So here are my New Year’s resolutions for being a good student for this next term of blue badging :-
1) Learn lots about paintings. Art is one area of the blue badge syllabus that I probably know least about. In a couple of weeks I have to give a 5 minute demo on 2 of our National Gallery pieces- one of them is by Leonardo Da Vinci which is good because I’ve heard of him. I’m actually really enjoying reading up about the paintings, knowing my bible has helped a bit too in giving context for some of the biblical scenes.
2) Get more familiar with the back streets of London. I like to think I know London quite well and have continued to enjoy the coach demos where you can have the mic sprung on you at any point. However the other day, on our second coach demo, I got passed the mic as we turned onto Brook Street in Mayfair which I’ve never even walked down in my life before! I started garbling some nonsense about the first thing I could see which was a Hackney black cab and almost missed the fact we were passing Claridges and then the former home of Hendrix and Handel. I then padded some more with spurious black cab trivia before having to pass over the mic just as we entered a street I did know.
3) Revise well for the end of term Background Knowledge test. We had a midpoint test just before Christmas which could have been a lot worse but certainly shone a light on where I need work. The historical period essay reminded me of being back at school and whilst I thought I had done quite well in salvaging some facts about the Norman Conquest from the far reaches of my early education memory, the mark for that particular question strongly suggested ‘could do better’.
4) Pray hard that my wife gives birth about a week late. The due date is the day before the background knowledge test! Very excited about becoming a Dad though.
Full steam ahead!
We’ve now passed the half way point of the first term and the course continues to be enormously varied, interesting and good fun to be on. A few Saturdays back was our first London coach tour demo and after listening to a professional guide take us around the cities of London and Westminster it was a chance for us each to have a 5 minute ramble.
In my group we had the lovely Jennifer, our course director, assessing our performance and in truth we were all a little nervous. Early highlights included getting stuck in traffic behind a police horse on Whitehall for 20 minutes whilst successive colleagues made what they could of dragging out the history of war memorials, Nelson and the great Wetherspoons next to Trafalgar studios. Steve did well to talk about wetherspoons in fact as it gave him the opportunity to mention sausages and mash- sausage being the pre agreed bingo word that we were all trying to drop into our discourse.
I picked up the mic at London bridge station and didn’t impress Jennifer greatly with my early statement that the Shard was about us getting ‘one over on the french’ and their Eiffel tower. She didn’t comment on my reference to Ken Livingstone’s description of Foster’s City Hall as the ‘glass testicle‘ so I was left wondering what she thought of that.
The coach then glided over Tower Bridge and as I enthused about the great bridge I looked up stream to HMS Belfast, with it’s guns trained on Watford gap service station, and the great view of London beyond and felt a real sense of excitement about this fun and varied profession which I’m getting myself into. I then passed the mic over to Sean who enjoyed describing the curvaceous sausage shaped building at 30 St Mary’s Axe.
There’s been lots of information in each lecture and sometimes after a long Saturday my brain has felt somewhat overloaded with facts and figures that I’m unlikely to remember the following week. However we remind ourselves that there’s a long way to go before any of the important exams and so I’m just focused on enjoying myself for now whilst trying to absorb as much of the information as I can.
This first month of being a Blue Badge tour guide student has been great- I never thought I’d have so much fun studying! We’re only 4 weeks into the course but so far I’ve been enjoying every minute of it- whether’s it’s midweek lectures discussing the incredible diversity of the capital (and that WHARF stands for WareHouse At River Front- awesome!) or Saturdays spent walking the higledy pigledy streets of places like Salisbury and discovering that Stonehenge isn’t just a big pile of stones- although it kind of is.
It’s all been hugely varied and this last Saturday was particularly invigorating as I had to deliver my first attempt behind the microphone in a 5 minute overview of Heaver Castle. Having never visited Heaver (I was back of the queue when the practice talk subjects were handed out) I had to base the talk pretty much entirely on online research (=Wikipedia) so I’m sure the content could have been better. However most importantly I really enjoyed doing it, had a bit of a laugh and even though the microphone was stuck together with blue tack and cutting out now and then, folk were very kind and encouraging about what I had to say.
It’s still early days on the course but it feels like we’ve made a good start and the other students have been great fun to spend time with. To top it all I’m now also the proud owner of a 16-25 student rail pass! Happy days.
The group at Stonehenge