Family rivalry can be a surprising motivator.
Take me and my brother-in-law for instance. We are extremely competitive with one another. It doesn’t matter if it is a board game, a video game, a test of strength and physical stamina or even guessing the name of old TV shows through just the theme song. There’s something primal about it after all he is another male encroaching on my family unit and just like a new stallion joining a herd he must know his place.
During a visit to Newport on May 24th 2015 we passed the city’s main landmark the transporter bridge. This bridge is one of only a handful of such bridges left in operation in the world and according to Newport.gov.uk :-
The bridge opened in 1906 and has dominated the Newport skyline ever since. A transporter bridge is basically a suspended ferry that can operate more efficiently than a conventional ferry. A high level boom that allows ships to pass underneath is suspended from towers at each end. The boom carries a rail track on which a moving carriage or ‘traveller’ runs. A gondola or platform is suspended from the carriage and can be pulled from one side of the river to the other by means of a hauling cable. The Transporter Bridge is powered by twin 35 horse power electric motors.
Although an ‘aerial ferry’ was the idea of English engineer Charles Smith, the first working example was built by Spaniard Alberto Palacio and Frenchman Ferdinand Arnodin in 1893 at Portugalete near Bilbao in Spain.
The original idea was that me and my wife would take him and my sister in the car on the gondola across the river as they had never done this before. As we were about to pay however the operator mentioned that for a small fee you can also go up to the top of the frame and walk across it; a height of some 177ft above the water. He warned us it was not for the faint hearted however and with those words the challenge was on.
Me and my brother-in-law agreed to go and paid our fee but it was not simply a case of climbing the steps and walking across. We had to have a safety briefing first – because all good things start with a safety briefing – and then we were allowed to go.
It was at this point that my brother-in-law’s courage finally deserted him. I could see through the briefing that he was getting nervous and now finally he surrendered. He refused to go. After the compulsory insults I decided that I now, more than ever, had to make it to the top.
Now I am a big aviation enthusiast and have undertaken a gliding course with the Air Training Corps but when climbing ladders or on high platforms I do get a little nervous. OK very nervous and as I climbed the steps my courage was deserting me the higher I got. At one point I missed a step and in desperation threw myself at the handrail thinking a spiralling descent towards death was moments away. Nevertheless I made it to the top and after realising I wasn’t going to fall through the railings I started to look around.
Fear was gone replaced by awe. It was amazing up there and I started to really enjoy myself. I took photos and made a video both of which can be seen below and took my time to just let it all sink in which made my family think I had frozen up and was probably going to need rescuing.
In all I spent about 20 minutes up there before finally coming back down. If you are in Newport and have a chance to go up I highly recommend it if not for the view then to simply tell that family rival you did it!