Let no one say that I don’t know how to treat a woman. It was my wife’s birthday today and she got treated to an afternoon at the Tower of London. Maybe subliminally I was trying to show her that in spite of my many flaws there have been worse husbands than me in the past. But mainly history is cool and there’s loads of it in London and we walk by it every day without even thinking.
We were shown around the tower by a jolly Yeoman who was two parts Al Murray and one part Ricky Gervais and who did a fabulous job of bringing the history alive and keeping a large crowd of tourists happy for an hour. He told us something of the life of the Yeoman of the Guard, all ex-servicemen who get to dress up in the bright red uniforms and guard the Crown Jewels from theft by the 21st Century Captain Blood and live inside the tower. I quite envied him that. Not only is it a very central location, but how cool to be living in a building with such history and (apparently) lots of ghosts. There is even a pub for the Yeomans somewhere inside the fortifications. I’d have loved to have gone for a pint with a real Yeoman in the Yeoman’s pub. It would be like being in Lord of the Rings or something.
The Yeoman mocked the film Braveheart in which Mel Gibson holds up a portcullis with one arm whilst fighting off the English with the other (apparently the gate weights several tonnes and would need over a dozen strong men to hold it up) and tried to scare the young children with stories of executions and boys buried under staircases. We had a look at the Bloody Tower, where Sir Walter Raleigh had been imprisoned for 13 years with his family and we saw the impressive graffiti left by other prisoners in another tower. We saw the Crown Jewels and once again I found the gaudy gold bowls and ceremonial staffs and so on rather an offensive waste of money. The thing that most fascinated me was the display of all the various boxes that they transport the crowns and sceptres in when they’re being used in coronations or the state opening of parliament.
We only had two and a half hours in the attraction before closing which wasn’t quite enough, but I saw Henry VIII’s armour with an impressive codpiece attached to protect his royal winkie. Though I couldn’t help thinking that it might have been better for everyone if that had been chopped off rather than the heads of his wives.
The poppies spilling out of the tower and filling the moat to commemorate the fallen of World War One are well worth seeing if you’re in town and there’s also a chunky section of the original London wall by Tower Hill tube station. So you don’t even have to pay anything to see some great bits of London history. But it’s worth the £22 to go inside and very much worth taking the time to be shown around by a Yeoman of the Guard.