By coincidence, on the day that one of my small handful of readers left a comment describing the Millennium Dome as an ‘Upturned Tupperware Dish’ I was planning to write about it in this, my next post. And that is because, now called the O2 Arena, I had just been there for the very first time.
Back in what were affectionately known as the ‘Swinging Sixties’ I spent a lot of my time in London having been raised at the nice end of the Central Line. Weekends were often spent travelling up to various points due west of Holborn and during those years, and my first two working years in Fleet Street, I grew to both love the city and to loathe it. Loved it for it’s vibrant undercurrents, it’s endless choices, it’s history – loathed it for it’s grubbiness, it’s decay and it’s overcrowded streets. London was a city that could charm one moment and appal the next and since those days trips to London have been more or less limited to necessity and have been planned as an incisive strike. Get in fast, do what is needed and no more, get out again as quickly as possible.
And then Mrs Swordfish bought me a delightful birthday present of tickets to see Eddie Izzard at the O2 Arena and we decided to stay a couple of nights in Leicester Square, take the Thames Clipper from Waterloo to Greenwich instead of using the tube and pay a visit to Harrods for some shopping.
And it was great. Well on the whole it was great. I did forget the rule that says if they describe a hotel as ’boutique’ and charge you Ã‚Â£300 a night then you really do end up with a room that is crowded when there is more than one person in it. I mean you couldn’t have swung a cat in this room because the cat wouldn’t have been able to get in. But apart from that it was great. And to my great surprise, London – or at least that part of London – seems to have re-invented and re-invigorated itself. It’s looking really pretty good.
So – back to the O2 Arena. I too was one of those who grumbled at the building of the dome. It seemed to me ill-conceived and – as history shows – indeed it was. But what a truly magnificent structure it is. Stunningly beautiful as you edge around the bend in the river and you catch the first sight of it dominating the landscape, all lit up against the night sky. Same goes for the London Eye. A long, long time ago we could have built something like this and then there seemed to be a long period spanning a large part of the twentieth century where we lost our way. The old ‘Centre Point’ building was about as good as it got! It’s good to see that we have that vision back and have the will to undertake such projects.
And finally, we nipped in to St. Pancras Station to look at the renovations and were pleasantly surprised by what a great job has been done. Sadly, our train home meant using Kings Cross next door – a grim reminder of the ugly, dirty and neglected marriage of Victorian grandeur with mid to late twentieth century budget building.
Oh – and Eddie Izzard was great fun.