Archive for the ‘Cable Car’ Category

A Crystal Ball

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Well, perhaps it’s over-egging it a bit to say I had ‘a ball.’ But given that there was a small child to entertain, it was a bloomin’ awful day, we’d ‘done’ Greenwich and there wasn’t enough time to go into town, a trip across the water to a free exhibition in the dry – with nice cakes – seems like a bit of a result.

I’m always slightly suspicious when a giant multinational that depends on consumer – well, consumption, actually, creates a ‘sustainable cities initiative’ and then spends vast wads of cash giving us the patronising ‘we need to talk about saving energy by not doing stuff’ message (I’m assuming the ‘not doing stuff’ doesn’t extend to not buying their goods…) but as propaganda goes, this is pretty slick.

The building itself is a handsome glass affair in an area that has very little else going on, right next to the cable car, the first, I am hoping, in a new rush of interesting attractions worth making the trip across the river for.

We went on a Saturday, and even on a traditionally ‘family’ day, most of the visitors seemed to be group bookings; brownies, I believe, and students. I should imagine that during the week it’s wall-to-wall school parties. There’s plenty to do, lots of buttons to press and games to play – someone has spent a lot of time and money making some very good exhibits, and it’s so new that nearly all of them still work (I was in the Maritime Museum the other day and several of their interactive displays are already broken. But then they don’t have Siemens funding them…)

And there IS much to think about. My favourite part was the bits where you’re getting to plan a virtual city, you’re given various constraints, a budget and a list of transport, energy, education etc. options and told to get on with running it. As Phantom Monarch I tried quite a few ways to put in infrastructure, take infrastructure out, add more roads, remove roads, give my subjects more public transport, less waste disposal etc. and every time I watched my city implode under the strain.

Some of it’s just plain baffling. I can’t remember what on earth this giant Chinese lantern represents, and I’m not sure I ever knew, though it’s possible it’s just covering the exterior of the cinema. Other things are pretty but again, I couldn’t tell you what they mean:

There’s a quite alarming film about global energy use (why did I find myself wondering that we would save a load of energy if we just turned off all the giant 360 degree movies about climate change..?) and some rather wonderful sections about the body.

In short, there is much to do, much to see, and if it doesn’t sit quite right that this is all funded by a multinational who are as busy plundering the earth for rare metals, gases, energy etc. as any other computer/white goods giant, then hey – we all sucked up that MacDonalds and Cadburys sponsored the Olympics last year. And Boris approves. This is pride of place in the City section:

Ultimately the result was one small child entertained for an hour on a wet day, and I find that hard to knock.

The thing I like most about this place, though, and something I will be returning to, is the splendid cafe.

Good food, nicely presented

with prices no worse than anywhere else in London, and actually, IMHO, very good for a London attraction:

I can see myself taking a cable car across the water just for the hell of it (and a cup of coffee at the Crystal). I delight in being the unfashionable Phantom that adores the cable car – of course it’s daft, but oh, I love it. Even I, though, raised an eyebrow at this particular display in the City part of the exhibition:


All Strung Up

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

It’s been a bit of a tortuous wait, every week for the past few weeks the PoL closed the river waiting for a helicopter to loop up the cables in the new cable car, every week something or other preventing it happen. In the end there was no helicopter and instead of it being a weekend sightseeing opportunity, it was a furtive night-time exercise.

Of course that doesn’t mean it was missed by IanVisits whose account of the evening is fascinating (though of course in true Schadenfreudian spirit I enjoyed the last bit best…)

You know I find myself getting rather excited by it. I know, I know – it’s an expensive transport system for virtually no commuters from nowhere to nowhere being built with a large public wodge of cash that could have been used for – well, any number of projects that would have actually helped relieve the public transport system. If I think about it too much I get quite cross. Certainly if I lived in, say Richmond or Ealing or somewhere miles away from it, I’d be furious at the construction of yet another Peninsula white elephant.

But I don’t. I live about a mile and a half away and it’s Greenwich’s own local white elephant (to replace the Dome, our previous local white elephant.)  I have been watching those elegant pylons go up, wanting to hate them, but I can’t. I really like the look of them; they remind me of something out of Metropolis, which, over by the Dome where it’s all a bit on the futuristic side, seems to work just fine to me.

Should it have been built? Of course not. Am I going to take a trip in one of those podules just as soon as I’m allowed? You bet.

I’m with Matt from Beware of the Trees. It’s a fucking cable car

Thanks, Adam, for the pics. I have lose count of the number of times I’ve passed by without my own camera…

Another World

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I don’t get up to the O2 very much at all. Why would I go to a bunch of chain restaurants and corporate stuff when I could go into Greenwich and get independent eateries and one-off quirky things?

That doesn’t mean I don’t go at all, of course. And when I do go I’m reminded just how different that end of Greenwich is.

Take last night. I wanted to see how far the cable car had progressed our side, so I took a stroll along what bits of the Thames Path we’re allowed at the moment, starting at the Yacht Club and working ‘backwards’ past the Best Bench in Greenwich (about which I’ve been learning some more – but that’s for another day…), what looks like a new mini-playground – a bit of ‘legacy,’ perhaps? – and an old dock that I am sure a group was trying to get a selection of historic ships and boats moored at. No sign of any yet, but it would be a good thing if they did.

The cable car looks like it’s coming on now – the big curvy thing that will be the on/off platform looks finished, the podules are there, albeit wrapped in plastic for now, and the pylon is looking really rather elegant – though worryingly high for a somewhat heights-challenged Phantom. All that seems to be missing is the actual cable.  No pic, I’m afraid, my camera’s just not up to night photography.

We’d planned to eat at the Pilot, but realised that there are so many new hoardings and we’d been looking at the pylons so much we’d gone right past it long ago. It was clearly time to see what the ‘other world’ had to offer.

The O2 when there’s no show on is even odder than when there is, we discovered. Perhaps part of it was the combination of disparate folk who were there for separate events last night that added to the unusually peculiar atmosphere.

Firstly there was a small group of onlookers (not sure I’d exactly call them ‘rabid fans’) standing behind giant set of barriers and another small group of bored-looking security guys. They’d come to see another small bunch of people in sparkly frocks and tuxes arrive for the premiere of Street Dance 2

Since I wasn’t aware of Street Dance 1, I wasn’t too bothered about staying for the whole shebang.

No Phantom Outing to the O2 is complete without my going right to the end of glamorous Entertainment Avenue to see what’s going on, I asked how we could get round to the rest of the ‘street’ and was directed – cor, the excitement – round the back – past the loos and through the usually ‘no entry’ doors into, well, what looked like backstage in every giant venue in the world. A long, circular, breezeblock corridor painted yellow and grey.

We came out next to strange happening number two – in the area where they sometimes have the indoor beach or the ice skating or the dodgems etc, was a Celebrity Speakers conference, which, as far as I could tell, consisted of rival I-Can-Make-You-A-Millionaire gurus giving their spiels in little exhibition-style rooms.

There was a row of lifesize cardboard cutouts of said gurus, plus posters etc. and a timetable of when they were to speak. Thinking on it, I rather wish I’d got a photo of the group of cardboard cutouts. Maybe they could have added them to the film premiere to make the event look more crowded…

We trudged to the end, past the British Music Experience, which one of these days I must test out. It’s just so darn expensive to get in  I’ve never really got around to it.

As usual Entertainment Avenue peters out into a giant space of nothing. No news of any outlet village yet.

Having reached the end of our excitement, we turned back to try to decide which of the array of restaurants to test out. I notice it’s gone a bit more downmarket these days – some of the posher-end eateries have gone, replaced with Harvesters and Garfunkels. We’d seen a new Tex-Mex place that looked a bit like Wahaca, which I rather like, so we were heading for that, when our heads were turned by another oddity.

The Nissan Innovation Station is a baby entertainment arcade all based around their latest electric vehicle, the Leaf. The entrance was the picture at the top of the post – a sort of river of electric bullrushes that light up and make noises as you touch them. What Phantom could resist?

We were each given a little keycard thing, which ‘personalised our experience’ – mainly TV gameshow-style quizzes with buttons to press. The answers weren’t hard to guess – just go for the answer most flattering to the product and you won’t go far wrong.

There were sit-in driving games, touch-screen explorer-thingies and guess-the-distance-you-can-go-on-half-a-charge type challenges culminating with the opportunity to win an iPad (and be spammed for the rest of your natural) and I have to admit I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I should have done.

By this point I was really hungry and one of the Millionaire Gurus had started a rather noisy evangelical speech in the exhibition-complex, but they were moving away the barriers from the premiere and we could actually get to the restaurant we’d had our eye on.

Armadillo is where the S&M cafe used to be and sells food inspired by Santa Fe, whose city-dish appears to be rice-stuffed tortillas served with rice. Not sure what else to say about it – it was okay, but nothing to write home about.

Sorry about lack of photos today – my camera was being a bit rubbish.