Walk the (Victoria) Line


For the last four weeks I have been walking into work – a pleasant 7-10 minute stroll of a morning.

My God – what a lucky woman I am, you might think. But amazingly there were things that I missed. Less of a walk in the park and more a pilgrim’s progress.

As an intrepid commuter and incorrigible thinker, I have realised that there are some problems with walking into work…


  1. Proximity of the workplace. There is always the lingering shadow of your work building close enough to whisper, “Where are you, my precious?”
    This is the main problem for people who work from home, as they are never far from the office. While it would seem madness for someone to get on a train and take the 2hr round trip to work on Sunday evening, people whose office is in the attic/spare room will quietly use the long dark teatime of the soul to “just finish that project”.
  2. No time to read. Fortunately I have discovered the sublime A History of the World in 100 Objects and am wending my way through each one like a polymath through a dinner party conversation, but one podcast doesn’t quite cover the journey, and so it feels as if I’m always in the middle of something, reminding myself where I was. I miss reading. This is one of the reasons I don’t cycle to work either (along with my dangerous inability to cycle safely).
  3. Footwear. I have for a week now brought my heels along in my bag only to forget to put them on once at work. This may not apply to men.

Ok, so it’s not a huge list. But it surprises me at all that I have one. And so to the pros:


  1. Far far cheaper daily travel costs. Although if you’re used to a monthly/annual travelcard, it’s amazing how much you find yourself spending on ad hoc travel at weekends and evenings.
  2. Longer in bed. Nuff said.
  3. Daily exercise. It may not be much, but it’s more than none at all.
  4. Fresh air and wide open spaces, rather than a cramped train/bus/tube or lonely car. That is, unless you’re walking down a busy London main road. The bit across the bridge makes up for it though.
  5. The freedom.

Walking into work is as much a daily commute as any other form of transport – there are the same people you see and pass by of a morning, there is the fixed timescale, there may even be the same old route each day, but unlike so many other commutes it can be about the journey rather than the destination. Rather than be herded into a moveable carriage, you are yourself moving, feeling the ebb and flow of the wind, the people and the traffic around you.

As with cycling, it feels as if you take your destiny into your own hands each morning, heralding the start of the day with action and with choice, rather than chipping away at your personal freedom bit by bit with timetables and traffic jams, bus drivers and borrowed time.

I am about to move into a new place and have worked out that it would probably take me about an hour to walk in. Compared to my 10 minute stroll right now, I’m not sure I could hack the whole hour, but I could perhaps do half and bus the rest? The list of cons might increase to include: takes too long, harder in bad weather, risk of mugging… it gets a little pathetic after a while, especially when the long term benefits would include my health and a few grammes of Carbon saved.

The benefits across a wider scale could be wonderful, but how conceivable is it really that more people might walk to work, when most live so far away? I find myself coming to the same old conclusion: that a sustainable and pleasant society is one with fewer geographical dependencies; in a world where people commute by plane, it seems backward to suggest the journey should not be made. It is, after all, not a journey but a means to an end – one that costs so much more in resources, impact and freedom than it is worth.

In my case, is an hour too long? Are the queues for the bus and the platform really worth the 20 minutes saved at the other end? Or am I so used to giving up so many other personal freedoms on a day to day basis that the freedom of walking to work is not worth that much?


crossing the police line


police lineI had to cross the police line this morning.

But before I could cross I had to give my name, my address and my reason for passing.

In the road parallel to ours, a young man had been shot last night. This morning every road leading out from the site was cordoned off, their occupants not free to go about their business.

I don’t know if they have found the man who did the shooting. I hope they do and that they shut him away for several years in a place where he can learn empathy, life skills and qualifications for future work, so that when he emerges he can re-enter society without feeling the need to shoot people. That is, if society lets him.

But that’s far in the future. A future that I hope won’t mean more police lines and less freedom.

What concerns me is that I did not challenge the police officer’s questioning of me. Perhaps because I needed to get to work and decided this was not the best time for rebellion. But when is? And at what point do the requests of our protectors and politicians become so normal that rebellion becomes too difficult to contemplate?

Sensible people would suggest that I pick my battles. But sensible people do not start revolutions. They may take up the slack once change has happened – bringing the necessary bureacracy to a once vibrant and charismatic regime.

Should I have refused to give my details? Or should I post a petition to number10.gov.uk, start a campaign, blog about it?

I fear that bit by bit I am allowing my freedom to be stolen for the sake of tenuous security. I worry that I am allowing my fears to be manipulated for the sake of others’ love of power. I am considering not crossing the police line…

Reigning in the Freedom to Travel


According to the BBC News site: “Governments around the world are hurrying to contain the spread of a new swine flu virus after outbreaks were reported in Mexico, the US and Canada.

But when your residents and the residents of other countries have the right to come and go as they please, taking out third party insurance on the dangers that may exist, how much direct action can you really take to contain these risks?

The evolution of commuting from a brisk walk down the road to, what is for some people, a several hundred mile daily round trip means that the butterly sneezing in China really can pass its cold on to England.

Foot and Mouth, SARS, Bird flu and now Swine flu… all of these have caused varying degrees of panic and hysteria. And yet once their immediate dangers have passed all returns to business as usual. Nowhere in the aftermath do people ask the question: “Should we curb our freedom to travel?”

The impact of Climate Change and widespread consumption of oil and petrol has been the main motivator for anti-aircraft activists thus far. But what about health experts, should they be joining this ongoing battle to discourage people from flying so freely?

No doubt in the next few days, and perhaps even weeks, we will see frightened and panicked people wearing masks and submitting to full body sheep-dips at airports to curtail the risk of contracting Swine flu. We may even see a few people postpone their travel plans to a later, less dangerous time. It is less likely that our freedom to travel will be questioned, because the current rhetoric of freedom is hedonistic and not socially responsible.

We are free to court danger ourselves, but are we free to pass that danger on to others?