20 January 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, part 5

This is the London Eye on the southerly bank of the Thames, as seen from near the Houses of Parliament. The large waterfront building at the right was once London's city offices; now it's a private overpriced Salvador Dali museum and a bunch of other attractions.
When the London Eye was built for the millennium celebrations (remember those?), it was considered a temporary structure. However, like the Eiffel Tower, it's proven so popular and iconic that no one's talking about taking it down anymore.

In 2000, the London Eye was the largest observation wheel in the world. Since then, a larger one has been built in Asia--but that's just a testament to the Eye's popularity. Another sign of its influence: this summer in Britain I spotted two other new observation wheels, at Greenwich and York.
Each of those pods can hold 20-30 people, and the wheel rotates slowly but continuously. Entering or exiting a pod is therefore rather like stepping on or off an escalator.

Having taken a recent "flight" on the London Eye left me in good shape to assess certain details of Siobhan Dowd's The London Eye Mystery, one of the finalists for a Cybils Award for middle-grade fiction.

First of all, as the kids in the book come to realize, there's no way to get on or off the wheel without being noticed. There are security people and other attendants everywhere. There are glass walls on the pods and much of the embarking area.

Secondly, the plot of the book depends on there always being a long line/queue to buy tickets and get on. Based on bitter experience (I can still hear Godson's brother saying sadly, "Toooo crowded"), I was expecting to find a long line when my dad and I arrived at the Eye this summer. It was a warm day in late June, you can see there was no rain or fog, and we weren't arriving at the very start of the morning.

But Dad and I were able to buy tickets and get on with hardly any waiting at all. That would have completely thrown off the London Eye Mystery plotters. Only when my father and I exited did we run into a mass of people--the school groups had arrived at last.

Photographs by Jerry Bell.

No comments: