Alex Horne debunks London myths

As he brings his deception-heavy show ‘Lies’ to the capital, award-winning stand-up Alex Horne reveals the ‘truth’ behind London's biggest myths



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© Pete Le May

Whenever people ask me, ‘What is London?’ I check they definitely mean ‘what’ rather than ‘where’ or ‘how’, then furnish them with the key facts I learned for my geography GCSE. But, as it turns out, not all of them are as factual as I was led to believe. This week, I finally headed down to my local Google to discover the truth behind London’s greatest legends.

London is the capital of England

FALSE Although it is still the country’s first administrative city, London hasn’t been the capital of England since the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Bristol is the capital of England and Farnborough is the ‘deputy capital’ and acts as capital if and when Bristol is flooded or too full of stags and hens.

London taxi drivers are legally required to carry a bale of hay in the boot of their cab

FALSE This myth was almost certainly spawned by a lazy monk’s typo a certain amount of time ago. Cab experts now believe they probably meant to write that that London taxi drivers are legally required to carry either ‘a ball of ham’, ‘Gareth Bale’s hat’, ‘a bag of hate’, ‘a half of beer’ or ‘a fully functional first aid kit’.

In London, you’re never more than six feet from a rat

TRUE All Londoners are obliged to keep a rat on them at all times to ensure the truth of this statement and thus keep the tourist industry going.

The streets of London are paved with gold

© Pete Le May

TRUE London’s pavements were originally coated with gold because the metal offered both a practical walking base and a pleasing visual aspect. However, and perhaps inevitably, ‘scooping thieves’ immediately stripped all but three slabs* of their expensive veneer, using the money to fund their fun but irresponsible lifestyles. Thanks to a Tony Blair initiative, today’s pavements are gradually being covered instead with used chewing gum (chewed gum) providing Londoners with a safer walk to work. Thanks, Tony.
*The three original gold stones lie 30m west of the Sainsbury’s at New Cross Gate.

There is a gargoyle on Westminster Abbey that looks exactly like Ken Dodd

FALSE There is a gawky-looking statue on the Abbey’s northern facade, but he, or maybe she, looks more like Rod Stewart than Dodd. And even then, the Abbey was finished some months before Rod’s birth so any similarity has to be coincidental.

There’s a pig in the House of Commons

TRUE Aunt Carol, a 350lb swabian hall swine, has been roaming the corridors of power for at least a decade. Police chiefs and Swat teams were sent in to ‘sort her’ after politicians voiced concerns about access issues and the smell, but the pig saw them off with her natural charm. Since the ceasefire, Carol has been known to attend luncheons and even take minutes at several high-profile pow-wows.

If the ravens leave the Tower of London, England will fail

TRUE The 40,000 ravens who inhabit London’s best tower are utterly crucial to the success of the country, mainly because it is they who provide most of England’s employment, growth and sustainability through loans, production guarantees and windfalls.

The Thames runs all the way from Gravesend to Weston-super-Mare

© Pete Le May

TRUE Less a river, more a bit of the sea, the Thames is really a body of water that divides the two islands known locally as Southern England and The North. The landmass was split by Henry VIII in 1534 because he wanted to get married again and the two halves have been drifting apart ever since. By February 2014 it is predicted that Portsmouth will collide with the Isle of Wight, knocking it on a course that will eventually see it curl round France and nestle into the top left corner of Spain.

Green Park is called Green Park because the Namer of Parks ran out of ideas and enthusiasm

FALSE Dr Nick Stick, the official namer of London’s clocks and parks, insists that he picked the name ‘Green Park’ not because the park was mostly green, but because in medieval times the area was famed for its marijuana fields. ‘Green,’ Stick shouted at journalists in a press conference last weekend, ‘is well-known slang for weed. Get a life, you talentless dirtbags.’ He almost certainly has a point. Green Day are called Green Day for similar reasons, according to some vague fansite I found.

London is a city that never sleeps

TRUE Like most cities and some insects, London does not need to suspend its consciousness and relax its nervous system for several hours every night in order to function efficiently the next day. London does, however, hibernate for a fortnight just after Christmas every year and during this time the Underground is a bloody nightmare.

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