Walking to work

by Steve

Barbican seen through another building

Commuting is a strange old business. It can eat away at your soul. You are pitted against your fellow traveller in a zero-win scenario where one side might overtake and beat the lights, or grab the final seat on the train, but will ultimately feel more bitter and more hollow for it.

Commuting can be the anti-Pay It Forward where each exchange makes each commuter meaner, spreading anger, frustration and a general feeling of loathing for your fellow man and woman. Not that anyone speaks. Exchanges are unspoken and resentful. People are something that gets in the way. The average commute takes 40 minutes, one way. Mine, and I imagine this is the case for most Londoners, takes over an hour each way. At least 10 hours a week of travelling to somewhere we generally don’t want to go, surrounded by people doing the same and feeling the same. All this and you don’t even get paid for it.

Yellow lines on roadSo, it feels important to somehow reclaim the commute. These are 10 dead hours a week that needn’t be dead hours. Since we moved my train journey starts at the beginning of the line, so I always get a seat. It is a longer journey than before, but I feel lucky. I’ve been reading more, listening to podcasts more, treating it as enforced free time rather than dead time before I step on the ol’ treadmill each day.

I also walk from the train terminus in London, up to my work. I walk mainly through the financial district, but I try to work my way through more of the backstreets. Some streets are shortcuts, some are detours, but they are generally quieter and generally without the Angry Hurried Commuter stereotype who may ruin my day.

I try to look up and notice things. Not just the well-known buildings, those have been dulled by the familiarity, but the functional, forgotten ones. I like to see how the buildings play off of one another. The geometric patterns that appear from certain vantage points as the walkways and towers and signs intersect.

There are the public spaces or the odd tree to enjoy. Various scenes, vignettes.

Trees poking out from behind a boarded-up schoolThe law college, with students taking their last cigarette before an exam. I look through the window of an office postroom, surprised postrooms still exist. See pastries laid out for a conference.

A closed-down school, now boarded up. It hadn’t been boarded up when it first closed, but a faction of the Occupy movement got in there, opened some sort of “School of Life”, invited people in. They were removed quickly, as empty public buildings should be secured and inaccessible. Trees poke above the tall, blue boards now.Apartments look on, some looking fancier than others.

There are new, trendy coffee stalls. Old, established cafés. Shops long closed. Shops yet to open. A woman buffing the brass outside a pub.

I’m no more ready for work, but I’m a little less crazy than I might have been.

Rather clumsy photos from me. I didn’t even mean to take the second one, but I liked the squiggly lines. This post is a response to Mike’s suggestion to “Take a photo with your camera phone. Post it and give it some context—physical, emotional, physioemotional, etc.” Fancy making your own request for a blog post? Just let me know.

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