Tag Archives: Shakespeare

What are the ancient secrets of London Stone?

London Stone (never “the”) is a little known historic landmark at 111 Cannon Street in the City of London. It is an irregular block of oolitic limestone,  first recorded in 1100, possibly of Roman origin.  The claims that the Stone is an object of mystical veneration or of occult significance are unsubstantiated, but still they persist.LondonStoneThe Stone is located in an aperture in the wall of no. 111 Cannon Street, EC4,  inside a glass case, protected by an iron grille.  Writers in the 18th century speculated that London Stone had been the object of Druidic worship.  In 1914, Elizabeth Gordon described it as an “ancient British index stone”, similar to Stonehenge. By the early 19th century, a number of writers said that London Stone was London’s talisman, in which the city’s safety and well being are embodied.

London Stone has been written about by both Shakespeare and Dickens.  It has survived both the Fire of London and the Blitz.  It has been the subject of countless myths, including claims that it was the sword from which Arthur withdrew Excalibur.

The last four or five years have been hard for this city and the country, but there are signs of hope and recovery.  The success of our sportsmen has restored confidence and we have an inspiring and ever optimistic Mayor of London, whose ebullience has energised the capital.    In 1862, in the Journal Notes and Queries, an anonymous contributor quoted an ancient proverb about London Stone.  “So long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish.”


In his Daily Telegraph article today, Boris explains exactly why Shakespeare is admired in Beijing. The Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, has just been to Stratford upon Avon to see Hamlet and he has declared that Shakespeare was “the greatest writer who ever lived.”  Boris then explains exactly why the works of Shakespeare are so appealing to the Chinese.

Boris says: “But if Mr Wen gets full marks for cultural diplomacy, the real tribute is, of course, to William Shakespeare. Never mind that he died almost 400 years ago. He is our greatest cultural export. He is our answer to Beethoven and Michelangelo, and a pretty effective retort he is, too.

He went global while he was still alive, carried overseas by Elizabethan merchant adventurers. The play Mr Wen has just watched was first performed in Indonesia, would you believe it, in 1609. In the decade after he died Shakespeare was performed in Germany, in German, by a group of travelling players. He has been big in China for at least 120 years, being known first as Shashibiya and then just as Sha Weng – “Old Man Sha”. Continue reading

Film of Coriolanus premieres in Berlin

The Ralph Fiennes film production of Coriolanus has premiered in Berlin to huge acclaim.  Ralph Fiennes stars as Coriolanus, with Vanessa Redgrave as his mother and Gerard Butler as Tullus Aufidius, leader of the Volscians. (Fiennes also directs.)

The Shakespeare play has been transported to modern day warfare, and apparently there are echoes of The Hurt Locker and Black Hawk Down. The plot of Coriolanus centers on an arrogant, patrician Roman leader who faces a clash between the support of the Senate and the will of the people. Citizens are angry at Coriolanus for withholding grain, but he earns a title as hero of Rome after facing down an army led by Tullus Aufidius (Butler). He is a fearless warrior, who shows outstanding courage in battle.  “Mark me and do the like!”  Upon his return to Rome, the mother of Coriolanus (Redgrave) encourages him to take a more active role in city politics. Continue reading

After Boris bikes, the next thing is Boris bees

Yaroo!  After Boris bikes, we soon might have Boris bees!  This is a truly brilliant idea from the Mayor.  If there is one insect I love it is the bee.  I love sitting in my patch of garden, watching the bees zush, zoom and bumble over my lavender.  You can sink into a state of Zen-like bliss watching bees.

a garden bumble bee

Atticus in today’s Sunday Times, reports:   “After Boris’s bikes, let’s hear it for Boris’s bees. The mayor of London will next month announce plans to expand bee-keeping across the capital as part of a scheme to encourage Londoners to produce their own food.  Has he not considered the political risk? From now on, if anybody gets stung it’ll be Boris’s fault.”

Ignore the last sentence.  I am up for this!  I would love to investigate beekeeping and find out if it would be possible to take up as a hobby. Shakespeare used bees as imagery more than any other image.  They are beautiful creatures. Our Mayor has a natural affinity with bees, because they both know a lot about bumbling . (when it suits them.)

Mayor’s Question Time, Part 2

Because there is an election in the offing, it is natural that there should be some friction between the various party elements at Mayor’s Question Time.However, it is important to emphasise what a very rewarding experience it is for any member of the public who makes the journey to City Hall to attend the proceedings.  If you want the facts, instead of repeating hearsay or popular fiction when you tweet or blog, City Hall is the place to get them, or you can watch the video.  Any dryness in the proceedings is more than made up for by the brilliant speaking and humour of the Mayor. His off the cuff repartee and grasp of events and their underlying implications are dazzling.

Boris explained at length the disastrous results of the PPP contracts, established by the Labour government,  that allow contractors to sue the London Underground, so far to the tune of £400,000,00. The contracts give the contractors unlimited access to the tubes, and if they don’t get it, they can sue.  This arrangement is proving to be absolutely ruinous,  for the public and financially for the London underground and as Boris said, it cannot go on.

Detractors have tried to claim that the Tory housing scheme is unambitious.  On the contrary, last year, in spite of the credit crunch, 12,000 affordable homes were built, more than ever before.  Crime also, in the 21 months of Boris’s Mayoralty, is down 10%, a terrific achievement.

Ariel in The Tempest

Far too much was discussed for me to detail it here, but if you watch the video of the proceedings,  it is all there.  Boris has allowed for more money to be set aside so we can celebrate St. George’s Day and Shakespeare’s birthday is also to be celebrated at the Globe Theatre, on 18th April.  There will be a special programme at the Globe, details here.     The beauty of Shakespeare is one of our most precious treasures.  Details of all forthcoming London Festivals can be found on the Mayor’s official website.