The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: General Hints

General Hints

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II. GENERAL HINTS. Season. The London Season proper begins with the opening of the Royal Academy on the first Monday in May, and ends with Goodwood Races about the last Tuesday in July. Parliament is then sitting, the chief annual exhibitions are open, the opera and theatres are at their best, and social gaiety is at its height. London is most crowded, and families or parties should secure their quarters in good time. The month or so before or after the Season is likewise a convenient time to see the ordinary sights; August and September are perhaps the busiest tourist months. After the Season 'Society' goes to Cowes for the regatta, and in August proceeds to the moors for 'the Twelfth.' The 'Little Season' is a term sometimes used for the months before Christmas (October-December). The 'Silly Season' means the dead months of summer, when chronicles of giant gooseberries and the sea-serpent are supposed to occupy the newspapers. Money and Expenses. British currency consists of notes and gold, silver, and bronze coins. The pound sterling (� or l, from libra) contains 20 shillings (s, from solidus), and the shilling contains 12 pence (d, from denarius). - Currency Notes for �1 and 10/, issued by the Treasury and legal tender for any amount, have (for the time being) displaced the gold sovereign and half-sovereign, but are exchangeable for gold at the Bank of England. The Bank of England Notes for �5, �10, �20, �50, �100, and upward are legal tender also. The Silver Coins in ordinary use are the half-crown (2/6), the florin (2/), the shilling, the sixpence, and the threepenny-bit. The crown (5/) and the double florin (4/) are rarely seen. The Bronze Coins (known as 'coppers') are the penny (1d.), the halfpenny (+d.; pronounced haypenny), and the farthing (+d.). The halfpenny is exactly one inch in diameter; the penny ? oz. in weight. The term 'guinea' means the sum of 21/; but as a coin the guinea has been out of circulation for a century. In citing prices verbally the words 'shilling' and 'pence' are often omitted; 4s. 9d., 12s. 6d., 27s. 6d., etc. (written also 4/9, 12/6, 27/6), are read 'four and nine,' 'twelve and six,' 'twenty-seven and six,' etc. (1/6 is either 'one and six' or 'eighteenpence'). Among the most current slang terms for coins are 'quid' for sovereign, 'dollar' and 'half-a-dollar' for crown and half-crown, 'bob' for shilling, and 'tanner' for sixpence. 'Pony,' meaning �25, and 'monkey,' meaning �500, are betting expressions. Half-crowns and florins are sometimes confounded (especially in the dark), and it is just as well to say 'half-crown' in tendering that coin in payment. Careful people make a habit of jotting down the numbers of bank-notes, as this may conceivably help their recovery in case of loss or theft. Foreign money does not circulate in Great Britain and should be exchanged as soon as possible at a bank, at a tourist office, or at one of the large stores (such as Harrod's, Selfridge's, or Whiteley's). The international exchange value of the pound sterling, which varies from time to time, is announced daily in the principal newspapers. Money for an extended tour may be conveniently carried in the form of letters of credit or circular notes from a bank. The travellers' cheques issued by the chief American express companies and the Association of American Bankers and the circular notes of Messrs. Cook may likewise be mentioned. EXPENSES. Prices, of course, rose very considerably during the War and will certainly remain high for some time. For the ordinary tourist, living in average comfort and visiting the usual sights, the minimum daily expense can hardly be much less than 20/-30/, and even this implies a certain watchfulness over attractive extras. To those who can afford more, London offers unrivalled facilities for living at any scale of expense they choose. Police. The City has its own police force, about 1200 in number (headquarters in Old Jewry), but all the rest of Greater London is guarded by the Metropolitan Police, 20,000 in number, whose headquarters are at New Scotland Yard. When in need of information or direction the stranger cannot do better than apply to one of these policemen, whose courtesy is noted. The Metropolitan Police Force, though paid by the local authorities, is, as the garrison of the seat of government, under the direct control of the Home Secretary. [The principal national dockyards also are under its charge.] A number of these fine men may be seen together any morning at 10 a.m. at Bow St., when they leave the police station in stalwart single file to proceed on duty. A visit to a police-court (e.g. at Bow St. or the Mansion House) will interest many (circa 10 a.m.). The 'Police Museum' at New Scotland Yard, a curious collection illustrating the misplaced ingenuity of criminals, is, of course, not open to the general public. LOST PROPERTY should be inquired for at the police headquarters; all articles found in public vehicles (even in the City) are sent to New Scotland Yard. A small percentage of the value is charged for the custody and restoration of lost articles. In the crowded lifts of the tube-railways, amid the groups of people waiting to enter an omnibus, and similar places, the traveller should beware of pickpockets. As impostors of various kinds are numerous, it is not safe to enter into relations of any kind with plausible strangers. Among common forms of fraud are mock auctions, the marking of inferior goods as 'second-hand,' the 'confidence trick,' and the offer of cheap 'bargains' by advertisement or otherwise. Slum districts are as well avoided after dark. Traffic. At the chief crossings in the busier streets police hold up the traffic from time to time to allow foot-passengers to cross; but otherwise a busy street should be crossed only at a point where an 'island-refuge' is provided in the middle. At a few of the most dangerous crossings (e.g. at the Bank) subways are provided for pedestrians. The rule of the road for vehicles is to keep to the left, except in 'one way' streets or squares, where they use the whole breadth of the thoroughfare. The rule of the road on the pavement or sidewalk is to keep to the right; but this custom, inverting the rule for vehicles and disregarded by the directions in the Tube subways, is now very imperfectly observed. Health. Strangers accustomed to warmer houses than those of England must be on their guard against chills and colds. In packing their trunks, American and Colonial visitors should remember that houses in England (other than the larger hotels) rarely have central heating, and that chilly weather is by no means unknown even in summer. Waterproofs and umbrellas are indispensable. In case of illness, tourists should ask a friend or their banker or consul to recommend a doctor. If they trust to the recommendation of the hotel-keeper, it is prudent to ascertain in advance the charge expected. In ordinary medical practice a fee of 10/6 for a bedside visit is usual, but fashionable physicians often charge much more. The British Dental Association (23 Russell Sq., westC.) will, on application by letter or telephone, furnish the name of a reputable dentist in the tourist's neighbourhood. Nurses may be obtained on the recommendation of a friend or doctor or from one of the large Nurses' Associations mentioned in the Post Office London Directory. In case of an illness likely to be either long or serious, the patient should be at once transferred (if practicable) from the hotel to a good nursing home (private hospital). Some English Usages. The British forms of politeness are, on the whole, somewhat less ceremonious than those prevalent on the Continent of Europe, and a shade more so than those of America or the Colonies. This is, perhaps, especially true as to the intercourse between 'superiors' and 'inferiors.' Men do not raise their hats to other men, and do not uncover in shops, picture-galleries, and the like, not always in cafes and restaurants. The afternoon (after circa 3.30 p.m.) is the proper time for formal calls and for the presentation of letters of introduction, which latter, however, may also be sent by post. The most usual dinner-hour is between 7.30 and 8.30 p.m. At fashionable houses 'precedence' is more or less strictly observed in the order of going in to dinner. Promptness in answering invitations and punctuality in keeping appointments are important virtues in England. The conventions as to the correct costume for different functions are not nearly so rigid as formerly. The dinner-jacket ('tuxedo'), worn with a black necktie, is appropriate for most evening occasions, except large or formal functions and dances, when a swallow-tail coat ('clawhammer'), with a white necktie, should be worn. Summer Time. Between the day after the third Saturday in April (or, if that day be Easter Sunday, the day after the second Saturday) and the day after the first Saturday in October 'summer time' is, by Act of Parliament, one hour in advance of mean time. Armistice Day. On November 11th a universal pause and silence for two minutes from 11 a.m. (the precise anniversary of the Armistice) commemorates the Empire's dead defenders in the Great War. Business begins in the City comparatively late in the morning; a principal is seldom to be found at his office before 10 a.m. Banks, however, are open from 9 a.m. till 3.30 p.m. (Saturday 9-12). Saturday is a half-holiday. The City is 'deserted' after about 2 p.m. on that day and most of the shops in the West End are closed. In the suburban districts Wednesday or Thursday is 'early-closing day' and the shops remain open all Saturday. Bank Holidays. Business is suspended all over London also on Good Friday and Christmas Day and on Bank Holidays, viz. Easter Monday, Whitmonday, the first Monday in August, and Boxing Day (i.e. the day after Christmas). Galleries, museums, theatres, and other places of amusement remain open on bank holidays and are apt to be crowded. Bank Cheques and Receipts for amounts of �2 and upwards should bear a 2d. stamp. Sale of Tobacco and Liquor. Tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes may not be purchased after 8 p.m. (Saturday, 9 p.m.). Alcoholic liquor is not sold before 11 a.m., nor after 11 p.m., nor during three hours in the afternoon (2.30-5.30 or 3-6). In many districts of London the bars close at 10 p.m. These rules do not apply to travellers within their hotels. Bootblacks are to be found at a few street-corners and in stations (charge 3d.). In all hotels and boarding-houses, however, the visitor's shoes will be cleaned for him if he places them outside his bedroom door at night. Street Names are often shown on street-lamps as well as on corner houses. The numbering of the houses is unsystematic. In some streets the numbers run up one side and down the other; in others the odd numbers and the even numbers are on opposite sides. Glossary of a few ordinary words, the usage in regard to which differs somewhat in Great Britain, the Dominions, and the United States. Area, sunk space giving access to the basement of a house. Bank Holiday, public holiday. Basin, bowl (fixed-in basin, set bowl). Biscuit, cracker (not tea roll). Black, to, shine or polish (boots). Blind, window-shade (not shutter). Booking Office, ticket office (railway). Bowler (hat), the 'boxer' of Australia. Box, trunk (colloquial). Box Office, ticket office at a theatre. Bug, bed-bug only (not for ears polite). Cannon, carom (billiards). Car, tramway car, motor car (not railway carriage). Chemist, druggist, drug-store. Clerk, clerical help (not shopman). Clever, smart, able (never good-natured). Corn, grain in general; secondarily, oats (as in feed of corn for a horse). Cracker, explosive bonbon. Creek, inlet of the sea. Cunning, artful (seldom in good sense). Dinner jacket, tuxedo. Draper, dry-goods store. Fall, seldom used in sense of autumn. First Floor, the floor above the ground-floor (not the ground-floor). Goloshes, rubbers, overshoes, gumshoes. Goods Train, freight train. Hoarding, board-fence. Homely, domestic, unpretending, home-like (seldom, if ever, plain-looking). Jug, pitcher. Larder, meat-safe. Lift, elevator (service-lift, dumbwaiter). Lounge suit, sack suit, Lovely, beautiful (not lovable). Lumber, disused furniture, etc. (comp. lumber-room). Lunch, Luncheon, used of midday meal only. Luggage, baggage. Mad, insane (not cross or angry). Mail-cart, cart for carrying letters, also light vehicle for children (go-cart). Minerals, soda-water and similar effervescent drinks. Motor Car, the usual term for automobile. Muslin, thin, delicately woven cotton fabric (butter muslin, cheese cloth). Paddock, small pasture near a house, enclosure for race horses. Paraffin, kerosene. Parlour, ordinary family living-room (not drawing-room or reception-room). Pavement, sidewalk. Petrol, gasolene, 'gas.' Reel (of thread), spool (of cotton). Ride, not properly used of wheeled vehicles (except bicycles and, occasionally, motor cars; comp. 'joy-ride'). One drives in a carriage, and travels in a train. Road, highway (not railway). Sick, usually confined to sense familiar on sea-voyages (not as equivalent to ill; note, however, sick man, sick-room, sick-nurse). Spanner, monkey-wrench. Spittoon, cuspidor. Stage, distance traversed (not stage-coach.) Station (railway), depot. Store, warehouse, large establishment selling various goods (as opposed to ordinary retail shop). Team, span, two or more horses harnessed together (never used of one horse). Telegraph Form, telegraph blank. Ties, neckties, railway sleepers (not shoes). Town, group of buildings larger than a village (not township). Tramway, electric, trolley, or street car. Trunk Call, long distance call. Ugly, usually of appearance only (not of temper). Van, large vehicle (usually covered) for conveying goods; baggage car on railways. Wagon, four-wheeled vehicle for heavy loads (never used of a light vehicle).