"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese

Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Oops ... Wrong Bridge!

Image: "London Bridge" in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

A brilliant TV series from the United Queendom was aired in Canada a few years ago. It was called "Auf Wiedersehen Pet". It told the story of a bunch of hapless entrepreneurs from the north-east of England who sold Middlesbrough's transporter bridge to a native American band in Arizona.

Dismantling of the bridge was shown on TV and the series culminated - following a hilarious story - in the reconstruction of the bridge in the Arizona desert. Filming of the show led viewers to believe that the bridge had really been moved - which was not the case. The Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge is an unusual yet magnificent structure that still operates carrying vehicles across the River Tees.

Of course, the idea was not entirely original. In fact the show may have been a poke in the ribs at an oil executive from the Excited States who, in 1971, paid more than two million dollars to buy London Bridge and ship it to the US of A.

Now American tourists can drive across the old London Bridge without ever leaving the land they love. Except it just isn't true!

You see, the man from Missouri who bought the bridge thought he was buying Tower Bridge. London Bridge (not even the original bridge, but one of a series of bridges that have spanned the Thames at that location) was a rather boring stone structure that was only 140 years old and needed to be replaced anyway. Tower Bridge - often mistaken for London Bridge - is a magnificent structure that is an iconic representation of London.

London City Council denied they sold the American oilman the wrong bridge. The oil baron from Missouri cheerfully shipped and rebuilt his bridge across a canal in Lake Havasu, Arizona where it is the central attraction of an ersatz English tourist centre. Except even that part of the story isn't completely true.

The reality is that the man from Missouri built a new concrete bridge and merely used stone cladding from the old London Bridge to cover the concrete. Most of the stone from the old London Bridge is now lying at the bottom of a flooded quarry in Devon, England.

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