The bells, the bells ...

A lesson learned on Cheapside

Had a splendid time on Sunday's Central Line walk. A great group of people, who made the journey through part of the red line's City section a real pleasure to lead. And as with all the best walks the flow of information wasn't in just one direction ...

The bells, the bells ...

Outside St Mary Le Bow church on Cheapside, home to the legendary Bow Bells, I did my spiel on, for instance, how far away they could be heard before London got built up (to the north it was 5 miles, Tottenham-ish range). And Tony O'Connor (you can find him on Twitter @TheTonyO) chipped (chimed?) in that there are 12 of the bells, each inscribed with a Psalm or New Testament quote, the first letters of which spell out ... ‘DWhittington'.

Priceless. The man who heard those bells urging him to return to London now has his name on them. Or rather their replacements - the current ones date from the 1950s, the previous ones having fallen victim to the attentions of the Luftwaffe in 1941.

At the other extremity of the church - its crypt - can I also recommend the cafe there? It can get a bit packed with City workers during lunchtimes, but go for a coffee at any other time and you'll enjoy some peace in a truly historic setting.

P.S. the next Central Line walk is Saturday April 21st, 2.30pm - and there's a District Line walk on Sunday April 29th (also 2.30pm). Let's see what I can learn then ...

 

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Content

Big Ben

On a visit to Big Ben, I was told that if you stand at the bottom of the tower with a portable radio and listen to the chimes on Radio 4 (they still transmit them live), you hear them on the radio before you hear them ‘for real’. I couldn’t believe it – but was intrigued enough to try it for myself. And you know what? It’s absolutely true. The bongs come out of the radio a fraction of a second before they reach your ears from the top of the tower. It’s something so silly, so counter-intuitive, that you have to tell people. (Well, I did.) Researching the explanation, I found that it’s because radio waves travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) rather than the 700 or so miles per hour at which sound waves travel. The signal travelling down the wire from the microphone to the BBC goes at the speed of light too. Hence the radio version overtaking the real one.

I realised that this would be the perfect way to teach the principle in school physics lessons. Instead of a boring teacher droning on that ‘radio waves travel at the speed of light’, illustrate it with this beautiful and quirky little fact. The kids will remember it then. I certainly would have done if my physics teacher had taken this approach. As it was I had to wait until I heard a piece of so-called ‘trivia’ in my thirties.