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"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

Three things you really need to know about London...
I'm exactly half way through reading 'London: The Biography' by Peter Ackroyd and it is a truly wonderful book. I was given it by Ian/Nikki/Colin as a birthday present and I have to say thank you very much to all three of you. It is a well written, fascinating, illuminating and compelling read. It is easy to dip into yet hard to put down. Crammed full of amazing facts about London, it's history and it's modus operandi. By way of a taster I shall reproduce three of the items that caught my imagination and that I think you really need to know.

1. The main meal of the day in London has moved forward by ten hours in the last five centuries. In the late fifteenth century many Londoners dined at ten o'clock in the morning. By the sixteenth century some delayed by an hour or so to eat at, or just after, eleven o'clock - but never later than noon. Ackroyd continues, "In the seventeenth century, the hours of twelve and one became common. But then in the early decades of the eighteenth century there was a rapid acceleration in meal time. By 1740 two o'clock was the appropriate hour, and by 1770 three was considered the vital moment. In the last decades of the eighteenth century, and the first of the nineteenth, the dinner hour slid to five or six. By 1850 dinner at eight or even nine o'clock was considered appropriate at 'aristocratic' tables."

2. The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed five sixths of the entire city of London. And what was the official death toll after such devastation?... Just six people! Apparently everybody ran away as soon as they smelled the smoke and no one stopped to fight the fire.

3. In 1339 where were many disorderly houses in London harbouring both prostitutes and sodomites. In fact there are many records of sodomite houses at that time. As Ackroyd puts it, So there was in medieval London a thriving homosexual community, which aligned itself with the brothels and the bawds. It would be tempting to describe it as an underworld except that it was well known and ubiquitous.

So to conclude: Londoners have been gay for hundreds of years, are now very late eaters and would rather run than fight a fire. Dinner party conversation topics maybe? :-)

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