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