St Katharine Docks beside the Tower of London is always a pleasant place to wander, but did you know that it contains a gleaming object from film history?
Head for the impressive looking Starbucks at the centre of the docks — the one housed inside a rotunda building. Nearby, in the wall above the cash machines, is a giant block of acrylic stamped with a royal crown.
Back in the late 60s, the block auditioned for a part in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was carved by sculptor Arthur Fleischmann for the role of an alien artefact. Director Stanley Kubrick had other ideas, and decided to use the black monolith that became an instant icon of science fiction. Looking at the translucent polymer today, it’s difficult to believe it could have had anything like the same stage presence.
Check out the nearby plaque for the back-story (if you can get near it, that is... the plaque is right by the cash machine, and therefore tricky to approach without intimidating any person withdrawing money).
Still, the block is impressive, and weighs two tonnes. This was the largest chunk of acrylic in the world when it was first installed here to mark the Queen's silver jubilee in 1977. It may still be, for all we know. Her Majesty came in person to unveil the sculpture, along with the Starbucks building, which was then a multi-faith chapel.
So, there we go. An wannabe alien artefact dedicated to the Queen, hanging above a cash machine next to Starbucks. You'd be hard-pressed to find that in any other city.