When I thought about today’s theme; ‘A journey you do regularly’ my first thought was sitting on a bus to town, it is probably my most frequent of journeys. However, as I thought a little more I began to consider other journeys. I now take a train to Manchester once a week. I usually get driven out of my house and down the main road on a Sunday. I think I assumed that the word journey had to mean something substantial, something that takes a period of time and/or effort.
Then I thought about the main road right by my house. I live in an estate which takes me two minutes to walk from my front door to the main road that goes through the estate and a further three or four to get to the main road at the side of the estate (Blackburn Road). These are two journeys I make almost every day; if I leave the house I will go one of four different routes. We will drive along the main road into the estate or that same road out of the estate towards Blackburn Road. If I leave by foot I will take a similar route but with a short cut up towards Blackburn Road where I can catch one bus. Alternatively I will go another similar route but with a short cut up to the main road that runs through the estate.
Anyway, I’m probably confusing you now. I will use the example of the last route I talked about. I’ve travelled it thousands of times, probably more so than the majority of people travel a route in their life because I’ve lived in the same house for twenty-four years. Living in a location for so long makes you forget what is near you, how beautiful the simple things in life can actually seem if you only take a moment to look.
I’ve seen the route in rain, I’ve seen it in snow, I’ve seen it covered in leaves and basking in glorious sunshine. I’ve seen trees blowing in the wind, I’ve seen the local council cutting the grass, I’ve seen children walk and run and dogs and cats. I’ve seen it all. I recognise people who live in the houses, I recognise animals, I recognise cars. I watched two little boys grow up just by walking past their house every day. (I then became the Beaver leader at the school on the main road where one of the little boys attended, so we now know each other more than me being a stranger who walks past his house.)
Sometimes I walk the route and don’t really see anything; my nose is in a book, I’m too busy checking Twitter, I’m glancing worriedly at my watch because I’m about to miss the bus. Other times I stop and look.
Only a couple of times have I really walked the route and thought, wow.
I was walking home one day along the main road by the school, the sun was shining high in the sky and the trees were looking wonderfully lush. It was a perfect summery day and in a world where we’re often faced with concrete jungles I found myself amazed by how beautiful that street actually was. Yes, there were buildings, houses further up ahead near where I turn to go to my house. But there was also a little bit of countryside in the middle of a built up area. Behind the school are playing fields and further back still is the secondary school and leisure centre, an open space where you can see the sky and green grass. Opposite the school is a large house which is apparently now flats, but was once a mansion known as Sharples Hall. In school (the one across the road) my best friend at the time told me that a witch lived there and I believed her, who wouldn’t when it looked like a witches hat sat on the balcony?
The other time when I was shocked by what I saw was one year when it snowed heavily. I’d barely left the house in days because I was worried about the weather. I’d already grown grumpy about there being snow because the years before we’d had very little to the point of it turning quickly to ice and causing me injury for several years in a row. But it was different that year (just a couple of years back now), it was thick and proper snow. I finally left the house, just a short walk to the shop but I had to take that usual route towards the bus stop. There was another route I could have chosen, but I thought along the main road would be the safest. It was the weirdest experience of my life. Having lived there for twenty odd years I didn’t expect this familiar world to appear so different. But it did. The streets were deserted and for the first time in my life I couldn’t even hear cars up on Blackburn Road (which is a very busy road). It was like being in some sort of post-apocalyptic world and I was the only one left. There was something quite frightening about it, yet stunning all at the same time. I slowed my walk, not just for the snow but because I wanted to be there in that moment for as long as I possibly could. Before I reached the shop some young lads appeared making noise which really disappointed me. I wanted to stay in that moment for longer and they didn’t seem to care that they were in this glorious place or ruining my experience. I’ve never seen that journey look or feel like that again and I doubt I ever will. A once in a lifetime opportunity, but boy was it worth it.