Monday, 3 August 2015

Building Bridges - The refurbishment of the suspension bridge in my local park, Wardown.

Last week Larry, Jim and I went to see the official opening of the newly refurbished suspension bridge in Wardown Park, Luton, Bedfordshire; which will take visitors from one side of the park to the other. The bridge was officially opened at 2.15 p.m. by the Mayor of Luton who cut a big red ribbon and declared the bridge open. The picture above shows the first people over the bridge.

Notice in the next picture that only one person is wearing a straw boater hat. This would not have been the case in 1905 when the park was first opened.  In those days everyone would be wearing a straw boater. Luton is renowned for its hat industry and several members of my family were employed in it. Notably my little nanna and my auntie Connie were always trimming straw hats and there were stacks of them in every corner of their houses.

A local amateur theatrical group represented times gone by with their wonderful costumers depicting how things were at the turn of the 20th century. I particularly loved the lace bonnet in the next picture.

We have cause to be proud of our beautiful park. Don't the willow trees look wonderful in the next picture.

Here I am in an 'I woz here' picture taken just before the grand opening:

Have a guess what it cost to refurbish the bridge as you see it now? It has been closed for two years ever since Larry first came over to England so he had never walked over it before. Well, hold on ... it cost £300,000, which the Mayor described as 'money well spent' and everyone agreed. However, it didn't happen without a lot of planning and finger crossing. At one time we thought we might have to raise the money ourselves and that would have been a hard thing to do in this age of austerity. Somehow the money was found and the renovations started in the Spring of this year. I, for one, am very glad it happened.

As the Mayor mentioned in his opening speech, whilst the bridge was closed, people tended to stay on either one side of the bridge or the other and many didn't bother to walk around the lake to get to the other side.  This struck a note with me. 

How many times in our lives do we fail to do this? To go the extra mile to help someone in need or just to make contact with people we haven't been brought up with? How many times do we 'cross the bridge? I know I am as guilty as anyone else when it comes to crossing the bridges in my life. I have not reached out to other people of different cultures living in my own street as often as I should have done.

When I went to live in America for a few years I discovered what it felt like to be that person of a different culture, living on the other side of the bridge or in my case, the pond! Not many people reached out to me and made me feel welcome. I went to church regularly and helped in the church office as a volunteer, hoping to make friends and meet people. I did meet people but nobody went the extra mile to make me feel a part of their lives. I was longing for someone to invite me round for coffee or for a meal with Larry but no-one did. I don't blame people for being reticent. After all they don't know what they're letting them in for, do they. It takes nerve to invite a stranger into your home and it costs money to cook them a meal and give up your free time to make them feel 'at home'.

When I came back to England I determined to be more open and take people to my home more often and for a while I did this. I'm sure they were grateful and I made new friends. However, like the birds of the air, we tend to stay in our own flocks don't we!

The other sort of building when it comes to bridges is the sort when we have fallen out of favour with someone. Sometimes the years go by and we forget what the quarrel was all about in the first place. Neither party is prepared to make the first move and so the feud goes on for years. Have you got someone in your life with whom you have lost contact over the years because of some petty quarrel? I know I have. If so perhaps now is the time to make amends. With all the many forms of communication we have at our disposal these days, it wouldn't take much to pick up a phone, write a letter, e-mail or text a 'how are you?' message would it? and it won't cost £300,000!

Let's build a bridge today. Go on, you know you want to.

I'll leave you with a picture of Jim and Larry standing on the bridge in Wardown Park for the first time since it was refurbished.