Led by the Nose - 'The Seven Noses of Soho' Walk

Rich pickings – eureka, another nose found!

Rich pickings – eureka, another nose found!

Ok, this is a bit tenuous, no perfumery whatsoever but any opportunity to take a walk and discover idiosyncratic oddities of London and I am the first to sign up!   I had heard about these so-called Nose sculptures, themselves subject to urban myth as why are they there, how many are there (really) and where are they in London? If these questions do not tempt you to find them perhaps a monetary incentive? It is believed if you find  them all wealth and abundance will be yours.

So on a very sunny, Olympic-mad Super Saturday, a morning of mystery, discovery and (possible) wealth awaits.   I met the rest of the group in Covent garden with our Guide, the genial, erudite and font of knowledge that is Peter Berthoud, who has been leading these walking tours to great acclaim.

As a 'dry run' and to test our powers of observation, Peter took us to a popular side street of Covent Garden, where small anatomical sculpture is affixed to a shop façade.    I feared the 3-hour tour would never progress as I could not spot it!  The anticipation mounted as each member of our happy crew, with great relief exclaimed “oh I see it”  one after the other, me - craned neck, squint-eyed, was frantically scanning the facades, the pressure bearing down on me until I had to give in and admit failure.  I was the weakest link!!

Peter put me out of my misery and finally pointed it out, I gave myself a mental head slap, d0h!  It seems, when you look too hard for something you don’t see it, even when it is literally staring you in the face (like a metaphor for life – philosophical insights are free too on this tour!)

The truth is out there – Space Invader mosaics (French artist, Invader)

The truth is out there – Space Invader mosaics
(French artist, Invader)

The first hurdle over, off we were led through labyrinthine alleys covering a lot of ground around Soho and surrounding streets, discovering a hidden gem of a garden, quirky architectural details in obscure places and sssshh, secret drinking dens!

Houdini would have loved it – humorous sign

Houdini would have loved it – humorous sign

The whole area and local history were brought to life,  I particularly loved finding the Samuel Smith pubs which are a breath of fresh air amidst the sea of anodyne chains and a vintage magazine emporium www.vinmag.com. Thankfully, my visual acuity sharpened up over the duration and I spotted all the Noses – wealth is mine*(mwah har har har).  It also helps if you surreptitiously watch others as they scan the buildings to follow their eyeline (it is not cheating, honest!!!!!).  In honour of the Nose-code, I cannot divulge the whereabouts of the Noses, (I'd forfeit the bounty y'see), it is MUCH more fun to book a tour or try and find them yourself.

We finally meandered over to Pall Mall, where we encountered the super-friendly Olympic volunteers and a sea of people heading to the Volleyball, to end our tour as any self-respecting Londoner would at a lovely pub, to imbibe and toast to feeling healthy, wealthy and wiser!

Up close and ‘pally’ with this one!

Up close and ‘pally’ with this one!

Chatting in our little group over a cold beverage, we agreed that what really struck us about these walks, (especially as a Londoner) is that they give you the opportunity to really to stop, observe and (re-)discover the city around you.  There is so much to uncover and although Guides are fabulous raconteurs and offer nuggets of historical insight, sometimes we can take a mini adventure ourselves and go and explore a new postcode... who knows what you may uncover? 

An after-thought:

Hanging shop signs still exist in the City

Hanging shop signs still exist in the City

In the 17th century, there were no shop numbers and rarely shop names, each purveyor would simply have a hanging sign outside their shop, with a symbol depicting their trade.  I think a hanging sign depicting a nobly rendered nose for Perfumery establishments should come back into fashion, or even  better, a sculpted schnoz above the doors.  I know it would be the first thing I would do when I eventually get my perfume atelier (with my impending wealth of course!!)

What is this life if full of care

We have no time to stand and stare?



For space invader art 

  • http://londonist.com/2007/01/random_graffiti_17.php
  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMTkQiRdf0A

To book a 'Nose' walk and others, check out Peter's website:

  • www.peterberthoud.co.uk Postscript:*Croesus I am not alas and I was not one of the Euromillions winners (yet-hope springs eternal eh?!), but the following week I did win £10 on lotto and £2 scratchcard, then I was offered a free ticket to the Paralympics at the Olympic stadium ….striking gold indeed!