Apart from when I did a paper round and then I cycled not walked to collect the newspapers to deliver, I’ve always travelled to employment by bus or by car. My first jobs were holiday jobs in town, so it was a bus ride away, when I was at Manchester Poytechnic doing my degree it was travelling into the city on the bus or getting a lift in a car from a friend. My first ‘proper’ job was working in the civil service – bus/lifts, then at Manchester Airports and then I had my own car and could drive. I went back to college to train to be a teacher, bussing it to college, driving to teaching practices, and then my various teaching jobs. For the first few years, in Manchester, then London then Oldham I caught the bus, until I actually moved to Oldham and once again had my own car. This has brought back a memory I’d forgotten, when I was in London, living near Wembley, working in Neasden, I did actually walk to the schools I worked at… which was only a couple of miles.
The reason I’m thinking about walking to work is that I’m reading a biography of Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin, called unsurprisingly ‘A Life’. Dickens is well-known for walking when he was writing his novels, walking miles, seeking inspiration and working out plots and characters, walking twenty miles and more. That is serious walking! I have friends who are great walkers and think nothing of a fifteen mile ramble – but not every day. Some of my friends have embarked on longer walks over several days, the 40 mile Lyke Wake Walk, the Pennine Way, Offa’s Dyke – and pilgrimages to Walsingham and the challenging walk to Santiago de Compostela. These amazing feet feats are one thing, but the daily miles which Dickens covered are something else!
As a young boy he had to walk to work, alone, and before that when he was receiving no education as only his sister Fanny went to school, he wandered countless miles through the streets of London. When he was at work, Tomalin describes a vivid image of not just him but thousands of people pouring into and across London to their employment, stopping off to buy a roll or bun for their breakfast. There must have been a bustle of people going about their business and horse and carts and carriages moving goods from place to place, and coaches carrying people from place to place, but there must have been this flood of pedestrians from the early hours of the morning.
There were a couple of times, which I’ve written about, when I had to walk to college in Manchester because of snow or fog which is just over four miles. I would have been tramping a long in high-heeled shoes and a long skirt – both fashionable then, and an ankle length coat. There were other people walking along but I don’t remember great hoards, maybe I was a more dedicated student! I thought it was a great achievement and I was proud of myself – but imagine if I’d had to do it every day? No doubt I would have been used to it and thought nothing of it… but I guess I would have found better footwear for a daily trek!
Here’s a very interesting article about Dickens and walking:
…and this one has an amusing conclusion:
My featured image is of what used to be Manchester Polytechnic’s College of Commerce… last time i saw it it was literally an empty shell, very sad… I spent three very happy and rewarding years there… and after walking four miles there in the snow, the canteen for a hot drink was the first stop!