8 Things to do in London – when you have little cash!

I’m in London, staying in the home of my sister-in-law; so free accommodation. Like many people from ‘up North’, ‘His Nibs’ and I have less money than the average Londoner; or tourist even, and so it can get rather expensive. We have done well this time, apart from one ‘extravagance’ (see #7) we have only spent money on transport and food! (Oh, and alcohol!!)

So, how can you see stuff for little or no cost? Take a look at the list of 8 attractions I recommend:

 

1.Tate Modern

Located in what was once Bankside Power Station on the south bank of the Thames, the Tate Modern is one of the city’s most loved attractions. You can enjoy the permanent collection for free – it includes works by Pollock, Warhol and Matisse.

2.National Gallery

Housing masterpieces by painters including van Gogh, Renoir, da Vinci and Michelangelo, the National Gallery holds one of the world’s most important art collections. Miss the hordes by visiting on weekday mornings or Friday evenings. The permanent collections are always free.

3.Kensington Gardens

The delightful  Gardens are home to a trove of treasures, including the Albert Memorial, the Peter Pan Statue, the Serpentine Gallery, the Round Pond and the Diana Memorial Playground. All are free to admire or visit, and when you’re done with the sights, you can wander along the tree-lined paths which crisscross the whole park.

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4.Portobello Road Market

Located in the heart of charming Notting Hill, this atmospheric market sells everything from vintage clothes and sumptuous street food to antiques. It’s busiest on Saturdays, but there’s always something going on, whatever day you visit. It costs nothing to look and experience, but you might want to take some spends in case you see something interesting!

5.Buddhapadipa Temple

Surrounded by trees in over 1.5 hectares of tranquil Wimbledon land, this delightful Thai Buddhist temple actively welcomes everyone. The wat (temple) boasts a bot (consecrated chapel) decorated with traditional scenes by two leading Thai artists (take your shoes off before entering). Take bus 93 from Wimbledon tube, train or tram station. Free.

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6.Sir Richard Francis Burton Tomb

The most interesting tomb in St. Mary Magdalen’s churchyard is the mausoleum in the shape of an Arab tent where the coffins of Sir Richard Burton and his wife Isabel Arundell can be seen through a window at the back. It is to be found in the unassuming churchyard in Mortlake, South West London. Free.

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  1. Dennis Severs’ House

More than a museum, an art work, an experience, it is an intimate portrait of the lives of a family of Huguenot silk-weavers from 1724 to the dawn of the 20th Century. As you follow their fortunes through the generations, the sights, smells and sounds of the house take you into their lives. This does cost £15 pp, but is well worth it.18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields is more than just a time capsule.

  1. Speaker’s Corner

Every Sunday since 1866 a range of different speakers gather at Speaker’s Corner to air their views and the tradition continues today. Speaker’s Corner is situated in the top right hand corner of Hyde Park opposite Marble Arch. Many famous figures have spoken at Speaker’s Corner including Karl Marx, Lenin, William Morris, George Orwell and Lord Soper. Free.

 

 

 

 

I’m in love with…

 

 

…Sir Richard Burton, no not that one –

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This one –

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Born in 1821, Richard Francis Burton was something of a celebrity in his own time. Think of the typical idea of the Victorian male:

  • Manliness was a virtue, a form of control over maleness, which was considered brutish.
  • The Victorian man liked to form secret societies, such as the Masons.
  • He was not only the head of the household; his duty was not only to rule, but also to protect his wife and children.
  • Working was manly; whether working-class males in heavy industry, or middle-class males, upper class males could become involved in philanthropic works or other enterprising actions.
  • Sport! They watched it, read about it, did it. Sports and cold showers; to keep the ‘little man’s’ desires in check and to prove his worth – to be ready for attack.  E. M. Forster, apparently said that this “then led to “well-developed bodies, fairly developed minds, and undeveloped hearts”.
  • And most of all, Victorian man was British. And proud of it! The expansion of the Empire became entangled in what it meant to be a man, and so he served the Queen, he hunted creatures to near extinction; he pioneered and subordinated non British peoples. He was top man, the dog’s bollocks, king of the world (with little k.)

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Burton fits some of this characterisation; however, his views on the rest of the world and in particular Islam and women were light years ahead of his fellows. He  was ‘sent down’ from Oxford (meaning he was kicked out), after a series of mischievous events. He took it well, bid his tutors farewell and headed cheerily off to become more than they could ever imagine.

RFB was not only an explorer, he was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He seemed to excel at everything he did. I cannot think of anyone else alive or historical who was so accomplished. He was extraordinarily open-minded for a man of his time:

Letchford, Albert, 1866-1905; Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), KCMG, FRGS, Maitre d'Armes, France

Burton did not think of women as inferior to men.  He was very much interested in sexuality and erotic literature – his accurate translation of ‘The Book of a Thousand and One Nights’, is full of steamy sex scenes. He translated the ‘Kama Sutra’, the most famous book in the world on sexual techniques to this day.

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He slept with woman of all race, colour and creed (males too some reports say), he smoked opium, drank cannabis drinks with holy men, he hung about with prostitutes with no particular judgement on their profession. He took a spear to the face, when his and Speke’s encampment was attacked one night in Africa, and survived. He was spy in India. An Afghan pilgrim in the Middle East; he had himself circumcised so he could pass as native, one of the few white men to have entered Mecca in disguise. He spoke a fair number of languages too – fluent in 29!!! I can barely speak my native one right. And on and on his adventures go.

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I first heard about RFB in my teens I think. Then later on a friend who was interested in him lent me a book, ‘Sir Richard Burton’s Travels in Arabia and Africa.’ I read and studied it, sort of. But what really enticed me to discover more about the great man was a work of literary fiction.

The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi’, by Mark Hodder. The first of four books in Hodder’s Burton and Swinburne Adventures. In this alternative 19th century, Hodder really brought Burton to life for me – the outrageous behaviour, that British stoicism partnered with emotional passion, a huge, physical, Brainiac of a fist-fighter paired with the slight, red-headed, waif-like Algernon Swinburne; poet.

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Two real persons from history partnered up for some beautifully written and roistering, boisterous adventures. And so I began my love affair with Ruffian Dick; I even wrote him into one of my own short, Steampunk stories, in which my protagonist, Lucy Lockhart encounters more of Ruffian Dick than the average English woman did!

Burton was adventurous of mind as well as body. He seemed to fear nothing. He did not judge other cultures as his fellow Victorians did (and some of us still do today), he was bold, brave, liked a laugh and a drink, and he was devoted to the love of his life, his wife; Isabel. His energy, enthusiasm, his curiosity for the people and world around him should be held as an ideal to work for today I think.

Sir Richard Francis Burton died, 20 October 1890.

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This August, I hope to make my own mini pilgrimage from the North, to London to visit his tomb at Saint Mary Magdalen Church, Mortlake.

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The same superficial view of holding woman to be lesser (and very inferior) man is taken generally by the classics; and Euripides distinguished himself by misogyny, although he drew the beautiful character of Alcestis.’ RFB. On Arab womanhood in 1001 Nights.

Women, all the world over, are what men make them; and the main charm of Amazonian fiction is to see how they live and move and have their being without any masculine guidance.’ RFB. On Arab womanhood in 1001 Nights.