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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Wednesday June 07 2006

I’ve been ruminating on the architectural shape of London, its lumps and its landmarks, its excitements and its dullnesses.  And there is no doubt that one of the great new London landmarks, arching out over the dullness, is the new Wembley football stadium.  As with the Wheel, it is going to be late.  Good.  Better that than paying the builders over-a-barrel stupid money to finish it by a certain insignificant date, soon to be forgotten.  The Wheel was late for the Millennium, but who now cares?  The Millennium Bridge was late, and then wobbled, ditto.  London will be around for centuries.  Who cares about a handful of months lateness when the thing was being made?

Here are some regular views of the new Wembley and its magnificent Arch, taken while it was being constructed, in September of last year.  I found where it was on the map, worked out which was the best tube station to go to, went there, was duly amazed, and snapped away contentedly for several hours and from all possible angles.  And then two days later I did it again.  (That is a feature of Billion Monkey cameras that I really like.  They tell you when, and with what Billion Monkey camera, which is really good if you have had several different cameras and tend to lose track.)

So, here are some regular Wembley views:

image image imageimage image image

The last one of those was taken from Harrow on the Hill, on the second day, which was somewhat misty.  No matter.  It only makes it look that much more splendid and mysterious, I think.

So far so obvious.  Billion Monkey goes to Wembley and does his Billion Monkey thing.

But some of my favourite snaps of the new stadium are the surprise ones, where you only gradually realise that the Wembley Arch is what you are looking at.

The first surprise, which was, I think, the first time I actually set eyes on the Arch, was this, taken in July 2005.  There I was, toddling along a dreary north London road, on my way to try to buy some ball bearings (I’ll tell you all about that – some time) and . . . there it was, looming magnificently over the industrial dullness of wherever it was.  I particularly like “Kojac Imports”.

image

Then came another far more intriguing sighting, about six week later, which I think I may have shown here before, but which is well fun enough to be worth another look.

I was visiting Antoine in Hampstead, which is nowhere near the Arch, a great gob of the A-Z to the right of it in fact, and I took some great snaps of a great sunset.  Lots of wispy clouds set on fire by the setting sun, a Billion Monkey open goal.  And it was only when I got home that I realised that there was this odd looking archy sort of thing in one of the pictures, the one taken over the railway lines.  I took the picture for the reflections of the sun off the lines.  But if you look carefully, there it is, just to the right of that big lump.  I rang Antoine.  Could that be the Arch?  Yes, he said.  And it was.  The direction yielded by the map tallied.  Bingo.

image

After that, according to all the dates on these things, I must have realised that I should make a proper visit, which I did.  Twice.

Since then, I have had a couple of further chances to snap the Arch.

In many ways, this next snap is the most remarkable one of all of all these.  I only had my x6 cheapo camera with me at the time, but it did its rather blurry best, and its best proved sufficient to make the point.  For there is the Arch, clearly picked out by the late afternoon sun.

image

That was taken from the top of the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede, a walk away from what is still my mum’s home in Englefield Green, where I lived for all of my childhood.  God knows how many miles away from the Arch that is.  Ten?  Fifteen?  In between is Heathrow Airport, one of the curvey roofed hangars of which you can clearly see.  The main bit of water is one of the Staines reservoirs, and if you look carefully, you can also see, a bit nearer, the river Thames, peeping through the leafless winter trees.

That picture was taken on Boxing Day 2005.  I also got some great snaps of Windsor Castle, equally well lit, from the same vantage point.  I will definitely return to that spot some time soon when the weather forecast is good, with my bigger and better x12 camera.  Real Summer having just got started, now might be a good time.  But will the lighting ever be as good again?

Finally, here are two snaps I took last Saturday evening, on my way to a party in one of the boat houses next to where they start the Boat Race, in Putney.  I am looking west, although actually the river must be kinked and I must be looking north west, because: there it is again!  All I thought I had been doing up until then was snapping sailing boats with the sun shining prettily through their sails, and then suddenly: Wembley Arch!  I only realised you could see the Arch from there because the party was in the farthest boat house from Putney Bridge.  A nearer one, and the bend of the river would have concealed it from view.

image

And here, finally, for all those many lost souls who think that football is more important than architecture, is another snap I took a few moments later, which includes a view of another football stadium, Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham.

image

Mostly, football just spreads a miasma of awfulness around the places where it is played, and worse, supported.  If it weren’t for the actual games on the telly, football would be unbearable.

Football supporters have a particular sort of honking, foghorny way of “singing”, from the back of the throat, that I find especially off-putting.  Eng la and.  With a falling off of a minor third between the la and the and at the end, endlessly repeated.  So, good that football also bestows other positive externalities, besides the games on the telly.

And there are no footballing externalities more positive than those radiated, in all directions and to the most surprising places, by the new Wembley Arch.

I love the cranes in the early pix of while it was being erected.  But cranes (aesthetics of) are for a different posting.