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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, January 23, 2006
    Infrastructure
     


    The other thing Alain de Botton put his readers onto yesterday was a little more obscure. But not for me. The book Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape sounds fascinating. And it truly is, as the above extract shows.

    De Botton wrote that Brian Hayes' book "lets you know how sewage gets around under the city streets and how aluminium is made (you have to get bauxite from Jamaica, then ship it to a place with lots of electricity, like the Pacific north west). It answers all those questions that children are allowed to be excited about, but that disappear from polite conversation with the onset of puberty. The author is quite evangelical about his task. In his introduction, he complains that tourist guides always send you to admire museums and statues, but never direct you to fascinating sewage-treatment plants. He proudly tells us that he went to southern Italy on holiday and only looked at harbours.
    He ends this monument to scholarship on a characteristically sober but strangely stirring note: 'If you would pull off the highway to admire a mountain vista or a waterfall, you might also consider pausing for a mine or a power plant.'"

    Needless to say it's on my wish list and may just prove foundational in my plans to travel east to west, Hull to Liverpool, on my sabbatical - plans which increasingly seem to feature a port and industrial theme the more I think about them.