Being a nosey-type phantom, I couldn’t resist going over to the very tip of the Peninsular to see what’s going on just a week or so before the Dome reopens as this all-singing-all-dancing entertainment complex.
It’s rather eerie at the moment. The actual Thames Path is as quiet as ever – the odd runner, cyclist or walker breaking the stillness that is generally just reed beds, abandoned art-projects and mud-flats. It’s an area waiting to happen – I can’t believe that there will ever be a peace like this in this area again – unless the Dome is another failure – which as a Greenwich resident I am bound to pray it isn’t – I don’t think the area could cope with the stigma of the Dome failing twice. There’s a sort of Sleeping Beauty feel to it – the core infrastructure from the Millennium ruckus already looking slightly old-fashioned, with its 1990s blue paint though I can’t imagine Anschutz waking it with a kiss…
Most eerie is the Pier. The gate was unlocked – a red rag to a phantom – so we lost no time slipping in to have a look round. It’s looking good, though very lonely. The ticket offices, complete with dusty windows and grimy barriers, still display the entrance prices – £ 20 for an adult £ 16.50 children, £ 18.00 concessions. It might have seemed steep at the time but when you look at what the average gig at the new place will be costing, it was a positive bargain (of course one could argue that it might actually have stuff we want to see this time round…)
As we were leaving, we met one of the hundreds of workmen on the site. Bare-chested and swaggering, he was happy to chat – not least because of the overtime he’s clocking up just now. He told me that if they’re not done in time (and believe me there’s a LONG way to go) his bosses are going to have a £ 250,000 penalty to pay every week. That means that he and his mates are on massive overtime and he’s enjoying the work while he’s got it. He seemed to think that the boats will be back in a week’s time. I’m less optimistic myself – but since it’s private money the chances are that it won’t turn out to be the farce that Wembley was.
Leading in from the pier, the path to the Dome itself has been spruced up with a bamboo path designed to hide the horrid bits behind, where the tarmac has been dug up in some places and has weeds growing through it in others. There are other green barriers too. A giant ‘wall’ made from ivy and box screens what looks like a square, where there is already a working giant plasma screen facing the tube station. There are also some strange square-shaped topiary pillars. I can’t see what they actually are, is it’s impossible to get very close and security was tight. We did consider joining the queue of people applying for jobs in the restaurants at the main gate just so we could be nosey. Somehow my conscience clipped me round the ear just in time.
Anthony Gormley’s Quantum Cloud is looking good – the best I’ve seen it. The Slice of Life half-a-ship is not doing quite so well. Inside the big blue fence around the dome is a hive of activity – dozens of blokes having a fag break at any one time – but it’s difficult to peer in to get a really good look. The old jetty that’s been covered with eco-plants is still in good nick (though its sign needs a spruce up) but that water-garden eco-park bit just inside the dome at the very tip is in poor condition. I do have hopes for it in that the wooden walkways are still there and all the reeds etc seem to have been chopped down to the ground rather than hoicked out. Maybe it will be allowed to return.
We walked all the way around the very tip – always a pleasure. I wonder whether it can stay as peaceful when the Dome opens. Only time will tell…