The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Oct 7, 2009


So the other day, thinking it might be one of the last of the sunny days of this year, I betook myself half a mile down from my office to the beautiful baroque edifice that is the Monument. Three pounds sterling and three hundred and eleven spiral steps later, I was at the top of this tower, looking around at London from a vantage point usually granted only to workers in such buildings as the Gherkin or Tower 42.

The view is not all the great. The City of London is not the prettiest part of this ancient metropolis, at least not from above. I could see the brown Thames and the deliciously over the top Tower Bridge. The distant skyline of Canary Wharf glinted in the, umm, distance.


Several seriously out of shape tourists huffed and puffed their way up and down the spiral staircase. One lot that I encountered just when I reached the top marvelled to each other – This gentleman is not even out of breath! – pointing at me.

There were enthusiastic kids and cheery grandparents, all wielding cameras and maps. None of them seemed particularly awed by the sight once they got up to the viewing platform.


The Monument, of course, is Sir Christopher Wren’s and Robert Hooke’s masterly tribute to those who perished in the Great Fire of London of 1666. Less well-known is that it is also a scientific instrument, designed to determine the strength of gravity and also as an astronomical observatory. There are steps leading into the basement from the ticket counter – barred currently to visitors – that take one to the base of this marvel, from where one can look up through the central axis into the sky.

Unfortunately, the baleful influence of Isaac Newton (who did his best to expunge Robert Hooke’s contributions from the annals of scientific discourse) persists to this day – there’s no mention of this wonderful scientist in the plinth explaining the purpose of the Monument.

Once you descend to the ticket counter, you are presented with a document that certifies you had reached the top. Here is what it looks like.


Cool, eh? I should laminate it and stick it up by my front door, but I can’t find the original certificate now that I’ve scanned and uploaded it.


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