The journey up was a somewhat quicker than usual. In the past we have tended to go from Winchfield station, where it is usually possible to find a parking space, and it takes about an hour. However a friend pointed out that under the revised timetable (which results in the trains from Winchfield stopping at Walton on Thames) there is now a fast train every hour from Fleet, so we decided to give that train a go.
We got one of the last few spaces in the car park, and managed to catch the fast train, and get a seat too! The fast train takes almost twenty minutes off the journey time as it doesn’t make a stop between Farnborough and Clapham Junction, so is a definite improvement.
Anyway, first stop in London was a trip on the London Eye. As it was the summer half-term there was a queue even first thing in the morning (according to one of the staff the summer half-term is their busiest week of the whole year as the numbers are more spread over the summer holidays), however we got on pretty quickly. The only problem was that they appeared to be having problems with the airconditioning. We had a portable unit hooked up in our pod, and one of the other pods was out of action with an air conditioning engineer working on it as it went round – probably one of the more interesting jobs he has I guess, but a bit of a problem if he’s left a spare in the van!
After our trip on the Eye, we went straight for the open top bus tour, picking it up on Westminster Bridge. We did part of the tour as far as St Paul’s, where we jumped off to take a look at the cathedral.
It’s a while since I’d been there, and the Canadian contingent hadn’t ever visited. First order of the day was to have some lunch, so we went to their excellent cafe down in the crypt. If you’re ever in the area and want a good place for soup and a sandwich, the crypt cafe comes highly recommended (and you don’t need to pay the admission charge to get to the cafe either). When we arrived at St Paul’s they were holding their regular lunchtime eucharist, using a straight order one modern language service. As with St Georges in Windsor that is alternating order one traditional and modern services it is good to see the new services in regular usage in our most high profile churches. It is quite interesting to look around St Paul’s, as to my mind it is pretty atypical of a Church of England Cathedral, although that is perhaps as much to do with it’s age as anything else. Oddly enough Beth said that whereas she usually finds going to a cathedral a calming experience, she didn’t get the same feeling sat in the knave of St Paul’s.
After our visit to St Paul’s we picked up the bus tour again, taking in the rest of the sights on the tour, and also a large dose of London gridlock – the tour taking nearer three hours than the scheduled two. We jumped off again when we reached Picadilly Circus, and went over to the Odeon Leicester Square to see the new Star Wars film on the screen there.
The Odeon has one of the few full digital screens in the UK, basically the cinema equivalent of a DVD, so the picture quality was excellent. However whilst they replaced the seats in the most recent refurbishment of the cinema, they didn’t bother to make them any bigger, so seeing a film there is a decided squash compared to some others. Now if I could get a combination of the screen at the Odeon with my armchair at home…
In terms of the film, I enjoyed it, and it wasn’t quite as cringe making as say the Phantom Menace. However, as with Attack of the Clones, I think Lucas has gone rather too far towards using computers, to the point where parts of the movie are just plain unbelievable. It is also pretty apparent in parts that computer technology is not up to it, particularly laughable being the computer generated Governor Tarkin (played in Star Wars by Peter Cushing) that is no better than you get in computer games. There was a sterling effort in trying to stitch the prequels together with the older films, although there are still a couple of plot holes and apparent continuity gaffes that may have me watching the original trilogy again to check out, and also taking a look through the list of changes between versions. In terms of the film overall I think that computer technology hasn’t come nearly as far as George Lucas seems to think. The computers can be great for enhancing scenes, but you still need real sets and real actors. Computers still can’t accurately render things, human beings especially. For example take a look at the older Star Wars movies, with real sets and real people in many places it looks a lot more impressive than he slightly unbelievable computer generated stuff in the new movies.
Anyway, after the movie we had dinner in the nearby TGI Friday’s, and then took the fast train back to Fleet. Definitely an enjoyable day.