Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Brownpants and lofty views

Yesterday I’d agreed to lend my friend The Otter my critical eye as he flat hunted in Camberwell. Enroute, I was in the vicinity of London Bridge and realised I was well ahead of schedule, so I decided I’d climb to the top of Monument. It’s one of the many tourist type activities I’ve never got round to since I’ve lived in London and recently I’ve resolved to get them finally ticked off my list; these sort of things are always easily put off for another day, but I’m beginning to suspect that that road invariably leads to them never getting done.

Designed by Wren and Hooke, the Monument was built in the years following the Great Fire of London which it commemorates, which started 202 feet away and is also (uncoincidently) the height of the column.
“Doesn’t look so high,” I thought, as I peered up from the safety of the ground on Monument Street. What I’d failed to factor into this equation was that although my fear of heights is one I can usually reign in, the thing that really tends to get me is my fear of ascending spiral staircases.
Moments later I gulped and swore quietly to myself as, now stood inside the base of Monument, I craned my neck to look up the centre of the cantilever staircase, and was made to feel quite dizzy by this tower of steps which was only confirmed as actually having an end by a pin prick of light gleaming high above (I thoroughly recommend Vienna Cathedral tower to any other spiral staircase thrill seekers).

“We’ll just take each of the 311 of them one at a time,” I resolved and mentally gave myself a slap round the face as I put my wavering foot on the first step.
My dizziness increased and my progress was slow but I remained steady, the only hairy moment coming when I encountered some descending tourists who politely insisted on stopping and allowing me to pass them on the central side of the staircase, where the steps only offer a 5inch foothold.
Having finally reached the summit, I initially had to edge my way round the viewing platform quite slowly until I began to feel comfortable in my new lofty surroundings. But soon I felt quite relaxed – the odd strong gust of wind causing brief spasms of panic admittedly – and was even impressed rather than alarmed by how small everyone looked as they pottered around below me. By and large I was pleased with the view on offer, although I was a little put out by the fact that Monument is rather dominated by the boring architecture of the office blocks which immediately surround it; the view of perhaps Wren’s greatest triumph, St Paul’s, was largely obscured.
Having sashayed my way to the bottom – descending spiral staircases isn’t a problem – I was disappointed to find that the man who writes your name in Ye Olde style writing on the certificate all Monument conquerors receive was engrossed in a conversation on his mobile, and thus I left with my certificate blank. I need to locate someone schooled in the Ye Olde calligraphy.

The Man is watching you even up here.


I got myself some new trainers this week, and they are still shockingly white. Perhaps too white to wear out and about, but this of course lands me in a catch 22 because the only way to stop them gleaming in a blinding fashion is to wear them out and about. There are only two groups of people who can get away with wearing trainers this white: rappers and the elderly, and I belong to neither.


deanne said...

Just throw your trainers around in the back garden for a while!

Curly said...

Yeah, that's what I used to do too - just rub some mud into them before you go out!

It's amazing that we tend not visit our local tourist attractions as Britons. People come to the country and say "Have you seen this? Been there? Kissed that?" And generally, we haven't.