diamond geezer

 Monday, May 18, 2020

As a child I had a number of I-SPY books, including the classics At the Seaside, The Sky and British Coins. Even though I didn't live in London at the time I also had this one, ideal for the infrequent times we hopped on the tube and came up to town.

The book lists 70 sights to look out for, a question to answer when you get there and a points value for each answer. I can tell I only took my I-SPY book up to London once because I've only written in three answers and scored a measly 60 points, whereas 1250 points were required for the Order of Merit LONDONER - Second Class.

I've tried to determine precisely how old my copy of the book is, and failed. The cover says it cost sixpence, which dates it to February 1971 or earlier, but also says it was published by the News Chronicle, a liberal-leaning broadsheet which ceased publication in October 1960. This edition can't be from any later in the 1960s otherwise it'd mention the Daily Mail instead, so my family's best guess is that it's a hand-me-down from my Dad and he bought it in the mid-1950s.

I-SPY The Sights of London is unusual in that you're not left to your own devices to track down each point-scoring item... a map has been provided. This takes up the entire centre spread and stretches from the Serpentine in the west to Tower Bridge in the east. All the sights are labelled and listed, and a set route weaves around central London from Nelson's Column (1) to Charing Cross (70). Not only does this make it easier for the average Redskin to follow, it also meant Big Chief I-SPY only had to walk round once to gather all his content.

Actually it's not a terribly efficient route. Trafalgar Square is visited three times, 18 (Eros) and 19 (Porter's Rest) would be better ticked off the other way round and a ridiculous hyperleap has been inserted between 60 (Tower Bridge) and 61 (Broadcasting House). I also note that all 70 of the chosen sights are north of the Thames with not a single example south of the river, so I can only assume Big Chief I-SPY wasn't overly impressed by the newly-built Royal Festival Hall.

Here's a typical double page spread from early in the book around Trafalgar Square. Number 3 asks you to find George IV's statue and, for 25 points, write down what's missing. Number 4 is St Martin-in-the-Fields, including the salacious fact that the crypt contains a whipping post, but the question's about the date in Roman numerals on the portico instead. Number 5 concerns the "One-man" Police Station facing the Strand, which back then was still being used as a lookout, and number 6 relates to the Standard Measures of Length embedded in the back wall. There are some proper psychogeographic titbits here.

I thought it would be interesting to scan through the book and see which of the 70 locations have disappeared since it was published in the 1950s. Let's see...
(17) Roosevelt Memorial: This hasn't moved, but the US Embassy has shifted so you'll no longer "see plenty of American cars".
(23) Statue of Charles I: This is still in Trafalgar Square, but good luck trying to answer the question "Which part of the statue was replaced a few years ago?"
(24) Bust of Charles I: The book claims this can be found "over the entrance to the United Services Museum", but we now know this as the Banqueting House.
(26) No 10 Downing Street: It's no longer possible to score 20 points by identifying the "useful article standing each side of the front door". Ah for the innocent days when the general public could mill around outside.
(31) Big Ben: The book correctly notes that this is the bell, not the tower, but scaffolding currently prevents us from identifying "something unusual about the face of Big Ben which is not usual on clocks".
(39) The Discovery: This is the first proper disappearance. Captain Scott's Discovery was an Embankment-side tourist attraction until 1979, and can now be visited in Dundee.
(43) No 17 Fleet Street: It is no longer possible to gain "free admission to a panelled room known as Prince Henry's Room" (but the question is still answerable).
(45) The News Chronicle Time Band: As previously mentioned, this newspaper closed 60 years ago. The idea that anyone can wander in off the street to stare at a clock in an entrance lobby died rather more recently.
(56) London Stone: At time of publication this Roman relic was "set in the wall of a church", but that was bombed in the war and demolished in 1962 so you can no longer score 20 points for naming the church.
(58) London Bridge: The sentence "The present bridge was opened in 1831" was only true until 1973, so counting the arches no longer gives the intended answer.
(60) Tower Bridge: For some mysterious reason the question is about the Royal Mint, not the bridge, and that moved to Wales in 1967.
(66) Covent Garden: Described here as "a great bustle of vegetables, flowers, fruit, and people", the famous market moved to Nine Elms in 1974 so is no longer on route.
I can't get to central London right now to test out the remainder of the book, and probably neither can you, but the advance of the internet means many of the I-SPY book's questions are now answerable without stepping out of your front door. To test out that theory, see if you can discover the answers to these 20-pointers using digital photos and/or a bit of research. comments
(9) St James's Park: At the Birdcage Walk entrance is a statue on a drinking fountain. What is there on the right hand side of the figure?
(10) Buckingham Palace: One of the large figures on the Victoria Memorial is a workman wearing a leather apron. What tool is in his belt?
(13) Albert Hall: What letter is to be seen above each of the lower windows?
(15) The Serpentine: How many arches in the Serpentine Bridge?
(19) Porter's Rest (Piccadilly): Which English town is mentioned on the Rest?
(28) Statue of Lincoln (Parliament Square): How many buttons can you see on his cuff?
(37) Cleopatra's Needle: What insect is shown on the base of the statue just above the inscription?
(42) The Law Courts: What is shown in the lower right-hand of the face of the clock?
(55) Mansion House: What weapon is shown in the lamp-post shields?
(59) Tower of London: What is on top of the four weather vanes?
(62) British Museum: What colour are the "Spearheads" in the great gates?
(67) Opera House: What two-wheeled vehicle is shown over the entrance?
(no more than one I-SPY answer each, thanks... in the special comments box above)

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream