When I started school in the late 1950s I walked there with my mother and she came and got me at the end of the day – a walk of about a mile each way (two miles each trip for her). That was in all weathers with no picking up by car options available – we didn’t HAVE a car then and mum wouldn’t have been able to drive it if we had! I seem to remember that I did sometimes “cheat” by standing on the back axle of the pushchair (aka “buggy” these days) with my little sister in it. Nevertheless I bet I still walked a good deal further than most of today’s little porkers do!
There was a bus that ran from the end of our street and if you got off at the bottom end of Station Street the school could be reached by a long uphill trek that was probably equivalent to half of the normal walk home. This meant that in bad weather you’d get just as wet going back down that hill and waiting for the bus as you would walking the whole way, so it wasn’t worth the bother.
I seem to recall that after mum stopped taking me I always got the bus to school and always walked home. I don’t recall whether she gave me bus fare for both trips – if she did it would have been a pocket money enhancing scam netting me a whole tenpence a week! That’s ten OLD pence, of course, of which there were twelve to a shilling (which became equal to five NEW pence in the 1971 decimalisation). It doesn’t sound a lot but would have bought me three extra Wagon Wheels or Jamboree Bags a week and you will have to ask your parents or grandparents if you don’t know what THEY were!
We moved house in January 1964 during my last year at that school but as the Eleven Plus examinations (which decided whether or not you were Grammar School material and which were taken in several parts) did not finish until just before Easter it was considered best for me to do them in familiar surroundings. Thus I gained my first experience of commuting as it required a bus into town and another out in a different direction each way to get from new house to old school and back.
What I am getting at here is that from my earliest days of travelling unaccompanied I have used public transport – particularly buses.
After that Junior School experience my use of Ipswich Borough Transport waned for a while – dad getting a car and me then getting first a bicycle then a motorbike meant I had no real use of the bus network for quite a few years.
During the period from October 1975 to January 1979 my friends and I did utilise the buses again as part of our Saturday night wanderings that I documented here: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/ . You will have to get through the initial waffle first but it DOES get to the real story eventually!
At the end of that period I sold the house, moved back with my parents for a few months and bought another motorbike. And it wasn’t until I sold THAT in summer 1982 that I used buses again – for my daily commute from Long Stratton to Norwich (previously mentioned here: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2011/09/ ) which takes us to the move to Chelmsford in April 1983 by which time I had learned to drive a car.
For the next five years I walked or cycled anywhere that we didn’t drive to – until May 1988 and the move to Cambridge.
Cambridge has a dreadful congestion problem and high parking charges (it’s probably down to all those wealthy University students) so whenever we didn’t have anything bulky to buy that necessitated using the car, we would drive one village over (from Histon to Milton) and get the “Park and Ride” bus to the city centre.
Cambridge and its populace are unique! They have the only transport system I know of where you can sit back, listen in and LEARN STUFF! In other cities you may worry about getting mugged but on the Cambus network your only concern is whether you are justified in interrupting the conversation you are eavesdropping on for an explanation of some obscure philosophical or scientific point!
A friend of mine once wrote something in the East Anglian Mensa newsletter (which he was editing at the time) about the French philosopher Albert Camus. I replied stating that Cambridge was such an intellectual city that they named their CAMBUS transport system after him. Sometimes my devastating wit surprises even me!
For the last 23 years (i.e. from December 1993) we have lived on the southwestern fringes of Peterborough. Our area is served by a “Citi-bus” route to the city centre but it follows such a torturous path through nearby estates and “townships” that it takes nigh on 40 minutes to get to the central bus station no more than 4 miles away!
Indeed, if Faith should ever need to take public transport to work for any reason it could (allowing for missed connections) take over 90 minutes to get there – a five mile, ten minute car drive away.
So you may well guess that over that 23 year period I haven’t made much use of buses in Peterborough.
Until now, that is!
And the reason for that situation changing is simple. I discovered that, almost 3 years after the date that I considered I was contractually entitled to it, I was entitled to a free bus pass for use on all and any local bus services in the UK.
Thus, every time I now need to go into Peterborough by myself I save £2 or £3 on car parking. I can also, if I get any spare time, ride the bus routes of this city (after 9.30 a.m.) just for the hell of it at no cost whatsoever!
Unfortunately, thanks to the duplicitous Weasels in parliament (and I sincerely apologise to any real Weasels reading this for maligning them in this way) Faith, who turned 60 last year and has worked all her life on the understanding that 60 was the age at which it would all happen, now has to wait until age 66 before either the State Pension or her Bus Pass become available!
So, unless I shell out for a one day “mega-rider” ticket for her, I have to explore on my own – which isn’t so much fun!
Still, my weekly trips to my volunteer job at the Library and my regular appointment at the Job Centre enable me to observe city life and think on the motto of the now-defunct “News of the World”:
“All human life is here”.