The London Grill: PK Munroe

We challenge our contributor to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat will face the same questions that range from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out just what Londoners really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly.

pk-Munroe[P]K Munroe is a London humourist and satirist, author of ‘You Can Stick It’, a book of real stickers, and the spoof ‘Thursday Night Letters’. His recent book ‘How Not to be a Tourist in London’ is full of advice for visitors that should be taken with a large pinch of salt. A snippit from his recent book that cabbies will appreciate is for visitors to London: “If you have SatNav software on your mobile phone, just call out the turnings you want the cab driver to take. Your knowledge will gain you their respect, and you will save money into the bargain”. His photos of labels added to Boris bikes, poking fun at Barclays (‘Bonus shaker’, ‘Take you for a ride’) are notorious. Taking a sceptical view of Olympic absurdities, PK redesigned the 2012 logo as a tortoise, and created a windscreen permit for cabbies and others who deserve access to the VIP lanes. You can follow his blog You Can Stick It.

What’s your secret London tip?
Beware the little-known catch with the Boris bike scheme. It’s sponsored by Barclays, and as a trade-off for this corporate generosity, there is a clause in the agreement with TfL that, at times of unusual stress on the tube and bus network – tube strikes, snow storms, the Olympics etc – any bike in the system can be commandeered by Barclays’ staff to help them get to work. So, if you have the misfortune to be flagged down by a Barclays’ cashier or commodities trader, you must immediately hand over the bike to them (after they have shown you valid ID). Penalties for non-compliance can be severe.

What’s your secret London place?
Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn fields – a highly unusual and eccentric collection. Also The Old Operating Theatre opposite Guy’s hospital. (Actually that’s my wife’s choice – too gruesome for me.)

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
The people who find it necessary to drive around in large black Range Rovers – presumably in order to let us know how rich they are, since their vehicles are more suited to the Serengeti plains than central London’s narrow streets. My favourite wheeze is to pretend they are taxis and try to flag them down.

What’s your favourite building?
Marylebone railway station. Edwardian, red brick, with a remarkable glass and iron canopy. The station is just the right size, not too overwhelming, and the trains go to pleasantly obscure places like Aylesbury and Birmingham Snow Hill, whatever that is. It has history, not least as the station where parts of A Hard Day’s Night were filmed.

What’s your most hated building?
Any of the multi-storey car parks in the centre of town – for example the one on Crawford Street in Marylebone, or the NCP car park in Soho. Nasty concrete lumps, the lot of them, constructed without a moment’s thought for their historic surroundings. How did they get though Westminster Council’s planning process, I wonder?

What’s the best view in London?
From the middle of the river Thames, at night. Preferably from a boat.

What’s your personal London landmark?
The Cottesloe Theatre on the South Bank, scene of my first date with my wife. I’ve asked them, several times, when they’re going to put up a plaque.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
I’d have to say my e-book ‘How not to be a Tourist in London’, although the e-book buying public doesn’t seem to have discovered it yet. The one review on Amazon complains that the book gives bad advice, e.g. “To encourage tourism, international visitors are permitted to park for free in some central areas, marked by red lines on the road.” The reviewer didn’t seem to appreciate that.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
An excellent pub (by which I mean a traditional one, with no TV or music) is The Old Mitre in Hatton Garden. Panelled wood interior, two bars, delicious beers and not expensive by London standards. Tap a coin loudly on the bartop and ask for Scotty – he’ll see you right.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
A fry-up in our local cafe. A quick whiz around the National Gallery, for the Constables mainly. Down to the allotment I share in Barnes for some hoeing and so forth. Then a game of tennis in Regents park. Dinner at the River Cafe on Thames Wharf, followed by a quick one – pint, of course – at The Golden Eagle on Marylebone Lane.

This ‘Grill’ was first posted on the Radio Taxis blog.

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