Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Friday, May 05, 2023

Big Climb up to Big Ben @ Elizabeth Tower "a childhood dream come true"

Yesterday afternoon Stuart and I did something we’ve both wanted to do since we were kids. A childhood dream come true. We climbed up Big Ben.
The chance came up by chance. We were subscribed to the Visit Parliament newsletter and happened to spot the link. Apparently, there were over a million applicants!
So lucky us, yesterday we found ourselves climbing up the full 334 steps to the top of the Elizabeth Tower and standing in ear-banging distance of Big Ben, as it bonged two o'clock. 
Ok, let's get some naming right. 'Big Ben' gets used to refer to the tower, and the clock, and the bell. It's actually none of these.  It's just the nickname for the biggest bell (there are five).
- The tower is (now) officially called the Elizabeth Tower. It used to be just called The Palace of Westminster Clock Tower. It never was called St Stephen's Tower BTW. A myth.
- The clock is officially called the "Great Clock of Westminster". 
- The big bell is officially the "Great Bell" (its original name was 'Royal Victoria')
Anyway, enough of pedantises, following its recent restoration, we were on a preview tour. For just £10, we had this rare opportunity to see inside the Tower while the UK Parliament put the finishing touches on the exhibition elements ahead of the official reopening this summer.
As we made our climb, counting the 334 steps up the spiral stairwell as we did, our guide revealed details of the most extensive and complex conservation project in Big Ben’s 160 years
First, we stopped and saw the inner workings of the clock mechanism - and what a piece of machinery it is. Cogs, levers, cables, shafts, all whirling and ticking away. We even saw the famous old penny coin collection that gets added or taken off the pendulum to adjust the period of the swing. As the quarter hour approached the whole mechanism sprung into life and levers and cables strained and jolted ringing the bells up above.
Our next stop was the windy belfry itself where the world-famous Great Bell hangs along with his four sisters. Although Big Ben was as loud as you’d expect (ear-plugs were provided), it’s the quarter bells that made us jump in fright the most. The heavy tolling of Big Ben was deeper and not quite as scary. A powerful and moving moment as we stood there that brought tears to my eyes.
After the belfry we descended a bit to walk behind the four mighty clock dials, each spanning 7m in diameter. Quite an experience. 
A little-known fact.  The roman numeral for ten X isn’t used in the clock face. They use a highly stylised E.  So, 9, 10, 11 and 12 are actually IE, E, EI and EII.
Elated with our tour we descended to ground level to look around the Westminster Hall, have a cuppa in the Jubilee Cafe, and pick up some tat from the gift shop.  Oh, and spot a few Lords and Ladies in full regalia rehearsing their Coronation choreography.
An amazing day. Watch out for tickets in the summer. It was fab. Tiring, but fab. 

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