It is 44 years this month since the ship hit the span and severed Hobart from its eastern suburbs. A lot of water has passed under the Tasman Bridge since but no one living in River City at the time will ever forget it. Indeed the memory of that event remains bizarrely ritualised with a road closure every time a ship passes under the bridge. The odds against this happening again are millions to one but being a much put upon people inclined to suffer all manner of absurd bureaucratic rules and strictures we compliantly observe a period of automotive abeyance until the ship has passed. Actually I quite like it. It is emblematically Tasmanian in the way that the past always seems grimly inescapable while the future is to be feared because the worst is (of course) most likely to happen.
Closures are infrequent because the Derwent above the bridge is hardly the Dover Strait but still I am surprised that none of our million tourists ever seem to notice or mention this infrequent but quaint ritual. If they ask, refer them to the eternally unfinished bridge span further down the road, which appears to be a commemoration of the 1975 disaster. I can’t think of any other purpose.
No wonder “gephyrophobia” is your word for the month. This describes an anxiety disorder characterised by the fear of bridges. Gephyrophobics will go miles out of their way to avoid panic attacks on routes that take them over (and sometimes under) bridges. The ABC recently interviewed a Hobart clinical psychologist who reported having treated up to seven patients over the past 25 years suffering from a morbid fear of crossing the bridge. “It ranges from someone who gets anxious about it to someone who would turn into complete hysterics,” she said.
When it comes to the Tasman Bridge perhaps I’m a bit gephyrophobic myself. I have lived in New Town, Mt Stuart, Mt Nelson, North Hobart, South Hobart, Battery Point, Sandy Bay, even as far away as Cygnet but I never dared move to the Eastern Shore or to what I have always called THE OTHER SIDE. While I struggled to grow lemons and even tomatoes in the cold shadow of the mountain, my Eastern Shore friends boasted about all that extra sunlight and warmth generating spectacular gardening successes. But I remained anchored to the cloud shrouded lands beneath the mountain and stubbornly would never cross the bridge except to get to the airport. Until now that is.
I am interrupted as I write this. “Oh there you are Charlie. Is this your cappuccino?” One of the friendly ladies at the Dodges Ferry Bakery has located me outside, hiding under an umbrella from the unfamiliar, incessant and blinding Eastern Shore sunlight.
One of the reservations some western shore folk have always had about moving to “THE OTHER SIDE” is the lack of cafe society. Well, down on the Southern Beaches I can report good coffee is available at the bakery in Dodges Ferry (aka Dodge City) and also just down the road at the “Wiamea Bay” end of Carlton Beach. There is something of a Hawaiian feel to the “Mullet cafe”, which is named I presume for the fish rather than the haircut. The place is as laid-back as the surfer dudes across the road, sprawled on their boards, riding the swells and hanging out for a wave. Not only is the coffee great at the Mullet but they also serve up some very good middleeastern dishes including baba ganoush and hummus. And that, my separated brethren on the western shore, is about as multicultural as it gets down the southern beaches.
Dodge City is a 1950s/1960s Australia time warp. It’s what demographers would call “old white bread Australia”. Down here the only refugees and migrants are from Hobart. There’s an abundance of weatherboard and iron houses with a leanto and a lean three, with paling fences, tinnies and trailers and a plum tree and caravan out the back.
It’s the same with the tucker. Back at the bakery the confections remain the great temptations of my childhood — Banbury slices, jaffa balls, caramel and cherry coconut slices. Not to overlook an old favourite of my Dad’s, Florentines, which
It is 44 years since the Tasman Bridge was brought to its knees.