Surprise visit

Last Sunday morning, Mark Ellingham of the Rough Guides was minding his company's stand at the London international book fair when he received a surprise visitor.

Baroness Thatcher marched up to inspect the publications, and exclaimed: "Barcelona! Now that's a nice city." Mr Ellingham ventured that the Spanish city owed many of its qualities to sound public investment, and suggested that life in London had declined significantly during the former Prime Minister's administration.

"Oh no - you're quite wrong," riposted Lady Thatcher. A debate ensued as to the incidence of crime and homelessness in the British and Catalan capitals. The exchange ended before Mr Ellingham could quote from the history section of the new Rough Guide to London (£8.99): "The tax-cutting which ensured the self-interested re-election of Thatcher and Major had all too predictable consequences. The infrastructure of the city has been left untended for the past 20 years, and the cracks have become craters."

If you are looking for tourist information rather than political comment, the new guide to the capital includes a 14-page guide to the British Museum and half a page on the rules of cricket: "no means as Byzantine as the game's detractors make out". The book also passes the acid test for any London guide book: whether or not it includes the world's finest purveyor of pizza, the Pizzeria Castello at the Elephant & Castle in London SE1.

The new Cadogan Guide to London (£12.99) passes the test, too. The central theme of this book is a series of 10 walks around the capital. It also features a pronunciation guide taking you from Hoe Burn via Suth'k to Dull Itch: Holborn, Southwark and Dulwich, where, incidentally, Lady