The Shard, the tallest building in western Europe, is being officially opened with a spectacular light show and lots of smiling and neck craning.
Of course, a person's first thought when they see a huge building is "what's the view like from the top?". Unfortunately, this is not a question that everyone will have the budget to answer.
It has been revealed that adults who want to take a trip to the top of the 430-metre building will have to pay £25 for the privilege. Children will have a cheaper trip - presumably because they take up less room in a lift - and will pay £19 to head to the top.
I will give readers a chance to collect their jaws from the floor. Your eyes do not deceive you. That's the cost of a trip to the theatre ( or about 20 Greggs pasties) for what is essentially a journey in a lift, sharing an awkward silence with other passengers and hoping for no attacks of flatulence.
Initially, you will feel pity for those poor families who have come to see London's sights and face losing the best part of £100 - or more - to take their children to the top of the capital's newest landmark.
However, I would reserve the real sympathy for the poor press officer who had the unenviable task of making a trip to the top of a tall building sound like a £25 experience.
Lets take a look at some of the highlights:
- The View from the Shard description starts: "You are about to go on a multi-sensory journey to 244m (800ft) above one of greatest cities on Earth." Presumably they are talking about London, while one assumes that the majority of journeys, without the application of blindfold and earplugs, would be described as "multi-sensory".
- "You will travel skyward in two high-speed 'kaleidoscopic' lifts that take just 30 seconds each to reach level 68, a cloudscape above the world." The description seems to have a hint of Tolkein about it, with the use of the word "skyward", when "up" would suffice. The details of what happens in the kaleidoscopic lifts are not revealed, but the use of single quotes suggests a lack of confidence in the phrase. Meanwhile, the description of level 68 as a "cloudscape" raises the concern over exactly how naff this experience would be in bad weather. Also, I normally like to use just one lift at a time.
- The tour then takes a trip another floor up, where the view is revealed. At this point, "the past, present and future of London will not only be unfurled beneath you, but also brought to life in multimedia displays and installations - for example digital telescopes that take you deeper into the story of London". Anyone looking down on London will certainly see its past, present and future marked in the differing stages of council house decay. Unless those telescopes have transportation capabilities, they will presumably just "make the little things bigger" until a fat American child somehow gets burger relish on the lense.
- "You can also go higher to the full 244m: Level 72, the highest public level of The Shard.." We CAN also? Well thankyou so much for the offer. I should think anyone who has paid £25 will blimmin' well insist that they do. This level "exposes you to the elements with sounds of the city and the chance to look up at the shards of glass that form the top of this skyscraper as they disappear upwards into the sky." That might be the longest, and most floral elaboration of the concept of 'not having a roof' that has ever been written. Clearly, they are aiming for the foreign tourist market, because no Londoner will revel in the idea of exposing themselves to the English elements.
Perhaps this is all a bit harsh. The Shard is undoubtedly spectacular and is sure to be an icon of the London skyline for many years. Also, nearly everyone loves going up high buildings.
However, and perhaps this is just a sign of our ever-eroding attention spans, the thrill of seeing a nice view from inside a building is often short-lived. Once you've seen it, you've seen it, but with a £25 price tag many people will be struck by an overwhelming urge to hang around to get their money's worth. Also the photographs of the view will be rubbish - they always are.