There is nothing quite like a good view. You can almost feel your batteries being recharged as you take in the sheer magnificence of the spectacle before you. Unfortunately, the reverse can also be true. It can be draining when you take in a view that is not quite so pleasing. Unfortunately, I find myself in just such a place right now. I am in Las Vegas for a conference and whilst I can understand why the location appeals to some – I am not amongst them.
I am impressed by the technological achievement of some of the developments here. The synchronized fountains outside the Bellagio are undoubtedly a sight to see. I can appreciate the design work that must have gone into the intense choreography as the individual jets shoot carefully controlled pulses into the sky. The architecture behind some of the buildings is astonishing in the sheer scale of these monolithic cathedrals to hedonistic consumerism.
But to me, these buildings have one essential ingredient missing – they lack a soul. Somehow when you walk around the buildings in an old part of London or York, the history around you almost seeps out into the street as you walk through. Of course, they are nowhere near as opulent as the structures of Las Vegas but they are genuine.
Aside from the old town, Hemel Hempstead, my home, will never be renowned as a site of beauty. Despite the fact that we have the tallest building in Hertfordshire in the form of Kodak House, the skyline is never going to rank amongst the most impressive in the world. One day though, I did manage to see it from a different perspective. I was working for BP at the time. Whilst waiting for a job to finish on my machine, my gaze happened to wander over to a field outside the building where there was a team busily preparing to launch a hot air balloon. The balloon was festooned with BP logos, and in that moment – it occurred to me that there might be a way to hitch a ride.
I pleaded with my team leader to let me go outside to the balloon until she let me go. I ran downstairs, climbed over the prickly hedge and ran over the muddy field. As I neared the balloon, puffed out from my exertions, I caught sight of the man leading the crew. For an instant, he gave me a look that told me my travails had been in vain and then his face softened into a broad smile and he lifted me into the basket.
At that moment, they gave a blast with the burners. It sounded like a primeval, unearthly roar and the searing heat washed over us. Little by little, the balloon started to rise and the basket floated beneath. Before too long, my office was disappearing below us. The higher we ascended, the more amazing the view became. As I saw Hemel Hempstead stretched out below, I realised how verdant and green everything looked. The rivers and canal framed the town, and it looked quite stunning from up above. Fortunately, there was not much else to do in the balloon other than drink in the view.
Aerial views show a completely different perspective on the familiar. There is an approach to Heathrow where the pilot makes his final approach low over the Thames. I never tire of roaring along the river from East to West taking in all the famous London landmarks. Nowadays, with Google Earth, you can see the same view from the comfort of your own home, but somehow, it’s not quite the same as feeling the experience of flight at the same time.
One view I will never forget was from high up in the World Trade Centre in New York. I was there early one morning to give a training course. Because it was in December, sunrise was fairly late. The streets in Manhattan are laid out in a lattice so that all the buildings share the same orientation. As the sun came up, the skyscrapers that make up the famous New York skyline lit up in unison. It seemed almost as if the city was made of huge gold bars standing to attention in the morning light.
If you ever find yourself with a spectacular site before you, take my advice. Take the time to stand and stare, unless you find yourself in Las Vegas.
- Hot Air Ballooning – a bird’s eye view (gorentals.co.nz)
- I’d Like to be a Cloud… (littlepurplestocking.wordpress.com)
- Notes and Images from Las Vegas (everydaysociologyblog.com)