An "Old" Guidebook…

Eccentric London, Benedict le Vay, Bradt, 2002

Does anyone remember that fantastic 1950s Hollywood Musical On The Town? You know – where three toothsome sailors (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin) have just 24 hours to “do” New York on shore leave?

There’s a scene where Frank Sinatra’s naive (yeah, yeah – it’s fantasy, ok…) cabin boy Chip wants to see all the sights in his granddad’s 1902 NYC guidebook, but his glamorous female cabbie (Betty Garrett, if you recall) has other things she’d like him to see. During the progress of the song My Place Ol’ Blue Eyes lists the places he wants to see; Betty Garrett tells him the attractions don’t exist any more and suggests an alternative programme to fill the afternoon.

Why am I talking about this? Because I was reading Eccentric London yesterday and I was struck by how much like Chip’s granddad’s book it was. That guidebook was over fifty years old – but the one I held in my sweaty mitt wasn’t even five yet and already horribly out of date – just going to show how fast things are moving in Greenwich. Of course Eccentric London is about the whole of the capitol, not just Greenwich – and I can’t speak for the rest of the city’s up-to-dateness, but I suspect the world is moving so fast that Benedict LeVay is going to need to do a complete revision sometime very soon…

LeVay suggests a walk that takes in the sights of Greenwich. I was going to put today’s blog to the tune of My Place, but it occurred to me that perhaps I’m the only person who still watches 1950s Hollywood musicals to the point of being able to sing along with all the songs. I wouldn’t want you to think I was the obsessive kind…

He starts out at Greenwich Station, moving down to St Alfeges, taking in Greenwich Borough Hall. So far, so good. He suggests a poke around the Junk Shop and Halcyon Books – both of which I am happy to report are still thriving (though I wonder whether it will still be the case if someone reads this blog in five years time.)

But then it all starts to go wrong. LeVay suggests lunch in Goddards Pie shop “run by the same family since 1890, so they must be doing something right.” Ahem. As Betty Garrett would sing:

Goddards Family Pies saw their demise this year -
Come back to my place

After lunch, leVay recommends a browse around Unique Collections – that lovely old coins and medals shop, which closed just as I was starting blogging. Funny – that old shop looked like the sort of place that would never go – its dusty military helmets and old models of the Houses of Parliament one of the institutions of Greenwich.

Betty Garrett:

That Coins and Medals store will sell its wares no more-
Come back to my place…

Benedict le Vay then suggests a stroll around the market. A nice look around the second hand bookshop Marcet Books, perhaps?

Betty Garrett:

Come back to my place…

Ok. Let’s try a different area…

Frank Sinatra:

My Granpa always told me Son
If you’re in Greenwich, for a lark
You must career
To Greenwich Pier
There will appear the Cutty Sark…

(SFX: screeching of taxi brakes.)

Oops! I seem to have fallen into song anyway. Of course Benedict le Vay wasn’t to know the old girl would have her knickers down and her vest up five years later…

Betty Garrett:

That guidebook is a liar, The Cutty Sark’s on fire-
Come back to my place…

I could go on, but we’re getting to the climax of the song…

Frank Sinatra:

Let’s see the ships at Lovells Wharf

B.G: Let’s go to my place…

FS: Round-the-world-yacht Gipsy Moth

BG: Let’s go to my place

FS: See Knife Edge by Henry Moore

BG: Let’s go to my place

FS: Take a planetarium tour

BG: Let’s go to my place

FS: Let’s see the great Millennium Dome

BG: Let’s go to my-

(That’s enough Hollywood musicals – ed.)
Betty Garrett:
My place.

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