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Abridged Too Far

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
In the week when Boris the Mendacious has proposed a bridge across the Irish Sea linking Scotland to Ireland (this from the man who wasted millions when Mayor of London on feasibility and design of a 'garden bridge' over the Thames that never materialised), what better theme for your Saturday blogger than Bridge?
Abridged Too Far
Hundreds of thousands of bridges have been designed and built down the ages, from rope and wood fabrications, through stone and brick to concrete and steel structures as technology and audacity have advanced. They were all constructed in the interests of improving access and shortening journey times (whether for livestock, people, water, rail or road traffic). Many of those bridges are no longer extant, time and natural forces or warfare having taken their toll. Quite a few projects never got constructed, having been cancelled after the design stage. There are even some few that have been started but never actually finished - abridged, you might say - as can be seen from the photograph above of a famous Cape Town landmark.
Boris's bridges are destined to fall into the 'cancelled' category, for they are impractical, egotistical white elephants; (true reflections of the man).  Already, structural engineers are pointing out the sheer technical infeasibility of the prime-minister's latest ludicrous conception of a talismanic wet dream to bind the union together. If his bridge across the Irish Sea ever did get built (which it won't), it would cost so much and take so long to complete that a unified Ireland and a breakaway Scotland would both be independent countries by then and leprechauns and unicorns would prance along it!
You'll note, from the title I've given this blog, that my focus is very much on the shorter end of the spanning spectrum. In the highly competitive stakes to lay claim to the shortest international bridge in the world, our transatlantic cousins believed for a long time (and may persist still in doing so) that the bridge linking the larger and smaller Zavikon Islands (part of the Thousand Islands archipelago in the St Lawrence River that divides Canada from the USA) was champion at just under 25 feet long. (Google Zavikon if you want to see a picture of the tiny bridge with the Canadian flag flying at one end and the stars and stripes at the other.)
However, in my "extensive" research for this piece, I have discovered that there is an even shorter one much closer to home. The cheeky little wooden bridge (pictured below) linking Portugal and Spain is the outright winner at only 3.2 metres, under-spanning the North American candidate by a clear 4 metres; that's thirteen feet for my transatlantic readers, (whose countries are allegedly inching but slowly towards metric conversion).
Abridged Too Far
El Marco, as the shortest bridge between two countries is called, links the Portuguese village of Varzea Grande  with the Spanish village of El Marco in Extramadura across the not-quite-leapable stream that marks the boundary between those two Iberian states. It was completed in 2008 and was built, appropriately enough, with EU funding. (Eat your heart out, BoJo!) It is of wooden construction with steel supports between concrete termini and is largely pedestrian (being cleverly too narrow for cars and vans) though bicycles are allowed across. It doesn't attract a lot of tourists, for in truth it is hardly a spectacle, but it is quietly worthy of its place in the Guinness Book of Records and it does qualify as an international date line of sorts for the romantically inclined citizens of Varzea Grande and El Marco who can now cross into each other's arms with relative ease.
For this week's poem, I've extended consideration of the concept of  'abridgement' and constructed a short imaginative piece with an historical Parisian flavour, taking as its setting the Pont-Neuf which spans the Seine...
Abridged Too Far
Brigitte Abridged
Shoes removed, she balances
rueful on dainty, dirty feet,
swaying momentarily, this waif
in the evening breeze, up on
the honeyed parapet of Pont-Neuf; *
though nothing is new anymore
under the sun, or so it seems.
Battered daily by rough usage,
betrayed by her dreams and now
bereft of all illusions, Brigitte
so much older than her years
at twenty-three has come to realise
there is no equality in any fraternity
and liberty is only to be found
in death. She cuts a ragged figure,
this punchbag of Notre-Dame,
frowns as she stares wild-eyed
down into the swirling Seine,
prays to God her soul to defend,
then gathers every nerve to cut
a too long story short...the end.
(* Pont-Neuf means new bridge, which it was at one time, being the first stone bridge built across the Seine in the heart of Paris. Of course there are many others spanning the river now, as in most big cities with a river.)
That's it. Thanks as always for reading my stuff. Have a safe week, S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook


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