even when it was open. They were closed in 1910 due to lack of usage. People much preferred to stand at the lower level, see the bridge open and watch the ships go by rather than climb up the many stairs to the higher level dragging along whatever luggage they were carrying. Another version has it that the walkway was such a popular spot for pickpockets that people just dreaded to use it.
Since 1984, the walkways are open again, but only accessible via the Tower Bridge Exhibition Center at an admission fee of GBP 8. So, like everybody else who crossed the bridge with me, I preferred to use the lower level and spend the money saved on food.
When I came to the middle of the bridge and the line where it opens, I involuntarily looked out for a #78 bus. Why? That’s story #2 and it’s a true one. In 1952, a #78 bus, driven by Albert Gunton happened to be on this spot when the bridge started to open. Brave Albert had no choice but to hit the accelerator and jump the increasing gap with his red double decker bus.
And story #3 has to do with another emergency: in 1912 Frank McClean was flying along the Thames in his Short biplane when he encountered engine trouble, To avoid an accident he took aim and flew his tiny plane right through the bridge between the higher walkways and the two bascules. It seems that he landed safely wherever he was going . Don’t you just live these stories.
Nothing exciting happened whilst I was crossing the bridge but I enjoyed the views, one of my favorite being the combination of new and old: the Gerkhin looming into the sky with the walls of the Tower of London in front.
Gerkhin and Tower of London seen from the bridge