In Competition No. 3212 you were invited to provide a spiel that a well-known character from the field of fact or fiction might give in their capacity as a tourist guide to a capital city or notable monument.
In a hotly contested week, I was sorry not to have space for P.C. Peirse-Duncombe’s Tristram Shandy (‘To begin at the beginning of our tour — for to begin elsewhere might be a beginning though not the beginning and thence to a conclusion which we could not call The End, let us commence with this view of a tower, a mere 324 metres of lattice ironwork created by Gustave Eiffel…’) or David Silverman’s Buck Mulligan (‘Now behold Dublin Bay and its snotgreen, scrotumtightening sea. Thàlatta Thàlata! as the Greeks say — Epi oinopa ponton!…’).
Those who made the cut take £25.
Visitors! Let me traduce you to the beatitudes of our capital city and its hysterical heritage. You are standing in the infamous Trafalgar Square, containing Nelson’s colon, which approaches a munificent 170 feet. The statue and four lions at the base were cremated by Sir Edwin Landslide. Constriction started in 1840, but it was several years before its repletion. To the south lies Westminster; it is thence we shall be disported on a London incubus to the Houses of Parchment, where matters of state are concussed, and incisions made, as our leaders vote with their members. At present they are revolved in the day’s baseness, so we shall not enter. Let us instead turn our retention to the Elizabeth Tower, home of Big Ben, and the most aculeate clock in the… Gracious! It’s time to bring this tour to its inclusion. On leaving, retributions will be gratefully perceived. Thank you.
Sylvia Fairley/Mrs Malaprop
Welcome to London, for which one apologises profusely. Feel free to avert your gaze, as I invariably must, from the nuclear power station masquerading as our National Theatre on our left. To the right, I suggest you close your eyes against an office block designed to resemble, of all absurdities, a gherkin; fellow architects and critics have been as delighted by this excrescence as the rest of us are appalled. As we crawl our way through environment-destroying traffic congestion, do struggle, as I do, not to notice the great glass stumps hubristically dwarfing such few aesthetically pleasing buildings as have survived the combined ravages of the Luftwaffe, successive metropolitan planning administrations and the too often carbuncular enthusiasms of the Royal Institution of British Architects. Fortunately, the subterranean fistula known as Crossrail is invisible from our coach but do shudder in sympathy with London’s violated subsoil.
Adrian Fry/Prince Charles
And now, the Topless Towers of Ilium. Now, I know what you’re going to say, Madam: ‘Crenellations’. Yes. Titter ye not. Disappointment all round. Gentleman over there thought it was a revue bar. Following on… no prodding, Madam, not unless you’ve paid extra, we come to Helen’s boudoir. Oooh what a baggage. Had a nice husband called Menelaus — ironic, Madam, you’re ahead of me — but ran off with a man from Paris. There’s a lot of it about. She launched a thousand ships so she knew her way around a port or two. All looking a bit battered now; Troy, Madam, not Helen although I dare say being pursued by a Greek Army across the Isthmus takes it out of you. And so to the wooden horse. Would you want that in your hall, Madam? But it was like VE night in Doncaster. So they all got completely pillaged.
Nick Syrett/Frankie Howerd
My dear wife Carrie and I like to think of the nice French city of Paris as our second home. What’s the good of a home if you’re never in it? There’s aways something to be done; a bridge here, an art gallery there, a church to admire. The tradesmen are, generally, quite obliging although in the outer suburbs they can be somewhat churlish of demeanour and less willing to indulge in a modicum of English banter. I would not advise sending back food that is not to your taste, as I myself learned the hard way, along with a lot of mots that were definitely not bons! The French seem destitute of a sense of humour, alas. The Eiffel Tower is a fine edifice, the like of which is unknown in London, but has far too many steps to count. Here it is worth splashing out on the lift.
D.A. Prince/Charles Pooter
Let us go then, all of us, with the Embankment spread around the bus like a hedgehog euthanised on the tarmac. A cold coming for passengers on the open-top, but not bad for April. London Bridge on our right, commuters looking a bit rough, the river like a strong brown dog, sullen, untamed and intractable, sweating oil and tar. Up King William Street and that lovely woman isn’t stooping to folly, she’s picking up after her labradoodle. If you come this way, starting from anywhere, you have to put off sense and motion, but the Poultry lights have finally gone green and downhill is Tower Bridge, wide open like a dead mouth of carious teeth. The river is running softly, and because I do not hope to turn again, we arrive where we started, but now you know the place for the first time. Ta ta. Goodbye, sweet ladies, goodbye.
Nick MacKinnon/T.S. Eliot
The beauty of Paris is that you only have to see very few monuments to encapsulate the city, and there we have it — gaze upon its glory and tremble, ladies and gentleman, and especially ladies — the vast, firm and proud erection of the Eiffel Tower, glistening and lambent in the wet morning dew, surging upwards and penetrating the sky, leaving it gasping. We may also look, of course, at the dark opening of the Arc de Triomphe, hollow but with an eternal flame deep inside. No more is needed for Paris, so we shall proceed to the Menagerie at the Jardin des Plantes — small now and restricted to smaller beasts, no great leaping stallions or rampant lions now, but we can watch the giant porcupines as they make love with exquisite care, and the Galapagos tortoises, enjoying the slow and measured Gallic lust, but howling in their very souls.
Brian Murdoch/D.H. Lawrence
No. 3215: TB or not TB
You are invited to provide a poem about Geronimo the alpaca. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to email@example.com by midday on 1 September.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10