I do not like tourist traps. I think they shortchange both tourists and London itself; we simply have more to share with tourists than expensive ways of getting our hands on their euros, dollars or yen. It saddens me therefore that a building as beautiful as County Hall, which housed the Greater London Authority, now houses an arcade and a McDonald’s (it actually has a rather grand hotel and some other bits and pieces too, but don’t lets allow accuracy to interfere with a jolly good argument).
Sure as night follows day, having a go on the dodgems is on Time Out’s list of a thousand things to do, and so it was that one windswept and watery evening spouse and I put prejudice aside, and walked through the imposing doors of this former seat of local government.
The seat has been comprehensively filled with all manner of entertainment devices – machines for gambling, shooting, dancing, motorcycling, bowling, karaoke-ing and most enticingly of all, dodgems. In the main, Namco runs on tokens: a silver token is worth 50p and a gold token is worth £2.50. The gold token feeds the magnificent dodgems of joy. Clutching my token, I made a beeline for a bright red dream machine. An assistant asked if I wanted to share my dodgem with my partner. I spluttered. As a career girl of the new millennium, complete with masters degree and the vote, I was chuffing well having my own blooming dodgem. I do not drive myself, but I have watched a colossal amount of Top Gear. This was more than sufficient to zip around the rink at considerable speed, ramming the beloved amidships with considerable fervour and enthusiasm. Indeed, such was the level of enthusiasm, that the following day I found bruises on my lily-white flesh. But as it happened, it was February 29 when we visited, so I proposed to the beloved, right there as he reached out his hand to help me from my dodgem. What with having been happily married for six years, he was slightly surprised, to be honest. But I thought it would be nice for him to know that the reason I continue to live with him is not only that I am contractually obliged to do so.
I would be lying to you if I said we stopped at the dodgems. We limbered up on the air hockey before making a start on the shooting games.
Seeing Time Crisis was like meeting an old school friend for the first time in 30 years; I was delighted to see it, and then found myself remembering all the irritating things about it. Better by far was the Terminator Salvation game. As John Connor I delivered a fair old can of whoopass on those there terminators, before luring the beloved to something so wonderful I can hardly bear to tell you.
Ever since I first saw the film ”Scott Pilgrim vs the World” I have harboured a longing deep within my bosom to have a go on an arcade dancing game. Suffice to say Namco abounds with dancing game opportunities. Equally, it is fair to say that the spouse was not overly keen to participate. But it was quiet by then in the Namco, and bless his sweet heart, the spouse does like to make me happy. And so it was that spouse and I got to dance together, aided and abetted by Japanese technology. We both had an individual warmup practice go, before the competition began. We swiftly ditched the vintage western music in favour of the digitised Japanese synth pop. Quicker than you can say “red litmus” we were competitively shaking our groove things to the disco beat. It soon became clear that one of the many things that spouse is effortlessly and unjustifiably good at is electronic disco dancing. I, on the other hand, sucked at it like a Hoover with a new bag. I was heartily vanquished by the beloved. Yet, truth be told, I didn’t really mind. I had remembered something unexpected. Once upon a time, long before I was a long-suffering public servant, I was quite a cool girlfriend. I liked computer games, quirky clothes, obscure films and science fiction of many and various kinds. Somehow or other in the last 17 years I’d forgotten some of that. In a funny sort of way, Namco reminded me, and I’m unexpectedly grateful. This is not bad going for a tourist trap.
The Namco Funscape is at County Hall, nearest tube Westminster, full details from the website: http://namcofunscape.com/locations/view/London-County-Hall/7/?/london/#!prettyPhoto