I swallowed my rather irrational (but probably essentially healthy) fear of heights on Sunday and went on the London Eye, the huge wheel that dominates the central London landscape and provides visitors with a bird’s eye view of the capital. The trip was a culmination of a rather irritating process of trying to persuade various sales people that the cost I was being charged online did not match the advertised cost – but to their credit they sorted this (eventually), and I ended up stepping out, into a moving capsule, on a brisk, fresh, clear morning, accompanied by my middle daughter.
The London Eye experience begins before you take this step, though, with a short 4D cinema film in the former County Hall, part of which is now transformed into the London Eye ticket hall. Capturing the excitement of a young child as she sees the Eye for the first time, it also contained clips of the spectacular New Year fireworks. A flurry of artificial snow flakes later, we were in the mood for our trip above the rooftops.
The London Eye, once it starts in the morning, almost never stops, moving inexorably round, people embarking and disembarking, capsules filling with people gazing out over a 360 degree London panorama. High up in the sky, London stretches before you – a beautiful city. It lacks the coherence of Paris or Washington DC, having evolved over centuries with only the faintest hint of a plan in small pockets, and the architecture varies wildly, due in no small part to the necessity of rebuilding huge swathes of the infrastructure after the devastation of the bombs of WWII. But it is a beautiful city nonetheless, and an inspiring one. All the movement, the endeavour, the work of Government, of enterprise, of people making this country function.
Perhaps it is the thought of seeing London less often when we move to Australia that allowed me to see it this way – I would prefer to think, however, that it is because a city like London encapsulates the desire and aspiration of the human spirit, and nowhere is this more evident than when rising high up above it and gazing down. I had the strong sense, as we moved ever upward, of the potential of humanity, not only in the engineering that was lifting us up, nor just in the design, architecture and activity beneath us, but in the spirit of our fellow human beings who can and do inspire us through the ages. It was magnificent, and I was so, so pleased to have shared it with my amazing daughter, whose life stretches ahead of her. May she and her generation continue to reach for the heavens.