Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Emirates Air Line and a man named Clarence

"And of course, these are the same cranes lowered during Winston Churchill's funeral…

"…and look, quickly now, jees - I said quickly. Over there! North-east, north-east! - you can see the intricacy of the Lee Valley navigation system."

I was onboard one of the Emirates Air Line's cable cars, and my chronic fear of heights was being exacerbated by the enthusiasm of a fellow passenger and self-appointed tour guide. He was (and probably still is, for the cable did not snap) American, approximately 55, and sported off-white trousers with a high waist line. For readability purposes, let's call him Clarence.

Clarence's stare possessed the excited intensity of a teenager who's stumbled across Megan Fox undressing in his bedroom. But he hadn't seen Megan Fox undressing in his bedroom [you clicked on that link, didn't you? You dirty bastard]. Clarence was looking at an east London waterways system flanked by recycling depots, rusty shipping containers and much of central and eastern England's effluence. Like most men in public frantically trying to prevent a semi from turning into something more full-blown, Clarence stood up and walked around. 

He stood up and walked around a 10 ft-long pod suspended 305 ft above the River Thames. This had one rather alarming effect: it made the cable car sway; to which Clarence was oblivious. Why was he oblivious? Because Clarence's excitement hadn't been diverted - now positioned higher than our heads, he had a whole new window on the recycling depots and rusty shipping containers. Now he could see car parks, grass verges and central reservations. Clarence's gesticulating became alarmingly animated; his salivating visibly and audibly palpable. 
The point at which Clarence's semi began
"What do you think that dome-shaped thing is, Charlie?" my girlfriend asked, shortly after we reached the summit. Before I could muster a token answer (I wasn't going to look out of the window; I was shitting myself), Clarence launched into a verbal tirade. While factually accurate, his explanation wasn't supposed to be helpful to others; rather it allowed the American to award himself another imaginary gold star. By this point, we had got it - he was the fucking expert; he was the best; his penis was more responsive to scenes of urban decay. 

"Yes, so that's the 15-acre site of the London Pleasure Gardens. Baaba Maal, Gary Numan and Groove Armada are playing there…[blah blah blah]…new cultural destination showcasing the city's diversity…[blah blah blah]…that's right, a floating cocktail lounge."
How the hell does he know who Groove Armada are?

Clarence was with two other fully-grown human beings. Upon disembarking I discovered that one was a man and the other was a woman. I had barely registered their existence during the journey because my head was in my hands - a reaction to the curious mixture of fear and trying to conceal my laughter (and indeed, to defend myself from the droplets of sputum ricocheting off the Perspex).

When the 'flight' had 'landed' (did the London Eye not tell Emirates that the Chilean miners are out?), Clarence was off as fast as his energetic little legs could carry him - leaving his poor, downtrodden and thoroughly miserable travel accomplices eating his dust.

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