Can a bridge really be disappointed? 10 Jul 2012
One of Europe’s, possibly the world’s, most popular books is “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes (29 September 1547 – 22 April 1616). Apart from being nine years older, the term of his life was almost exactly parallel to that of William Shakespeare. They both wrote poetry and plays, with Cervantes tossing in a few amazing novels as well. Each of them had a profound influence on their own native languages. It seems almost symbolic, like ‘an honourable draw’ that they died on virtually the same day (Shakespeare shuffling off this mortal coil on 23 April 1616).
Don Quixote’s voracious appetite for books
Buried within the works of Shakespeare and Cervantes are little jokes about writing and its effect on people. For example, in “Hamlet”, when Polonius asks him what he’s reading, the Prince replies, “Words, words, words.” Cervantes does a humorous thing with his self-made knight, Don Quixote. He is almost blind due to the vast number of books he reads. It’s neat he reads so much, but he has an unfortunate habit of totally believing everything in the last book he got through. How modern is that? I think the sheer volume of over-hyped news reports, books, films, Facebook and Twitter that we all consume has a similar effect on us today.
While on the subject of books, I came across an amazing sign yesterday. A group of us decided to go for a walk round Petone, on the northern edge of Wellington Harbour. It was a cold day so it was great to be out and about. At one point, we walked to the end of the pier where a handful of people were fishing. Somes Island and the rest of the harbour, and even the hills, were a study in grey.
One odd thing that caught my eye was the sign over the gate you walk through to get onto the pier: it said “Disappointed Bridge”. None of us could work out why it was called that. The best I could come up with was perhaps it was the name of an immigrant ship (though, it wouldn’t inspire too many immigrants with a name like that). The other minor problem is we were on a pier, not a bridge. A bridge takes you from one side of something to the other side, no?
Back in my hobbit-hole later, I discovered that the sign is (presumably) a bit of guerilla humour by some literary individual who’s good at signwriting. It is a reference to James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses” in which Stephen Daedalus says that a pier is “a disappointed bridge”.
Although “Ulysses” is regarded as one of the standout novels in the English language in the last hundred years, I’ve never been overly aware of people in Wellington reading it. Nor have I seen any publicity about the pier at Petone, or of this sign. But what is a disappointed bridge? Can a bridge be disappointed? What’s it disappointed about? Not having ‘the other side’ to come out on?
Number plates and signs in windows
Round Petone we also found heaps of intriguing names, signs and number plates. I think although most people don’t write plays and novels nowadays, there is an irrepressible desire within people to communicate ideas and humour in words. English language offers so much scope for this.
I had only been half following the tennis at Wimbledon in the last couple of weeks. The games came over live on TV in the small hours of the morning, so most of us were fast asleep when the games were being played. However, I made an exception for the Men’s Final between Andy Murray and Roger Federer. I like both these players, not just for their skills but also for their temperaments and sportsmanship.
You have to admire Roger as one of the true greats of the game with such a spectacular run of Grand Slam wins. However, in a perverse way, Andy Murray encapsulates the deepest values of sport, partly because he has never (yet) won a Grand Slam. Even so, he keeps trying, and every year he seems to nibble his way closer and closer to the ever-elusive Grand Slam victory.
So it was, I found myself shivering on our couch at about two in the morning, drumming my poor feet on the carpet and baying for Andy to win. At one stage, I was convinced that, being a set up, he was definitely going to do it i.e. when he had three break-points in the second set. Sadly, he didn’t win any of the three. Roger, to his great credit, came back and took the match.
New Zealand coverage of Wimbledon
Our media in New Zealand has repeatedly pointed out that no Brit has won Wimbledon since the 1930s. In those pre-War years, Fred Perry won the Men’s in 1934, 1935 and 1936. This was amazing because until the age of 18, he’d never even wrapped his hand round the handle of a racquet. Oh, how things have changed...
I think the ‘long drought’ also says a lot of good about the All England Club for maintaining such a brilliant competition over that time, despite the lack of wins in the Men’s. Failed attempts, like Andy Murray’s, may become a kind of learning ‘bridge’ for him.
Andy Murray’s dream of victory
I really hope Andy is able to win eventually. It’s not just the UK willing him on now, I think it’s half the English-speaking world. In fact, if he is able to finally raise the trophy next year (or any year), I suspect the United Nations will declare the following day a festive holiday – with bagpipes – for the whole planet.
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