HIP SHORT STORY: The Bridge
By Adam Russell
A word on the Link Road. Or as it’s affectionately known, the Combe Valley Way. It’s made of tarmac, but words built it. Seventeen years of talk paved the way for it. Engine noise from politicians, developers, business owners. So much talk, it’s a wonder its surface isn’t littered with documents, a fallen confetti of reports and puff pieces in a language of pidgin bureaucratese.
PICTURE: ADAM RUSSELL
“The Link Road will bring major economic benefits to Bexhill and Hastings including 2,000 new homes, 3,000 new jobs and more than £1 billion of economic benefits.” Such vague and tautological reverie, such verbose and beautiful dreams! So beautiful that, with moulded slopes and tall screens, and other devices of ‘environmental mitigation’, the road had to be hidden from the rest of the land. It’s a £124 million, 3-mile-long line of thought that’s at once both proud and ashamed of itself.
Such is the curse of the mass-produced: the words that caused it, the materials that made it, the cars that drive it. The road is a product of a mind racing at a hundred miles an hour, but veering without thought, careering without reason. Driving along it, approaching the first bridge, you could be anywhere. If the Link Road’s a document, then the landscape it cuts through is little more than a footnote.
But there’s beauty in the small print. Hang on just a moment, unroofed, unshadowed, released from the car, and you find that that bridge is something else. A kind of concrete hyphen – joining two ways of being, two lines of thought; it’s a bridge back into the past.
Park at Crowhurst. Open the door. Hear the afternoon increase in volume, like a piano with the soft pedal newly released. Set the mind walking at a gentle pace, along the footpath south towards the road. It’s May. So the oaks are out in their lucid spring greens, the air is warm and prickly with a lone chiffchaff, and the ground is already baked hard as bone. It’s the colour of old maps, this thirsting dirt. And drawn like them too, with spindly black cracks for roads and rivers. You don’t recognise the foreign land on this parched mud parchment. But maybe these lines are the old forgotten ways? Inching forward, you fall in line with them again. The drovers’ roads, the farmers’ tracks, the paths through the land that the hoof-step made. Keeping in step with the aeons, you follow the grain of the mud of millennia: Medieval, Anglo-Saxon, Neolithic, Mesolithic. Your body as tall as the ages, you step onto the bridge to the traffic’s roar.
This is the join, between the whispering past and the blaring present. The bureaucrats, as ever, have a name for it: Adam’s Farm Overbridge. So it belongs to the man who’s made of clay. But it’s concrete, luckily, not ceramic. You could wait here for years just watching the road, hovering, haunting, like a shameless ghost…but you’ve a car to get back to.
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