Once upon a time in my late childhood and the first year of my teens, I lived on the outskirts of London. Part of that stage of my life involved learning to commute around London, as I attended a Church of England Secondary School rather than the local comprehensive. Some of my friends from Junior School went to the same school and we travelled together, while new friends were made on the train or in school. Getting to their houses to visit meant travelling by train or bus to nearby small towns and being met to walk to their homes.
It’s not a period if my life that I remember with any fondness or regret. School was not always a good experience and for a good part of the five years we lived there, my sisters and I found that children can be cruel as we were taunted for our differences. On one particular occasion my hair was singed on the train by girls from another school. I have no lasting friendships from that time, in comparison to a forty year friendship with a girl I lived two doors away from as a pre-schooler, and a twenty year friendship with the girl who started High School in Scotland on the same day as me.
Time spent in the city of London as a child was sparse. There were school trips to Covent Garden, the Southbank, and the Tower of London, concerts in Westminster Abbey and The Royal Albert Hall both as performer and audience. Music exams somewhere in London as I was taken by my piano teacher. Helping my father move office from a building on one side of the road to the new one on the other. The Lord Mayor’s Show and Christmas Lights.
What that time did teach me was the independence of commuting. Standing still or sauntering is not an option, instead movement should be purposeful and certain.
This is my fourth return visit since the 30 years ago we left. The last two occasions have been with my own children. 18 months ago we visited and had nothing planned and found ourselves aimlessly overwhelmed with the wealth of all that was there. Eventually we managed to organise ourselves enough that we took a bus tour, saw a show and visited Westminster Abbey.
This time we had plans before we arrived, and had booked the Tower of London and the London Eye. We also knew we would be heading to the Science and Natural History Museums.
What has amazed me each time we have returned us how fast moving and energetic life in London is, and also how fit people need to be to even commute. Changing from train to tube often means a lengthy walk along underground corridors. Even changing bus routes can involve a movement from one street to another.
In the heat of recent days we ventured to travelling above ground, as the underground became unbearable. The bus allows glimpses of the city, and in some ways allows the possibility of piecing together the different areas. Underground you lose a sense of where one place is in relation to another. Sometimes so much so, that on occasion you may not realise the short distance that could have been walked.
However even with all the public transport possibilities there was still much walking. Each evening we returned home hot and tired with sore feet.
These last few days of holidays for me have meant an opportunity to revive from the excited energies of past day. Resting of course involves the energies of washing as we put away all the holiday equipment and return to normal life.