I have never built up a network of relationships with private tour operators who offer what I call posh jobs: work with people who stay in smart hotels in Mayfair and have personal tours with private chauffeurs, ones which end in fancy restaurants where they are wined and dined in style.
Occasionally one of these jobs come up – usually when they are short of guides – but for the most part I rely on working for companies like Golden Tours or Trafalgar where the party consists of people who have bought an extended tour or a day trip through the company’s brochure or website. I like this type of work in which you have to start off with a group of disparate people and try to end up with a big and reasonably happy family.
I had a private job the other day, however, in which a group of guides were each assigned a couple and took them off in their own car before ending up at a pub in Covent Garden for lunch. The next day they went off to a football (soccer) match – Chelsea against Manchester United – so there was plenty of money floating around and the emphasis was on making sure people had a good time rather than saving pennies, as it tends to be at the cheaper end of the industry.
My couple wanted to go to the Globe and, as usual, they asked me how many times I had been there. In fact, I could count the number of times I had taken the tour there on the fingers of one hand. The Globe is one of those places that people see from the river and which I often mention but visiting it is very much an individual choice. There is a wall painting of Shakespeare nearby by the Australian street artist Jimmy C and I them there. I also told them about his painting of David Bowie in Brixton and told them how to get there so I earned my corn. (He was a big Bowie fan.)
It took an American actor Sam Wannamaker to rebuild the Globe in Southwark near its original site. Many people were a bit sniffy about the idea, looking on it as a kind of Disney version of Shakespeare, and I doubt any British actor or director – creatives as they like to be called these days – would have had the drive and chutzpah to get this project off the ground.
Wannamaker had the idea of rebuilding the Globe when he first came to London in 1943 and he died in 1993 not long before the project was completed. Like his daughter Zoe he had a distinguished stage career and also appeared in Hollywood movies and in a few mediocre television series. His bust can be seen between the ticket booth and the all-important gift shop.
I had always thought of the Globe as one of London’s newer attractions even if the original was built in 1599 when the company simply moved their old theatre from Shoreditch to Southwark virtually overnight. (Read James Shapiro’s book 1599 for the full story.) Yet, as our guide Fion (another ‘creative’) was showing us around, I noticed that the thatched roof had gone green. They received the first permit for a thatched building in central London since the great Fire of London in 1666 – and now it is overgrown with grass.
This is hardly surprising – thatch is after all an organic material – but still indicative of how a new project can become part of the landscape of London in just a few decades. The Globe is obviously here to stay.