Here’s Central Bridge. It spans the railway line and a factory where they recycle cooking oil. You can smell the oil and see men down there in boiler suits wearing pink rubber gloves. They organise the blue plastic barrels in the yard. A gas-powered fork-lift farts in the breeze. Disorientating isn’t it, looking down on the city?
You wonder if these men are happy in their dirty work. A radio tuned to Radio 1 blares its numbing sound across the yard and one of the men, the one with the handlebar moustache gets a feeling that someone’s watching him. He looks up, straight at you. For a second, everything freezes, stays that way until you find yourself on the far side of the bridge, walking past the iron sign that tells you something of the history and its construction.
Now you see business units laid out in prison uniformity. The smoked glass and cool paint schemes do nothing to relieve the grimness of the place…
Here is a warehouse for a fruit and veg supplier. There’s a bench opposite – fake wood made out of plastic – and you sit awhile. Your legs ache and it’s starting to rain. There’s nothing here, you think, to distract the casual visitors from the malls.
But look, here’s a hotel – The Prince Albert. The Victorian Prince would have been alive when Central Bridge was a fine new thing. You can see wooden stairs spiralling up inside the hotel; see them through the tall, arched windows. You think about the people who have gone up and down those stairs. The lives and stories lived inside there, here at the end of Central Bridge where you sit in the rain trying to decide what to do next. Whether you should go through with it at all.