There it is, greeting passengers sitting on the ground-serpent trailing into London: an incomplete, jagged knife stabbing the sky above the Thames.
But despite its inhospitable aggression, The Shard – a 1,020 foot pyramidic structure near London Bridge- fascinates my eight year old son.
The boy who loves pointed sticks, trailing them after us through the forest; the boy with a passion for swords and pikes is in awe of this modern challenge to the London skyline.
And somewhere in among our frequent trips to the capital, it has become known that Felix’s beloved Bumpy the Elephant is set to have the highest office in the whole Shard.
It is not a whole floor you understand, as Bumpy is about half a foot high. When we go to see him we will not be all together comfortable because the ceiling will be excruciatingly low. Bumpy’s business power desk will take up most of the room.
But the views will be out of this world.
The grand plans for The Shard are the brainchild of Italian architect Renzo Piano, the man behind Paris’s Pompidou Centre. He is rumoured to have been inspired by the masts of sailing ships on the Thames; and by Canaletto’s depiction of the London Spires.
Pretty thoughts. But take a look at the visualisations on the spectacular website here. Our old spires are named for the old English word spir: it means a sprout, a shoot or a stalk of grass. they grow organically out of the London brick and stone. The Shard is named for a fragment, a broken, sharp thing.
See its finished form and you may think it is less of a shard, more of a shiv.
An ugly word. A makeshift thing, its sole purpose for doing grevious harm, Oxford DIctionary suggests shive – a razor – as its roots, while wikipedia cites the Romanian word chivomengro, a knife.
During the planning inquiry in 2003 local authorities, the Royal Parks Foundation and English Heritage all opposed the development: but they were all overruled by bluff John Prescott, outspoken deputy prime minister of the time.
So its building began, and it has risen from the ashes of the 24-storey Southwark Towers since February 2009
This skyrender is the last word in luxury, its funding dominated by a syndicate from Qatar, its growing glass facade a constant talking point for the people of London. It will feature offices, a spa, an observatory and luxury apartments which have just been put up for sale for £50 million a piece.
Only the final floors will be entirely devoted entirely to the spire. And that, says Felix, is where Bumpy’s office will be.
In an unplanned change to project managers’ schedules, a resident has already moved in to the structure.
But the resident was found to have four legs. And his name is Romeo.
Builders will be builders, even on one of the most prestigious building projects on the globe. They take their sandwiches up with them to eat for lunch: it’s a trek back down to the shops on the ground from the top of the Shard’s almost complete structure, and London food prices are a crime. But being builders, there are always scraps left over.
No one has said anything about why the scraps were left behind when the builders left: but our working knowledge of these industrious souls suggests this is not atypical behaviour.
Anyhow, the scraps attracted a canny russet nose.
Romeo the Fox use the central stairwell to follow his sense of smell 72 floors , and when he got there he knew luxury when he saw it. So he set up house there, the highest fox in history, living the high life in an apartment which will soon be costing millions.
The builders discovered him, and called in the local authority to evict Romeo. He was taken to Riverside Animal Centre in Wallington where he received a thorough medical and was said to be very well, thank you.
The BBC quoted Barrie Hargrove, cabinet member for transport, environment and recycling at Southwark Council,as saying: “Romeo has certainly been on a bit of a jaunt and proved rather elusive.
“But I’m glad our pest control officers were able to help out.
“He’s obviously a resourceful little chap, but I’m sure he’s glad the adventure is over and hopefully he’ll steer well clear of skyscrapers in the future.”
So the first resident of the Shard has pottered off, released on the streets of Bermondsey shortly after midnight last Sunday (May 6). Romeo was reported to glance at the Shard and head hastily off in the opposite direction.
I wonder if they know about the small cuddly elephant with the power desk in the attic.