This year, I left Menton’s 38º Celsius sauna at the beginning of August to enjoy a cooler clime and get far away from the madding crowd. Cooler was optimistic since I misguidedly chose the far west … of England, which for those of you who have never ventured to Land’s End is the point where England joins the Atlantic and, at least whilst I was there, is home to arctic conditions.
The local weather forecast for my visit was ‘changeable with occasional light showers and intermittent sunshine’: however, my reading of the climatic conditions was gale winds and rain with an occasional fine drizzle.
Land’s End ain’t what it use to be. Instead of the agonisingly small hotel and craggy landscape in days of yore, there are now unsightly amusements for children and severely retarded adults, a photographer that charges you for a photo whilst you stand in front of the Land’s End signpost, a shop that sells everything from trinkets that nobody in their right mind would wear to Cornish clotted cream fudge that, studying the waistlines, everyone eats. Fortunately they also sold polar clothing and a mere three minutes later and twenty English pounds lighter, swathed in the ugliest of outer garments, I ventured out into the howling wind and rain to discover that the sun had decided to make its annual appearance. I quickly took a few photographs as a souvenir of my visit – as if I could forget it! – then returned to the warmth of the hotel in distant Falmouth.
It was a dark and stormy night, to quote Peanuts, but after I had defrosted in the hotel’s window-rattling bedroom the decision was taken to head eastwards with the airport at Gatwick the objective. Dressed in clothes that Scott of the Antarctic would have appreciated, I eventually boarded a flight to Geneva and disembarked at 8 o’clock in the evening to be greeted by a temperature that was around 28º Celsius. They say ‘hell is other people’ but being polar-clad in that temperature certainly runs it a close second.
The following day, I awoke to once again find the rain beating against the windowpanes and that my hitherto hardy Rolex Submariner had died and gone to Valhalla or horology’s Elysian Fields. I shook it, tapped it against my hand, spoke nicely to it and then hurled a diatribe of such abuse at it that if Hans Wildorf were alive he would have turned in his grave.
The rain stopped a day or so later so I decided to take my wayward timepiece along to the Rolex building that lies just behind the Europa Star offices. Walking there from my apartment I had to cross the Arve river and as I wended my way alongside the river bank I was suddenly confronted with the new Hans Wildorf Bridge, an elliptical ‘bird’s nest’ creation that connects Geneva’s Plainpalais and Vernet quarters and leads directly to the imposing glass and steel complex of Rolex offices and workshops.
The eighty-five metre bridge that spans the Arve comprises 1500 tonnes of steel plus the same amount of concrete and took three years to complete and given that the Rolex Foundation paid for its construction, it is understandably named after the founder of the brand.
Interestingly enough, Hans Wildorf launched the Rolex brand in England and then brought it to Switzerland, the very route my Submariner had recently followed, although I may have to mortgage my beard to pay for its servicing.
All of which leads me to my bridge story about a man who finds a dust-covered bottle at Land’s End, wipes it to read the label and out pops the inevitable genie. “Okay, it’s a bit late in the day so you’ve got just one wish, not three,” the genie tells the man.
A moment later the man excitedly replies, “I’d love a bridge across the Atlantic so that I could drive my car from here to New York to visit my relatives regularly.” “Do you realize the parameters of a project like that?” the genie spluttered. “Thousands of millions of tonnes of steel and concrete to make more than five thousand kilometres of bridge that has to withstand the rigours of Atlantic storms, not to mention the complexity of it having enough height to allow those massive liners to pass beneath it? Come on, give me a break man and make a more reasonable wish.”
“Okay,” the man said, “I’d like to be able to understand the way women think.” The genie stared at the man, “Do you want a two or three-lane highway on the bridge?”
Well, you’ve got to laugh haven’t you.
Source: Europa Star October - November 2012 Magazine Issue