1. Mary Poppins arrives on the east wind
In PL Travers’s classic tale, the two children of the mildly dysfunctional Banks family are saved from lives of boredeom by the stern lady who floats in on the east wind to blow the competition away (what other nanny could ever compete with ‘A ‘Spoonful of Sugar’?). In childcare terms, dropping into Cherry Tree Lane on a parasol is about as stone-cold badass as it gets.
2. Jacko bobs down the Thames
The year is 1995 and the King of Pop is on imperious form. He’s married into the Presley clan and has a new album about to drop. As part of the promo campaign for new LP ‘HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I’, some marketeer had the genius idea of towing a ten metre statue of the singer along the river to mark his return to the limelight. Did this vainglorious stunt mark the beginning of the end for Jacko? Yes. Yes it did.
3. Lady Gaga opens up at Twickenham
Speaking of spectacles, the ‘Born This Way’ star and meat-dress enthusiast opened her 2012 Twickenham gig by emerging from betwixt two ginormous spreadeagled legs. A bold and characteristically irreverent move symbolising, uh, fertility and a rejection of the patriarchal showbiz industrial complex. Something like that.
4. The Queen lands at the Olympics
It’s not every day you get to jump out of a helicopter with James Bond in front of a live TV audience of nearly a billion, but our sovereign remained resolutely sour-faced throughout the entire 2012 Opening Ceremony, putting the meh in Her Majesty, if you will. Buckingham Palace supposedly rejected Danny Boyle’s initial suggestion that she enter the stadium via the bogs like Ewan McGregor in ‘Trainspotting’.
5. Queen Boudica sacks Londinium
Following some rough treatment at the hands of Emperor Nero in AD60 (worse than having to queue for a latte at one of his coffee shops nowadays), Queen B led a rampaging horde into the Roman commercial centre of Londinium to unleash furious Celtic vengeance and burn the city to the ground. In an oddly masochistic twist, London now has a statue in honour of the irascible redhead who did her very best to wipe our young city off the map.
5. Prince George crowns
When an unprecedented mob of international media gathered on the sweltering pavement outside St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, a spectacle was required to mark the coming of our future ruler. The palace wasn’t about to oblige, so step forward selfstyled ‘town cryer’ Tony Appleton, who expertly blagged his way onto TV screens around the globe with his mock-heraldic ‘hear ye, hear ye’ routine. Sir, we doff our tricorn to you.
7. Charlie Chaplin tramps home
The silent icon had a rotten childhood in Kennington, dancing for pennies outside pubs. So when he returned in 1952 for the first time in more than 40 years, having made big bucks in the US, imagine how he felt when crowds of thousands lined the route from Waterloo to his hotel. Clearly moved, he had little to say except that Big Ben was ‘a beautiful sight’. Aww.
8. Doctor Who materialises in Trafalgar Square
It was the fiftieth-anniversary episode of ‘Doctor Who’, so naturally nothing but a full-on expo of British eccentricity would suffice. Imagine the production meeting: ‘Right: the floppy-haired 900-year-old alien is dropped into Trafalgar Square from a time machine, which is being dragged over London by a crane attached to a helicopter. Great work… lunch?’
9. The Jarrow Marchers hit toon
In 1936, 207 unemployed Geordies marched on London demanding a living wage, some threatening a communist takeover if they didn’t get their way. It caused quite a stir, but the protest petered out and the government gave them a quid each for the train home. Dramatic entrance, ordinary exit.
10. ‘God’ gets upstaged by Hendrix
Eric Clapton was playing a gig at Regent Street Poly in 1966. Word spread that a gung-ho young American in the crowd wanted to jam, and with the grace you’d expect from a man nicknamed ‘God’, Clapton gave him a chance. Unluckily for him the upstart was Jimi Hendrix, at that time an unknown about to blow London’s music scene apart. Clapton said afterwards to his crew: ‘You never said he was that fucking good!’
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By Andy Hill