The Blue Badge Guide's London Quiz Book
by Mark King, History Press, 2016, £7.99.
Review by Don Brown
Available from Amazon
To become a London Blue Badge
tourist guide takes two years of training. Guides are examined on their knowledge of the history of the capital and their ability to conduct tours (without notes) within Westminster Abbey, St Paul's, and London's museums and galleries, as well as conducting walks or coach tours across the city.
They're an important part of London's multi-billion pound tourist economy and known as "Britain's Best Guides". (I'll declare an interest here, as I'm a London Blue Badge guide
Author (and experienced Blue Badge guide) Mark King attempts to communicate some of this knowledge in the London Quiz Book
. Arranged in 22 thematic sections - Parks + Gardens, Food + Drink, Royalty + Government, and so on - the book provides two pages of questions on each topic, with answers following.
And it's the answers of course that are the heart of the book, because they allow the author to dive off into quirky stories and lesser-known facts, providing depth and colour rather than short, bland statements. So the question about "which small church forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Westminster" leads to a short history of St Margaret's foundation, an explanation of 'Royal Peculiars' and some of the people associated with the church, from Caxton to Churchill.
Even the most knowledgable of readers will find some new fact on every page, and King skilfully packs in a lot of information into the answers. If you think you know London well, diving into the book will make you realise that there is always something more to be discovered.