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Up in the air

I like bridges. The soaring views, the ability to zig zag a city, crossing from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, often completely different ones, lifting yourself up one side, and dropping yourself down in a totally different place, with a different atmosphere and different things to do. I like the way that, as you climb onto the bridge, the buildings drop away, and you get a proper horizon looking down the river, and a different perspective on the city.

Woman and AT-ATs, from bridge

I like bridges.

Or, at least, I *think* I like bridges. I like bridges in theory. And so I plan a walk, and it involves a bridge, and I think “that’ll be nice, I like bridges”. And then I go up on the bridge. And then I remember the one thing I don’t like about bridges.

It’s bridges.
I don’t like bridges.


Because come on: they’re fucking terrifying, basically.

They’re high in the air – which is one thing that is terrifying. They’re over water, which is also a thing which is terrifying. They’re high in the air AND over water both at the same time, which is the most terrifying thing of all.

They have traffic going over them, whizzing beneath your feet or to one side of you at what feels like a thousand miles an hour, rattling the walkway with ginormous wheels, or suddenly honking a horn and making you feel like it was only sheer luck that the sudden burst of noise didn’t see you jump out of your skin and over the side of the bridge (which is, let us not forget, not only really high up, but also over quite deep, terrifying water).

If you are DOUBLE lucky (as I was, on a walk on a recent work-trip to a different city), you will also have a have a train line running over the same bridge that makes you want to hit the deck and lie there, face pressed against the floor until the squeaking and rumbling and shaking stops. And then you remember that the floor you want to throw yourself onto is not only high up in the air (which is terrifying) but also over deep, dark, terrifying water. And that seems FAR less reassuring a prospect.

Of course some people do this for fun. Or for work. With apparently no worries at all. And, of course, those people are insane.

This person, for example, is insane:


It is, once I get up there, all I can do to find a relatively clear looking line, and walk it, as quickly and calmly as possibly possible, using my camera as a barrier between myself and the things that are logically very terrifying (the things about being high in the air and suspended over deep, fast-moving, dark terrifying water, which, lets face it, are not normal states to be in unless you are a seagull. And who wants to be a seagull? They make really bad food choices – lots of carbs, untold amounts of saturated fats – while eating food out of bins, and make funny noises when they have sex. On rooftops. Seriously, no one wants to be a seagull. Not even seagulls. They all wish they were ducks).

There is nothing much I can do about the illogically terrifying thing (that any bridge, at any time, might just choose any moment to collapse into the water. It just might), but still, if I can concentrate on other things, like taking pictures of that amazing view I knew I would get from up there, or the interesting angles of cables against the stone and try to take my mind off the fact there are teeming hordes of tourists blocking my route back to dry land.


And then I look at the photos after, and I go “You know what? Bridges are GREAT!” (because they are, you know? They really do have all those benefits to them, the views, the walks, the blah blah blah, they would just be improved by being NOT high in the air and NOT over water, which, now I think about it, would make them more ‘pavements’ than bridges and oh never mind, this theory has not worked out as well as I thought it might) and then, the next day, plan a walk on a bridge, forgetting until the very second I get up onto the next one that for a person who likes bridges, I really, really don’t like bridges that much.

For very, very good reason. Because they put you in a state that no non-seagull person should be in.

But that won’t stop me walking across them.


Oh, for the record, I’m not great at driving across them either.
But then, neither are seagulls.
So I’m going to pretend that one’s totally rational.

  1. I think you’re terribly brave to walk across a bridge, especially a bridge that cars drive over, too. I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to drive over those bridges that swoop up really high, that allow large boats to go underneath them…that’s just…no.

    I raise ducks, for pets. I just imagined my little flock all looking towards your direction, bills open, going “whaa??” when you wrote that all seagulls want to be ducks. Your piece a while back, about the seagulls of Brighton? My husband and I still quote that back and forth to each other…one of the funniest things I ever (tried!) to read out loud.

    Comment by Michele H. — 15 October, 2013 9:47 pm

  2. Back in London, I used to have to sit on the floor – or at the very least stare at the floor – if I was sitting on top of a double-decker going over a bridge. Here in Seattle, I once stood on a bridge going over the freeway because I wanted a picture of the skyline. I was about to sit on the sidewalk and melt into it before my husband grabbed me firmly – and reassuringly – by the hand and dragged me away while I did my best impression of Bambi on ice. It was terrifying, but I love bridges all the same, so long as I look up and not down. And they don’t wobble, which I understand is technically impossible. So in essence I love bridges in theory. Love ‘em.

    Comment by Kitty Hannah — 16 October, 2013 12:42 am

  3. And there are probably sharks down in that deep water. Maybe lots of sharks.

    Comment by joeinvegas — 16 October, 2013 7:58 pm

  4. When I walk over a bridge, I have a sense that my shoes are going to fall in somehow. Not me, just my shoes. Like, they are going to suddenly decide they would much rather be in the water, and take off on their own, leaving me to walk barefoot. That’s totally rational, right?

    Comment by HoS — 19 October, 2013 9:22 am

  5. You know what I absolutely hate? This bridge. https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=silver+jubilee+bridge&rlz=1C1LAVF_enGB396GB399&espv=210&es_sm=93&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=dgNjUp2zAo2BhAfihYHwDQ&sqi=2&ved=0CD4QsAQ&biw=1280&bih=709&dpr=1 We used to drive over it about twice a week when I was a kid. It terrified the living daylights out of me every single time. I couldn’t watch as we went over as I was convinced, CONVINCED, that the road was going to collapse right in front of us and we would plunge into the river.

    And now it’s on cheese adverts. I ask you.

    Bridges: Scary. ITA.

    Comment by Beth — 19 October, 2013 11:13 pm

  6. No Joe, crocodiles. Nesting ones. Big, hungry ones with Very Long Teeth.

    Comment by guyana_gyal — 26 October, 2013 2:50 pm

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