Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I heart.... The BT Tower

Well, after the not especially latent aggression of yesterday's post, I thought it best that today I reflected on something positive. So, let's point the camera out of my office window, eh?



And thar she blows! Yup, that's my view (provided I look up, and not down. You may click on today's pictures to make them slightly bigger, if you wish). The BT Tower (formerly the Post Office Tower) is my favourite building in the whole of London Town. Dismissed by some as an ugly remnant of Britain’s excitement over the new dawn of technological advances in the 1960s, I happen to think it’s a stylish old thing, and just retro enough to stay on the right side of good-looking (and it’s certainly a hell of a lot nicer than the monstrosity in Second City. Yuck!). At 189m (620ft) tall (just tall enough to beam over the Chiltern Hills to the North-West. That said, it apparently shrinks by a good 20cm on the coldest of winter days) it’s pretty hard to miss from most parts of town (and I always eagerly try and catch a distant glimpse of it as I head in on the M4) and the views from the top are said to be phenomenal (lookit!).

With construction commencing in 1961, the Tower was built in it’s distinctive circular shape as designers noted that the only buildings to withstand the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were round. The hope that the Tower would actually have withstood a nuclear exchange is quite endearing (if a little sinister). Quite what good it would have done us if it had is another matter…
"Er… hello, America? Yes, it’s us, the UK. You said that you’d lend a hand if we ever found ourselves in a spot of bother…?"

When I moved to London 5 years ago, my first two years were spent living on the street right at the foot of the Tower. It was the best neighbour I’ve ever had. It’s said to sway 20cm in either direction in strong winds, but I never caught it doing that. No, for me, it was something of a reassuring father figure: London’s a big place, and when you’re new it’s easy to get lost. Having good old BT Tower nextdoor meant I could usually find my way home even when extremely intoxicated without having to consult a map (which is just as well, as the Official Secrets Act forbade the Tower being marked on maps up until the mid-nineties [so no-one would know where it is…]).



I have a fond memory of smoking Café Crèmes on my balcony with Eddie one evening, and looking up at it against the milky London night sky, and us both commenting "it’s pretty big, eh?". Stating the obvious perhaps, but it’s hard not to be left in awe by its peculiar charm at times. Sometime later, one night me and Eddie were heading back to mine from the pub when we noticed that there was clearly a disco going on on the top floor. We rushed to the Tower's base to assess the chances of us being let in, and were greeted by quite a friendly security guard. It was clear that he would have dearly liked to let us in and up, but this was mere weeks after 9/11, and they were paranoid times where security staff could be out on their ear for much less. Instead, he delighted in fondly regaling us with facts about the tower.
"The lifts go at 6 metres a second!"
"It’s pretty big, eh?" we sagely asked him…

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Today, amongst other things, I am also loving Mammatus clouds.

12 comments:

Shane said...

Thanks for the Views From the 34th Floor link. Have now determined that my next visit to the smoke will feature a trip up said tower. Particularly like the misty Canary Wharf/'Erotic Gherkin' (???) photo.

Huw said...

You'll need to be determined Shane: it's no longer open to the public and requires extreme blagging skills (or celebrity) to get up there. If anyone can though, I am confident that that person is you.

Sara said...

Wow - a revolving floor on level 34? How kitsch is that? That's superb...

I particularly like this bit: "It moves around at a fair whack and occasionally makes worrying creaks with the odd small mechanical judder." The possibilities for falling over and embarrassing oneself are endless...

OldHorsetailSnake said...

That's very kind of you, Huy. If I hadn't visited here, I never could have visited there (from afar). Very interesting and comely.

Shane said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Huw, but still: bollocks! I even told Ken this morning that we'd be going up the BT tower - he'll be crushed. When Ken poo-pooed the idea I said "No no Kenneth, Tufnell Park Boy told me about it - it's gonna be okay". The term 'fuck' springs to mind - really quite loudly.

Kenny and I shall commence our raid at dusk on the 5th. Be sure to watch Breakfast News on the 6th.

Huw said...

Oh, well, with Ken onboard it's a dead cert. If you need my assistance - sneaking up on security and hitting them with a cosh, seducing the cleaning staff and getting them to leave the back door open, that sort of thing - just say the word.

Rita said...

Didnt there used to be a restuarant up there on the revolving floor???

Huw said...

Rita - yes indeed, and very popular it was too. Closed in 1980 sadly...

Curly said...

Very interesting! Thanks for that!

I wonder who stands at the top with a ruler during high winds? 20cm either way is a big distance, eh?

geokker said...

There was a commendable lack of sarcasm in that post.

Claire said...

The tower is a landmark that's for sure, I sway between loving it and hating it every time I'm in London...I just can't make up my mind!

Harriet said...

Its lovely and was the tallest building in london for so long (til canary wharf). My mum promised to take me up to the revolving restaurant when I was 5, sadly the IRA tried to bomb it before then and I never got to go. But I once, for a very brief spell, had a boyfriend who worked for BT and promised to take me up so I could realise this ambition. He too let me down by dumping me before it happened. Maybe it'll be open during open house. (and I still think of it as the post office tower).