The Yeomen of The Guard are The Queen’s bodyguards and are the oldest British Military Corps still in existence.
Created in 1485 by King Henry Vll at The Battle of Bosworth Field, they still wear the red and gold Tudor-style uniform in his honour.
I have a photograph of Edward ( for that was his name) with my great -grandmother, Kitty, standing proudly outside The Tower in his finery, my mother and aunt in the foreground, two little girls in ribbons.
Perhaps this explains in part my life-long love affair with London- it is somehow in my DNA.
Samuel Johnson said : ‘ When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. For there is in London all that life can afford’.
One of my earliest childhood memories is of travelling up The Mall, past Buckingham Palace in a black cab with my grandparents.
I had been allowed to sit on one of the fold – down seats, which I thought a huge treat, and my grandparents, who shared my love of our magnificent capital city, pointed out The Changing Of The Guard and the Standard flying over the battlements of the palace which meant that The Queen was in residence.
To this day, I still check every time I go past to see if The Union Jack or The Standard is flying, getting a warm and comfortable feeling somehow if Her Majesty is at home!
I also still think that London cabbies, with their friendly banter and The Knowledge are the best in the world.
On late and rainy nights, to see the amber glow of their ‘ For Hire’ sign coming round the corner and stopping for you, is like manna from heaven to a weary soul.
My father worked in central London for nearly the whole of his career too.
Those were the days of three hour lunches and a personal secretary in a tight wiggle skirt to pour your 5 o ‘clock gin and tonic.
MadMen style meetings and Office Ladies Nights abounded, and yet they still seemed to get more work done than we do today, uninterrupted as they were by mobile phones or emails.
It was my dad who first took me on the London Underground.
As I gingerly stepped onto the steep escalator at Baker Street, aged about 6, I felt as though I would plunge to the very bottom like a fairground roller coaster.
I clung fast to my father’s hand and coat sleeve and bravely faced the challenge.
I must admit, I still don’t look all the way to the bottom as I step on, for if I do, I sway ever so slightly, and these days, I’m usually in somewhat higher shoes.
And then, ten years later, aged 16, I discovered a whole different side of London- its Nightlife!
I very quickly became addicted.
My dad, who reads this blog, was not supposed to know that I’d been up there, travelling all the way from suburbia as I did ( sorry dad ).
But my pal Linda and I had managed the mighty feat of getting ourselves into the hottest of the hot spots of the time, The Blitz Club. And we thought we were the absolute cat’s pyjamas. There was no stopping us!
Housed in a tacky wine bar in Covent Garden, Blitz Nights were on a Tuesday, which was by rights, a school night. I’ve loved a Tuesday ever since!
It quickly became notorious, and then famous, for its queues of wonderfully dressed punks and rebels around the block and its handsome and caustic New Romantic doorman- one Steve Strange, later of Visage fame.
We were so tame compared to the rest, although Lin managed rather better than me, with her purple curls, laddered tights and five layers of mascara.
I made do with tiny skirts pulled in with the widest elasticated belt imaginable and very big hair.
And somehow, they liked us, and…
we were in!
To dance to the newest thing- a video. How amazing and rare!
We ate chicken in a basket sitting in collapsing disused train seats and carriages.
One night, we saw Boy George and the whole of Spandeau Ballet and I danced with Sade Adu.
And then later, on the way home ( to Lin’s, so my dad wouldn’t find out, taking off my make-up and getting back into my civvies on the way ) we stopped at The Up All Night for coffee, where we congratulated ourselves on being quite the two most avant -garde teenagers that Surrey had ever seen.
How it called to me through those years. Bored as I was with the view from our small village ( sorry mum and dad ! )
I couldn’t wait to get up there, and I did, working there through my early twenties.
How exotic it seemed, and removed from the provincial town I went to school in, and yet still so much the city of my childhood, and memories of my grandparents.
And now, I’m working there again, after several years absence whilst I raised my babies. The siren call got to me, finally and I felt an enormously strong pull back.
According to my dear and wise friend Havovie, the Earth Star Chakra Portal sits at the heart of London, and is crucial for our planet’s future. It governs love, divinity and humanity.
Maybe that is why I needed to be back there…my passion for it is just the same.
This time, I’ve re- discovered my love of Mayfair, which truly is my favourite of London’s little inter- connected villages.
Whether it is the name and history , or the fact that it is the most expensive dark blue property on the Monopoly board, and the one I always want to own whenever I play, it holds a particular charm for me.
‘Mayfair’ first acquired its name in 1686, when King James ll granted permission for a fair to be held on the swampy farmland that was then mainly used for cattle, in the first two weeks of May. This then became an annual event and people from surrounding villages began to flock to the area for the very first time.
I love the connotation of Olde England merry-making that the name implies, and the verdant month of May is so beautiful here in London.
Maybe it is because I love dancing and music so much, that this history appeals to me too.
From Berkeley Square to The Ritz, and Claridge’s ( surely the most heavenly hotel in the world ) to Shepherd’s Market ( what names! ) the winding, cobbled streets of Mayfair have always seemed to me to be filled with a certain sort of magic.
And even now, with the influx of a breed of money-making and showy individuals of the sort that I dislike, ( the area has always attracted this too, due to its wealth ) Mayfair manages to retain its charm.
Put simply, I like to wander there, admiring the skyline, the meandering streets, the leafy squares and the magnificent Georgian townhouses.
Would I like a house there? You bet I would – and build a hotel on it too- do not pass go, do not collect £200!
And my daughter Molly seems to have inherited my love of the area.
Recently, she wrote in her own blog, about Mayfair being one of the most delightful places that London has to offer: ‘ streets laced with golden lights and rosy- cheeked concierges outside each hotel door like Nutcracker soldiers’.
As the words of the song ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square ‘ say:
‘That certain night, the night we met
There was magic in the air.
There were angels dining at The Ritz
And A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.
I may be right, I may be wrong,
But I’m perfectly willing to swear,
That when you turn’d and smiled at me
A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square’.
Copyright Amanda Hills 2015, all rights reserved
A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square by Maschwitz/ Sherwin