The M62 won’t be so bad tonight in this sort of weather. The autumn sunlight lends the Albert Dock an air of melancholy, deepening the pits and furrows in the brickwork. Tourists still point and shop and take photographs. Smart office workers negotiate the cobbled walkways with a practised hustle, while art students drift in and out of the gallery like smoke through an open window.
The waitress brings me pizza and a grapefruit juice. It reminds me of when I was in Rome. Everything around me was so different – so foreign and ancient – and yet I was the same as I had always been. I’m suddenly aware that my destination is still 250 miles away across the moors and of how low the sun is. Still time for The Bridge. Still time to make it across at dusk.
I pay the bill, tip the waitress and make for the car park, stretching my legs a little before strapping myself in to this crucifix disguised as a car seat. No matter how I adjust the thing, long journeys always result in some degree of nerve damage to my lower back. I pop two paracetamol and get in, kidding myself that this time it will be fine. Sunglasses on, water, money, petrol, debit card, but most importantly, change for The Bridge toll and Blade Runner soundtrack. I wind down my window and enjoy the sound of Scouse gulls and the crisp air before driving off.
It’s ritualistic, but when much feeling is attached to an occasion, is it not customary for all of us to drape things on it, dress it up, throw flowers and confetti at it and such?
Location: Humber Bridge
Music: Blade Runner Blues by Vangelis
There were myriad combinations of music and weather before I stumbled upon this one. Blues in the rain, soul in the snow, rock most other times. The feeling I get from the music is one of being suspended with the stars, as if anything is possible – your head tingles in the presence of some vague, but powerful beauty. The bridge itself is an incredible feat of engineering, an accomplishment of man, but there is something else that creates the rush of blood to head. Being on the road in a tin can on wheels – like everybody else in the chain of brakelights – trusting them not to make too serious an error which might result in an horrific death, is wonderfully absurd, and makes you feel as if you’re part of some illuminated cosmic caravan crawling along under the red sky.
It’s a defiant ritual and who better to give the finger to than our Dr. Tyrell, our maker – the one who so cruelly had us born astride of the grave, as Samuel Beckett described our condition? We will work together to defy his unreasonable curtailing of our lives. We’ll travel across colossal man-made bridges and listen to transcendent music. We’ll eat pizza and drink grapefruit juice. We’ll comfort one another and we shall share our dreams in the hope of building them together. We’ll drive from one side of the country to the other for love, and we shall transcend our pain through the union of our bodies. Nothing will die, even when it dissolves into the tarmac, because the caravan will go on. Why is immortality so important to us anyway, when we have these attainable glories?
‘Do you want this sodding change or not?’ the surly lurkle sneers at me from his toll booth.
I take it from him and apologise for not paying attention, citing a long drive as an excuse. I tell him it’s worth every penny and to have a pint on me. He holds out a wide-knuckled fistful of change and mutters, ‘It’s not bloody pub, ye knur.’
I take the coins and drive forward into the illuminated geometry of The Bridge like an argonaut between the Symplegades, into a sunset laden with wonder and possibility.