As well as the great Open House tours by VocalEyes, the other big highlight of last weekend was on Sunday evening, when I got to meet Emily Davison from Fashioneyesta for the second time. If you missed it, our first meeting was at Knole Park on the August Bank Holiday Monday (which Emily vlogged as well).
This time, the plan was to have something to eat and then go on a Jack The Ripper walking tour. And we had a lovely time.
I met Emily at New Cross station – which strangely uses letters for its platforms rather than numbers, which I’ve not seen anywhere else – and we got the London Overground to Shoreditch. Unfortunately it turned out that the restaurant we were hoping to go to for a meal actually closes early on a Sunday (which makes no sense to us when people like to go out at weekends), so we had to change our plans and pick somewhere else. But we will be going back to the restaurant in question very soon, because we really want to try it out and review it, it sounds amazing.
We did quickly find another place that was open instead, but we nearly didn’t get in there either, because there was an initial misunderstanding about whether Emily’s guide dog was allowed in or not. Thankfully it was immediately sorted out with the prompt and understanding help of the manager that was called over, but initially it was quite awkward.
It was an interesting experience for me particularly, because I’ve never been witness to a potential guide dog access denial before. I know it’s sadly quite commonplace (despite being illegal), but although I have other friends with guide dogs, I’ve not been with them on the occasions where it’s come up for them. So it was both fascinating and frustrating to see it taking place for the first time.
Emily, of course, being ever the professional and very used to this, was firm but calm, explaining her rights clearly and politely, without raising her voice or getting angry. It was a perfect example of how to deal with the situation, and I greatly admire the attitude she took towards it. She has a video about guide dog access denials on her channel, which is well worth watching if you want more understanding about the issue, along with the report she did for Channel 4 News.
I did back Emily up as well, of course. But I let her put her own case across primarily, as Unity is her dog, not mine, and it would be unfair of me to speak for her. But I did chip in a bit as well, firmly and calmly, to confirm what she was saying, making it clear that I would be her witness if it had to be reported. Sure, I felt frustrated about it too, but I know making a scene wouldn’t have helped, and I’m not the type of person to do that anyway.
The staff member we were talking to was happy to call the manager over, and they immediately said we had to be allowed in. So it was resolved instantly, and we were treated well after that, with the staff apologising for not understanding. Unity got some water to drink, while Emily and I enjoyed our food – even if we did have to rush it because it took a little while to arrive. So it was a nice meal, it’s just a pity we couldn’t take our time over it.
After that, we then got a taxi to Aldgate East station for the main event of the evening – the Jack The Ripper Tour. There are many tours of that nature that go on in the area, a few of which were happening nearby as we were walking around, but the one we did is the original one.
It became clear that we were going to be a little bit late for the start though, as the traffic was being a bit slow. But the organisers are very thoughtful, they know these things happen and they allow for it. For instance, in the email they send out, there are directions so you can catch up with the tour at the first few stopping points. And they also supply a phone number you can call if necessary. So I called them to say we’d be a bit late, and the lady who answered was very friendly and understanding. I explained that we were visually impaired and had a guide dog with us, and she had no problem with that. If we had any problems catching up with the group, we would be able to call her back so she could guide us to them over the phone if necessary.
As it happened though, we found the group easily enough on our own with the directions in the email. We caught up with them just as they were about to leave their very first stop, so we only missed the first few moments of the tour. And from there, the tour lasted just under 2 hours. And it was really interesting too. We were told about the streets and the standards of living back in the 1800s, the details of the female victims’ lives and how they came to be working on the streets, all the gory details about what Jack The Ripper did to each of them, and how the news spread far and wide about his activities.
The lady leading us was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable, she clearly enjoys doing it. And walking around the streets in the night air, passing places we knew like Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market, helped to give atmosphere and put everything into perspective. She was also passing around photos to illustrate what she was saying, some of which were easier to see than others with my eyesight, but they still added to the experience nicely. And she read out a famous letter that the killer had sent to someone, which was fascinating to listen to. It really is a fascinating and intriguing story. We’ll never know for sure who it was – theories are abundant, inevitably, but nobody will ever truly know. Emily has a very sound theory that he was likely a butcher, not a surgeon, and it does make a lot of sense.
Unity also drew a bit of attention as well, naturally. The tour guide certainly liked her. It also didn’t escape my notice that one of the other people in the group asked Emily if the dog was being trained. Again, as with the denials issue, I was aware that this happens, but this is the first time I’ve witnessed it. However, again, Emily answered simply and calmly that the dog was working, and that was the end of the conversation. No harm done. It’s just amazing to me that someone can look at a beautiful young lady confidently walking a guide dog and jump to the immediate conclusion that it’s being trained, as if the alternative is too unlikely. To put it another way, the person was basically saying “you don’t look blind”, but paraphrasing it as a question.
Anyway, we really enjoyed the tour, and we’ve got other tours in mind that we want to go on as well, including one that we’ve already booked on to. And there are a couple that Emily’s done already which she’s recommended I check out. A lot of my time in London so far this year has been exploring the city in a very general manner, getting a good feel for the place and enjoying the sights in general. But I do want to delve more into the deeper stories of the city that these kind of tours provide, so I’m very keen to check them out. And there’s so much choice of tours to do, it’s wonderful. I have some listed on my London Links page that I’m already aware of, but if people want to recommend others, feel free.
As for the restaurant we couldn’t go to, we’ve already rescheduled that, so we’ll be going back there soon, and I’ll certainly blog about it afterwards.
So I had a very enjoyable evening – thank you so much to Emily for that! And the Jack The Ripper Tour was really interesting, I highly recommend that people check it out.
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