CHARLES WOOLEY

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - UPFRONT -

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.

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