Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Mankind's great leaps

“It is difficult to design an ugly bridge,” wrote John Betjeman in The Spectator, a lifetime ago. “But the people responsible for the M1 managed it.” He was quite right. Those motorway crossings are the arse-ends of block houses. True, Britain has put up the Humber, the second Severn and the Dartford, but I have lived in two countries where great bridges are a casual fact of life.

No need to blow the Golden Gate’s trumpet; tolls are only payable into San Francisco not out, my first experience of this municipal snobbism. But the Gate tends to overshadow the much lower, much longer (7 miles) San Mateo bridge where, frequently, your car is virtually at one with the watery surface of the upper bay.

Switch east and I left the USA on the SS France, gazing up, sure the ship’s telecoms mast would scrape the underside of the Verrazzano Narrows bridge south of New York. It didn’t. Where I’d been living, in Pittburgh, was the Bridge to Nowhere where a planning foul-up left this coathanger more of a pier than a bridge for a decade. Being profligate with bridges, that’s real profligacy.

France is the other heavy hitter. The dizzying St Nazaire, bestriding the Loire estuary, suddenly became a free ride when the authorities decided that toll-payers had paid enough. And – without fanfare – Calais to the Normandy coast became a mere step and a half when the mouth of the Seine was bridged in a high arc at Honfleur.

But to match engineering with artistic splendour cross the Massif Central and approach the Millau viaduct: seven mystical yachts with powerful flashing mast-lights visible from ten miles away. A Brit designed it but it was the French who said “Yes!”

Novel progress 12/11/09 (Working title: The damaged con-rod). Chs. 1, 2, 3, 3A (Interlude), 10,874 words. Ch. 4 - 1900 words. Nearly 2000 words in two days - must be bad


Spadoman said...

With well over a million miles of some kind of motorized travel under my belt, I have crossed many bridges. In the early days, driving trucks cross country here in America, I never paid much mind to structure and/or beauty.
Now, with more time on my hands and a better sense of what's out there, I do look at these things.
The Mackinac bridge that crosses the narrow strip of water between lake Superior and Michigan's Upper Peninsula with the straights between Great Lakes Huron and Michiga , is a masterpiece.
Imagine my surprise when I see on our Public Television, the airing of the documentary of how it was developed, designed and built. I've set the TV on record and will have this piece to watch, as it was a marvel of its time because of so many limiting conditions in weather, terrain and locale.
Thanks for this post. We might have a lot in common BB, Everything in general, nothing in particular, or is it the other way around?


Plutarch said...

Did you see the bridge deisgned to span a canal in Liverpool made in the James May BBC 2 programme on toys? It was constructed entirely from standard Meccano pieces. Meccano is now a French owned company.

Rouchswalwe said...

Foot bridges have always excited me. Especially old Roman ones (luckily I grew up near the Limes Romanus). But my all-time favorite is the Eiserner Steg, built in 1868. It connects Frankfurt a.M. with Sachsenhausen.

Rouchswalwe said...

P.S. Oh, I would be very interested in Chapter 3 please, BB! I have a bottle of Samuel Smith winter ale ready to go.

Spadoman said...

I was looking all over and clicking here and clicking there for the novel, then i found the "You'll have to ask...." So, I humbly ask you, Sir. May I read?


Barrett Bonden said...

Spado (First time round): The Makinac sounds like a real collector's item. You'll understand I was only able to give a hint of the huge range of magnificent bridges in the US. The heck with the Bridges of Madison County, quaint but not awe-inspiring. It's the steel ones that matter.

Plutarch: I did see that programme and, like the Guardian TV critic, I found it quite moving even though it didn't set out with this aim. James May is amusing, quiet and unladdish, unlike his counterparts on Top Gear. And, of course, he touches a chord even though he's nobbut a lad.

RW (zS): You'll have to forgive me excluding Germany from my bridgemania. I just haven't toured there in recent years as much as I have in France.

RW (zS) and Spado, again: Copies sent but you'll now also know about my treachery in this matter. Brits are famed for this quality.

Occasional Speeder said...

Millau Bridge, James May - just mention Keane and this becomes my dream blog.

Obviously there is the main reason why the bridge is something that warms my heart - the majority of miles for our yearly pilgramage have been cracked, not long to Super U car park. However, it's the fact that man's creation is so much more impressive and beautiful than any of nature's surrounding competition that make me even more proud.

(I know the massive Central isn't up to much - but hey..it's not often we win this comparison)

Spadoman said...

Thanks BB, I got the stuff.
HERE is a picture of one near to where I live. I had forgotten about this masterpiece.
It's called The Stone Arch Bridge and is in Minneapolis, MN, USA
Look, no steel.

Peace, and thanks again for the work.

Barrett Bonden said...

Spado: I agree. A beautiful set of arches.

Avus said...

So, the St Nazaire is now free. Well done! Unlike our broke and parsimonious government who still insist on fees for the Dartford Bridge/Tunnel after saying it would be free once paid for (long ago) - the tolls cause such long tailbacks. Whoever it was that planned to take the major London ring Motorway and then stop all traffic half way around to toss a few coins in a bin deserves hanging from the middle of the Dartford Bridge.