27 March 2024

Review: Bizarre London by David Long

Bizarre London - Discover the Capital's Secrets & Surprises by David Long book cover

Browsing the shelves of my local library, I came across an attractive hardback copy of Bizarre London - Discover the Capital's Secrets & Surprises by David Long. I was convinced to take it out on loan after browsing the contents page and spying enticing chapter headings like: Gruesome London, Ghostly London and Dead London alongside Shopping London, Working London and Parliamentary London.

The content was short and sharp with plenty of easily digestible facts from history one after the other. Bizarre London is easy to dip into although I chose to read it straight through.

I think I've mentioned my fascination with the freezing over of the Thames river before, but I enjoyed this tidbit:
"Overall, London's coldest ever year was almost certainly 1684, when the Thames froze in central London from bank to bank, to a depth of 11 in., and remained that way for nearly two months. (Albeit for shorter periods this happened a further fifteen times, the last being in 1814, which was the year of the final 'Frost Fair'. Page 121
The introduction of better bridges means this no longer happens in central London, and in fact the last time the Thames froze over was the year 1963 and it happened at Kingston-upon-Thames.

Continuing with the theme of London's weather and another of my favourite London facts, the period of intensely dense fog in December 1952:
"Since then [1873's record-breaking run of seventy-four foggy days], the worst pea-souper was in December 1952, which led to as many as 12,000 deaths - from respiratory illness as well as accidents involving people who couldn't see traffic - and some 100,000 cases of medical illness." Page 122
These kinds of conditions are hard to imagine, although viewers of Season 1 of The Crown might remember the scene.

Some interesting facts from this century included the chapter entitled Eating by Numbers, where we learn that during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games:
"...deliveries to the athletes' village included 25,000 loaves of bread, 232 tons of potatoes and 82 tons of seafood, more than 100 tons of meat, 19 tons of eggs and 21 tons of cheese. Fruit and veg accounted for another 360 tons of deliveries." Page 137
Wow, now that's impressive!

Published in 2013, much of the content within Bizarre London - Discover the Capital's Secrets & Surprises by David Long was dry and factual but doesn't date, however I'm sure an updated edition will be of interest to future readers.

My Rating:

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