Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad 

Are all poets drunks and lovers? Larkin was a good example – sherry for breakfast and women all over the place. Take Dylan Thomas, or his namesake Bob – celebrated shaggers both – so much for inhibiting the performance. Engineers are a different matter. No-one has ever made a film about an engineer. Probably. Architects maybe, usually hopeless romantic types, but engineers just aren’t sexy. Maybe they’re too busy doing useful things to get caught with the best friend’s wife.

Take Thomas Bain, for example: he was a busy bloke. I regularly drive along the coast road south from Cape Town. It's beautiful - cut into the side of the slope where Table Mountain slides down into the Atlantic. The other day I actually stopped to read the roadside plaque that I have passed a thousand times. It commemorates the achievements of one Thomas Bain, civil engineer. This road - Victoria Drive - was his last major project, bringing to an end years of building in the Cape. While he was building it, he was also working on the seven passes road between George and Knysna, about 700km away. He commuted between the two projects on horseback. He died on his sixty third birthday in 1893, having completed 23 major mountain passes, plus a sprinkling of bridges and railways. The roads were mostly built by convict labour, and are famously scenic. If you travel the Western Cape, it pays to get off the main roads and to explore via Bain’s roads. His father built some too, but Bain junior’s output puts his in the shade. He couldn’t have done it if he’d been pissed all the time. He’d have kept falling off his horse for a start.

Listening to: still Bob. Tambourine Man. Genius.

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