My London Eye Experience

London-Eye-Capsule

I’d always been a fan of the London Eye. I watched it being built during 1999. I was working in Lots Road, Chelsea, and everyday had to drive along the Embankment to get there. The journey was no more than 15 miles but could take anything up to an hour and a half. Parts of the Eye were brought up the Thames on barges and trust me most mornings the barges would be going much, much faster than me in my bright new shiny car.
When it was finished and eventually opened to the public in 2000 I was disappointed that it was so slow. The whole experience takes about 30 minutes and I always joked that it looked like it could do with a good spin to liven the whole thing up. Basically it’s a giant Ferris wheel with 32 capsules (known as Pods) attached.
I wanted to go on it but somehow never got around to booking it.
Then, in 2003 on my birthday, my wife gave me an envelope. I thought it was just a birthday card but no, it was for a trip on the London Eye. Not just any old trip. But a “Champagne Flight”.
It was called a flight back then because the thing was owned and run by British Airways.
Our booking was for two days’ time, on Sunday afternoon. When we arrived we saw a massive queue. But not for us. We were whisked to the front and greeted by our attendant for the flight. She introduced herself as Laura and was wearing a BA air stewardess uniform complete with blue hat. She carried a small wicker basket.
And so our “flight” began. We step into the Pod. Just the three of us.
Now imagine the London Eye being a clock. Twelve o’clock being at the very top and six o’clock at the bottom where you board. Imagine the wheel travelling anti clockwise.
The lovely, immaculate, talkative Laura, opens up the wicker basket to reveal a bottle of champagne and two crystal flute glasses. She pops the cork and pours up both a glass.
At 5 o’clock we are sipping our champagne and enjoying the sights of London. All is good with the world.
At 4 o’clock I look down at the Pod below. It’s crammed with 30 people all trying to get a view. One of them looks up and I raise my glass. The person is probably thinking “smug bastard.”
At 3 o’clock I ask the lovely Laura for a refill. She obliges and I start to point out certain landmarks to my wife. The Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, The Tower Of London. Then something happens between 3 o’clock and 2 o’clock. Something strange.
I take a step back from the window and feel odd. A feeling that I’ve never felt before in my life.
At 2 O’clock my head starts to spin but I can’t move. Something is wrong. Very wrong. I know what this feeling is. It’s fear. It takes over my whole body. Laura is the first to notice.
“Are you okay sir. You’ve gone a funny colour.”
The words came out slowly. I begin to speak like a five year old.
“Can you take me down now please? I want to get off. I don’t feel well.”
Useless Laura replies.
“I’m sorry sir but that’s impossible. But we’ll be landing in about 20 minutes. Maybe if you sit down…”
“I can’t sit down. I can’t move.”
At 1 o’clock. I look like a zombie. I stand rigid. All I can see outside is sky. I can’t look down and I certainly can’t look up. I concentrate on a small piece of window and stare at it. Here I am a grown man, 44 years of age and I’ve suddenly developed a fear of heights. My wife doesn’t help matters.
“I didn’t know you were scared of heights. Why didn’t you say?”
My words are harsh.
“Because I didn’t fucking know until about ten minutes ago.”
There is silence in the pod. An uneasy quiet. What started out as a nice pleasant birthday present is fast becoming the trip from hell.
At 12 o’clock although I’m not hot, I start to sweat. I fear I may wet myself. Still all I can see is sky. There is nothing around us. Absolutely nothing. I continue to stare at my little piece of window. That bitch Laura tries to break the ice.
“Can I top your glass up sir?”
“No! Just get me out of here.”
“Not long now sir, just fifteen minutes to go.”
The woman is now getting on my nerves. Surely there must be some kind of panic button that she can press, an intercom where she can talk to the pilot of this fucking monstrosity who can speed it up and get me down quicker?
We start our descent.
At 11 o’clock my wife tries to reassure me.
“We’re coming down now, won’t be long, should all be over in ten minutes.”
I feel the pod start to sway slightly from side to side. I think I might faint. In fact I hope I do faint. The evil monster wearing that ridiculous uniform starts to giggle.
“It does that sometimes. Nothing to worry about.”
I want to rip her stupid hat off!
At 10 o’clock the panic begins to leave my body. Not completely, but I don’t feel as helpless as I did just a few minutes before.
At 9 o’clock it’s like I’ve been brought out of a hypnotic state by someone clicking their fingers. I can move. The first thing I grab is the champagne bottle out of the stupid woman’s hand and pour myself a glass. I gulp it down in one go. God, I needed that.
At 8 o’clock the champagne is gone and all I want to do now is to get off of this piece of shit, find a pub and have a quiet cry.
Three minutes later and we’re back where we started at 6 o’clock. We leave the Pod. A voice from behind us shouts out. “Thank you for flying with us today. We hope you enjoyed your flight.”
I don’t turn round. I daren’t. I might just punch somebody!

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