We were in Portsmouth recently and went out with a group of friends for a meal, some way from the hotel where we were all staying. We walked there, and we walked back. No doubt in the centre the night streets were a-bustle with people out enjoying themselves, but we were walking through a quiet narrow streeted residential area. There was a variety of housing, from small terraces, with many pubs – not all still open as pubs, town houses, villas and all sizes of places between,
The streets were well-lit and we strolled along falling into groups, chatting and catching-up with news of what we’d been doing since we last met. I was walking with a person I didn’t know very well but we shared an interest in unusual things… and walking down lamp-lit streets there was plenty to interest us, shown up in glow from the lights. Curious decorative features, houses knocked together to make one, blocked up windows, front gardens so full of trees and vegetation it was a wonder that there was any view from the hidden windows at all and that anyone could make their way to or from the front door.
As we wandered back towards the hotel and a drink or two before bed, I thought that it was quite a while since I’d wandered around like this at night. The last time was a year ago, in Manchester; again I was in a hotel and having had a meal, it seemed to early to retire so my daughter and I went out for a night walk round the town and I tried to remember which way to go as it had changed so much since I lived there.
I’ve never been afraid to walk out at night, even on my own; maybe that was foolish, or maybe there didn’t seem to be so much disturbance at night as there apparently is now. However I do remember walking home from the bus stop when I was living in Manchester. It was very late and I was walking along familiar streets. There was no-one about, just me, or so it seemed. For some, when I mention that the date was October 1977 and that I was in south Manchester in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, they may begin to guess what I began to think about as I was walking home. If I also mention Southern Cemetery it might give a further clue.
In 1975, a woman was brutally murdered in Leeds; prior to that three other women had been attacked in the same way that the poor victim was killed. Three months later, another woman was also murdered in the same city, and four months after that another woman was attacked although she survived the dreadful assault. In 1977 the killing and attacks continued.
A few weeks before I walked home from the bus stop in south Manchester, a woman was murdered in Southern Cemetery, less than a mile from where I was. She was murdered, as were the others, by the so-called Yorkshire Ripper. As I walked home, I remember thinking to myself that maybe it wasn’t a very safe thing to be doing. Fortunately I came to no harm.
Whenever I walk out at night, I remember my walk home from the bus stop in south Manchester