13 Nov 2015

Why whistling is unpopular in London

Whistling in London
Watch any English movie made before 1940 and set in London, and at some point one of the male characters will start whistling a tune. It could be the milkman on his rounds, the delivery boy on his bicycle, or the shady character loitering on a street corner; but you can guarantee that before long, someone will start to whistle.
 Yet now nobody whistles in London. The habit has entirely died out here, although it remains more popular in the English regions. Why should this be? A group of sociologists noticed this phenomenon in the 1970s and decided to investigate. Their theory was that whistling can be seen as an expression of individual public confidence, and its absence showed that Londoners were now more fearful in public places, not wanting to draw attention to themselves.

Whistling campaign
The newspapers took this up and filled pages with the opinions of commentators and politicians, deploring the lack of social confidence. A ‘bring back whistling’ campaign was started, with famous Londoners, including the writers Will Self and Julian Barnes, deliberately whistling around town in the hope that it would catch on.

However the discovery of a diary kept by a milkman in the East End of London during the second world war threw a quite different light on the matter. During the blitz, when London was bombed every night for three months, he wrote of the ‘nasty whine and whistle’ of the bombs, and of being told to ‘shut up that whistling’ by neighbours as he delivered the milk in the morning. ‘You’ll bring them on’, he was scolded.
So the latest academic theory is that whistling is absent from London for the same superstitious reason that it’s discouraged on board ship: it brings bad luck. It seems that three months of wartime bombing did away with whistling for Londoners, and the habit has never returned.
Visitors of a humorous disposition might like to whistle a tune in public to see what happens. Be ready to receive some strange looks and muttered comments from locals, especially those from the East End, who still carry the folk memory of high explosive bombs whistling down from the night skies.
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Extract from my book  'How Not to Be a Tourist in London'

3 Oct 2015

Smash the smarphones

Fed up with trying to walk past people who dawdle along, absorbed in their so-called smartphones?  Join the revolution!

10 Sep 2015

23 Aug 2015

13 Aug 2015

Guinness Gloves - essential kit for the pub

Thursday night seems the right time to plug 'Guinness Gloves', as featured in The Manopause Manual:

29 Jul 2015

Lord Sewel needs to read this book

Lord Sewel, whose behaviour was of course deplorable etc, but who made some cracking off the cuff character assessments of fellow-politicians, should have read my new book 'The Manopause Manual'.  Then he would have realised that chaps of his age should be choosing a new shed and wondering whether to grow a beard, not organising "sex'n'drugs romps" in hotel rooms.

The real reason we are so upset about this scandal is not that Lord Sewel is a politician - I mean,what do we expect? - but that he is getting on in years. In your sixties it's undignified, right?  He should have done all that bad stuff in his youth.

So Lord Swell, if you're reading this, please contact me for a free copy of my book, which will explain how to behave at your fine old age.  It's not all boring - you can select a new hobby, go to the pub with your pals, and perhaps even buy a sports car at last.

The Manopause Manual was published this week.

17 Jun 2015

'The Manopause Manual' - coming soon

Press Release  - - -  StickIt Books

What is the Manopause?
A new humour book reveals what happens to men when they reach their fifties.  It’s not all about being grumpy and dreaming of sports cars – no, that’s only about 60% of it. 

‘The Manopause Manual’ takes us into the minds of married men having a midlife moment, who are in danger of thinking too much. The book encourages them to stop with the deep thoughts and get scheming for new ways to enjoy this stage of life:

·         Convincing our wives we need a new hobby
·         And a lad’s holiday
·         And a beard, and possibly a sports car

Humour author PK Munroe (‘The Thursday Night Letters’, ‘You Can Stick It’) explores suitable hobbies, and explains in detail why a shed is now the new sports car.  He warns his fellow-men about modern obsessions with health, exercise, food, sport, and philosophy: a brisk examination reveals the latest thinking on all of them to be riddled with contradictions, and best ignored in favour of taking it easy.  And he pours scorn on the way that the male talent for identifying important social problems is labelled ‘being grumpy’.

The Manopause Manual is a useful guide to male eccentricity for women, too.  Find out what he is he really thinking when casting sidelong glances at motorbikes and electric guitars, and discover why he needs hobbies and regular meet-ups with his pals. The poor chap isn’t made for thinking – he needs to be out there doing, just like his ancestors who went off hunting for days on end (or so they claimed).

PK Munroe’s new release joins his recent books How Not to be a Tourist in London and 50 Ways to Get Amazon to Pay More Tax as an essential slim volume for the loo bookshelf.
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3 Jun 2015

Helpful London Tube poem

Posters at tube stations with poems about tube etiquette that don't scan have been getting up people's noses lately.  I'm going to send this in to London Transport:

23 May 2015

Useful facts for tourists: London expressions

Lively, excitable. “He’s a bit barking, isn’t he?”

Dresses on the left
A polite way to describe someone who holds left-wing political views.

Euphemism for sexual congress. As in ‘Do you fancy a flutter?’

Full English
A particularly confusing one – this is the ubiquitous name for a traditional fried breakfast, but more recently it has acquired a double meaning, as a euphemism for sexual congress. So use it with care at the breakfast table!

How’s your father
Polite enquiry about one’s relatives.

A powerful and moving experience, such as hearing a Shakespeare soliloquy read by a great actor, or a beautiful aria sung at the opera.

Leave it out
Please do not include it. For example, when offered salt or pepper at a restaurant.

Old chap
Father. As in ‘My old chap’s not been looking too good recently.’

Pigeon pie
Also known as a ‘Saturday night special’, the all-too familiar pile of vomit on the pavement.

4 Mar 2015

London's hidden gems: the plague pits

The London Evening Standard has a competition to find 'hidden gems' for tourists to London. Here's mine:  
The Plague Pits
'The terrible outbreak of bubonic plague that swept through England in 1425 did not spare the capital's citizens.  The scenes of death and suffering are hard to imagine, but a few vestiges remain.  Dotted around London are various ‘plague pits’ where those who died from the plague were hastily buried en masse. Thousands of bodies were interred in these burial sites, to be covered over, filled in, and gradually forgotten.

The bubonic plague bacillus, however, is a living organism that can survive for several centuries in a dormant state. Very occasionally, fresh building work will uncover a medieval plague pit - at which point the medical authorities immediately take control of the site, putting the workmen through a rigorous quarantine. Thankfully bubonic plague can now be treated with drugs, but the dangers of it rapidly spreading through London’s population, aided by the tube and bus network, are all too apparent.

Most of these rediscovered plague pits are pronounced safe by the authorities, but a few where the live bacillus was detected have been sealed off with concrete and covered over again. There is one just behind Holborn station, another opposite the London Eye fairground, and a third (probably the best known) at the North end of Leicester Square.

A ‘safe’ plague pit can be seen up on Hampstead Heath, alongside the bathing ponds. It is quite small and takes some finding, since it is not signposted, but locals should be able to direct you. A visit to see ‘the pit’ makes for an interesting detour if you are visiting the Heath.'

Extract from my book 'How Not to Be a Tourist in London'      

16 Feb 2015

London tourist book now out in paperback

At last 'How Not to be a Tourist in London' is available in paperback,
'How Not to be a Tourist in London' on Amazon UK for you to read on the broken-down bus, or while strolling down Oxford Street.  Here at last is the honest-guv truth about why cabbies don't like tipping, what those little studs in the pavement are for, where to catch a Thames salmon, and which local delicacies to order 'off menu' at your favourite London restaurant. Packed full of such vital material, here is a book to get your touristic imagination working overtime.

Have a look on Amazon UK and USA.