This trip is not about visiting the places we lived. It is more about the places that have lived on in our thinking. We wanna touch on the places that still crop up in conversation. Heading back to where we grew up was not so much about seeing the old house again. More about one or two specific things that live in our family culture.
One of those is the Middlesborough Transporter Bridge.
We remember visiting the bridge as a family. Back then, pre 1965, the bridge was on dumpy, dirty docklands across the Tees. It was a sickly corporation green colour. The green that coloured everything in ‘60s Middlesborough.
There was zero health and safety around this bridge. As a family we just walked up and began to climb the 288 stairs to the top. Then as a family with children all under 10 we walked across the top and down the other side. This was such an experience for us that we remember it to this day.
We had to get back there and try to recreate the climb.
We tried 3 years ago but the bridge was still under some reconditioning. Today it was open and we were there.
We walked into the visitors centre to be met by a huge and playful black dog with his yellow ball. He was hoping we were there for his delight. After a moment an actual human appeared. He was shocked and surprised to see other humans interested in his bridge.
We chatted and got to know this ex soldier, ex scrap metal dealer, ex council worker. He was happy to be able to take a couple of Australian visitors across his bridge.
He was keen to hear our stories of being pre teen kids growing up here. But soon settled into his story telling mode. We climbed all 288 step like we had done 55 years ago. Today the bridge is blue so it can be lit up each night. It is the real pride of Middlesborough.
The bridge opened in 1911 and has operated almost every day since then. Yorkshire frugality determined the bridge would be a transporter style. A gondola dangles below the structure. Vehicles drive onto the platform of the gondola. It glides on 60 wheels across the Tees. Other designs were proposed. This was the most cost appropriate. Read: cheapest.
There have been stoppages for its refurbishment. A bomb did hit it during the second world war. It has suffered the odd breakdown. Apart from that it has carried cars across the tees for 107 years.
We walked across the platform and gazed at the geography of this town. In the distance we could see the hills we climbed as kids. Off further to the west we can see the farm where Captain Cook grew up before becoming a shopkeeper. Then the sailor and explorer we remember him as today.
In the distance we can see the hill where his supposed house was. This house was removed to Treasury Gardens in Melbourne.
There is the Soccer stadium where the local team play. And MIMA. The Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art. A Gallery used in a Top Gear episode to determine if cars can be art.
Middlesborough is an industrial town. It grew because of its potential as a deep water port. It had steel mills, ship building, chemical works. It was an engineering centre. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was built by a Middlesborough Company.
Today most of that industry has gone. The town does not look dead with the loss of its industry. But we did see waste land all around the river waiting for new ideas. I am not sure what its big draw is anymore but the place seems busy.
One thing that caught my eye was the long yellow steel tubes being constructed below the bridge. These tubes will mount Wind Turbines out at sea. Further along our drive we found them in use in a wind farm at the mouth of the Tees.
We had a tiny childhood memory of a family excursion. Seeking out that memory caused us to discover lots about this town. This town could have been our home except for a brave young couple. They chose to uproot their little family and fly to the other end of the world.
Standing on top of this blue bridge we marvelled at their decision.
Well done Phil and Ida.