Joe led us in a second great session on journeys and transport, this time concentrating on the ways in which we regularly got around, whether on foot, by bike, train or in the cars we owned. There was so much to talk about! We shared stories of travelling to school, holiday outings, regular commutes to and from work, some within Manchester and some far away. As well as vividly re-living those frequent journeys, the people we were with, or were on our way to, featured strongly in our fond memories.
The earliest frequently made journey I can recall was from my parents’ home on Ansdell Avenue (off Sandy Lane) to my grandmother’s house on Keppel Road. My earliest recollections are of travelling with my mother along Barlow Moor Road past the MacFadyen Memorial Church (now Chorlton Central) where I’d walk along its low wall. After stops at the various food shops under the veranda the walk would continue to “the four banks” and the short distance along Wilbraham Road to “Gran’s”.
As I got a little older, I was allowed to make the trip on my own but would always go “the back way” via Hartington and Corkland Roads in order to avoid the busy road. I would cross Wilbraham Road by the zebra crossing which was in front of the post office.
The picture above shows the post box which marked the half way point of this trip. Every time I see it now, I’m reminded of the journeys to my grandmother’s, especially those in which I would collect wood and branches along the way for the yearly bonfire held in her back garden.
Another early regular journey was the school walk down Sandy Lane to the “lollipop-man” at the main road and then along High Lane to St John’s Primary School. I was reminded during the session that I would occasionally make a detour on the way home through the “rec” on Beech Road to visit the conker tree. This was much to my mother’s chagrin as not only would I return home with dirty clothes but also the delay often meant I would miss the lollipop-man and have to cross the busy Barlow Moor Road by a Zebra crossing.
For 20, or so, years of my working life I had a very short commute living within a 10-minute walk of Chorlton’s McDonalds restaurant. I did, however once have an interesting commute whilst working in London for British Rail. This entailed catching a train from Clapham North to London Bridge Station then walking across the bridge, with its magnificent views along the river, to continue my journey to work at Stratford, East London from Bank underground station.
The nuns used to call us “the train girls”. We caught the 8am train from Nelson to Oswaldtwistle, using our local authority-funded passes to travel to the nearest RC grammar school for girls. I imagine other passengers avoided that crowded two-carriage train, and our return journeys at 4.30, the noise levels from crowds of girls playing cards, chattering and laughing must have been so high!
When I was fourteen, I’d missed a vaccination in the summer term because of illness, so in September, was sent one afternoon to the hospital in Accrington. It didn’t take long, but I decided to catch an earlier train home rather than return to school. As far as I knew, there were only ever trains going from Preston to Colne and back, and all the stations had just two platforms, one for trains going one way and one the other. Imagine my horror when, just past Burnley, the train I’d caught turned off down a track I’d never noticed before. Another passenger told me I’d got on a “Special” making a return trip to Bradford from Blackpool, so I ran to the guard’s van for help. “Nowt I can do love” he said, “the next stop’s Todmorden and you’d best get off there as there’s no trains back to Burnley today”
I didn’t know Todmorden, and the only money I had with me was for the bus fare home from Nelson station. We didn’t have a phone at home, but for emergencies, I knew the number for my Dad’s school. He said to find the park and sit on a bench near the entrance till he could collect me in a couple of hours. Luckily it was dry, so I did as he said, got out my homework, and worried I’d be in trouble.
I was so relieved when my little brother ran towards me, followed by my smiling Dad. My brother enjoyed the trip to the park and playground and, as it was his seventh birthday, he was the centre of attention when we returned home. I may have had a reproachful look from my Mum, but no more than that, and I think I was deemed to have learned my lesson. I obviously had, because the memory is very vivid and I’ve always been very careful to check I’m on the right train and platform ever since!
A journey into misunderstanding.
After school there was always a line of buses on the road outside school, but you had to make your own way in in the morning.
The 52 was usually packed with Cheadle Grammar school girls. They piled off only a couple of miles down the road and I had a longer journey all the way into town but too often the bus was full at my stop and I had to wait for the next one. The alternative was to set off earlier, but I had a newspaper round to do, and needed the money. I couldn’t do the round and make the earlier bus.
Truth be told, I liked hanging out with the lads at the newsagents. And that is why I got a reputation as a racist. Not wanting to wear my glasses in front of the lads and taking my school hat off so they didn’t laugh at me.
I was at the bus stop one day, my hat stuffed into my satchel and my glasses in my blazer pocket and a car stopped. The driver was gesticulating at me, and I was pretty sure it was my Biology teacher, Mrs Swami. I thought she was telling me to put on my hat. I stared into the middle distance, pretending I didn’t know her nor that I knew she was trying to attract my attention. Nobody at the stop nudged me or asked why I was ignoring her.
The car drove off.
Later, I was asked why I had ignored the offer of a lift to school. The implication was that I was a racist and didn’t want to get into a car driven by a woman with brown skin. All because I wasn’t wearing my school hat, nor my glasses.
They didn’t let me explain. I’d been judged and was stuck with it.
The really sad thing is that my grandmother was born in Delhi. Look back two generations, and I am mixed race. Mixed race, mixed messages, mistakes – it is all too easy to misunderstand each other when there is no chance to talk.
I liked Mrs Swami too. Should have taken Biology for GCSE – I was rubbish at Physics.
The journeys to school I remember most were the journeys of my son and daughter to their secondary schools. Originally this involved my beloved and rusty Mini, which was the first car that was completely mine as opposed to a family car that I shared with my husband. They both went to schools near to Platt Fields and as I worked not far from there, I used to take them and pick them up most days. The day generally started when my husband would have calmly and peacefully left for work and I would then spend several long minutes shouting to them to “hurry up”, “have you got everything?” “done your homework?” and “would you please get in the car now!” A bit louder that last one.
Beloved as the little mini was, it was obviously not the biggest car in the world and the journey often involved two growing teenagers, their school and sports bags and sometimes my daughter’s cello for added logistical interest.
One never to be forgotten day was when I had picked them up after school, and the rusty mini bodywork gave up the ghost and one of the headlights, still attached to the electrics, parted company with the frame and was bouncing along the road with an ominous clattering. Not unreasonably I was worried about being stopped by the police, but my teenagers were much more concerned in case we were seen by their friends. Such is the mortification of teenagers to even have parents, never mind ones who might cause them embarrassment with their friends. Fortunately we got home safely without meeting either police or friends, but sadly the decision was inevitable. The mini could not be repaired anymore and had to be scrapped. A sad day indeed! Other cars I have had since have never had the same tug on my heart strings and have always been considered very ordinary, just a means of getting from A to B.
Perversely, after getting a bigger car, my daughter gave up the cello and took up the saxophone!
A treasured Christmas present was a pair of roller skates. They could be adjusted to fit my shoe size, with red leather which was laced around the front of my foot and a narrow red leather strap around my ankle. I spent many happy hours skating up and down the shared concrete drive behind the four houses my mother’s father had had built for four of his six daughters on a piece of his farmland.
When the red leather skates wore out, I was given a hand me down blue scooter. I was over the moon, as I could travel much further on the two wheels than on the eight wheels of the skates which could not cope with uneven surfaces. As the scooter was old it was not long before it was beyond repair and I was given a very old heavy “sit up and beg” lady’s bike. The saddle was in a sorry state so my mother made a cover for it from a red felt beret. The bike was my key to freedom to roam at a time when there were few cars on our local roads.
My favourite journey was taken as often as possible on Saturdays or in the school holidays when I had completed my chores. It was a relatively flat route to begin with across some common open land where bilberries and heather grew. I could pedal up the gentle incline passing Longley farm where they were beginning to produce cottage cheese and yogurt, very innovative in the 1960s. I loved to see the nodding heads of hare bells in the summer at the top of the first hill. A flat section of road then passed the first small reservoir used mainly for sailing. The next incline was steep. I pedalled as far as I could before getting off and pushing. The most glorious panoramic view awaited at the top making all the effort really worthwhile.
Down the other side with the wind in my face was a wonderful feeling of freedom, passing three more small reservoirs which in the 1970s would be made into a much larger Winscar Dam, overlooking Dunford Bridge, where the Woodhead railway tunnel emerged from its three-mile journey under the Pennines. It was to close to passenger travel in 1970 and goods in 1981.
Climbing up out of Dunford Bridge, past the Stanhope Arms where my parents had had their wedding reception. Pushing the bike up the harder section of the route, I was always pleased to see grouse, lapwings, and hear curlew and skylarks in the spring, with the Woodhead, Manchester to Sheffield Road in the distance. I turned left onto this busy section of the route at the AA box at Salters Brook for a short distance over relatively flat road, before turning again at the Flouch Inn, the furthest point of my journey of about nine miles away from my home.
The way back was mostly gentle downhill, through small hamlets until I reached my favourite harebell corner and the exhilarating whizz passed Longley Farm with its Jersey cows in the fields on my way home.
A conversation with Nury Marvi by Margaret Kendall
It always seemed that Nury was cycling against the wind on his way to and from school in Iran. It was such hard work! When he was finally able to buy a car, a Mercedes, he was very proud of it. He remembers driving along on holiday, with his wife and his wife’s parents, and suddenly not being able to see anything out through the driver’s rear-view mirror. It turned out that it was thick black smoke, coming from somewhere underneath the car, and it happened every time he changed gear. The oil was leaking. He found a garage where they said he had to leave it overnight for them to look at. He went back the next day and they offered to buy the car from him. When he explained that he really needed it to get back from holiday with his wife and family, the garage owner offered to pay for all their expenses for their journey home! He still refused because he loved that car, even though the man said that it would be OK for about 1000 kilometres but would need repairing again after that. In the end, he paid for the repair and kept the car. This was about sixty years ago now and he thinks that it was because it was a Mercedes that the garage owner wanted it. Even though it was so old, it was still that impressive make, a Mercedes!
Looking back, he could have bought a good house with all the money he spent on cars in those times, but you don’t think like that when you’re young! They were always Mercedes. He has happy memories of being parked in the family’s car park, opening all the doors and windows and playing cassettes on the car’s stereo system so that the children could dance.
He misses those days, “We were free then.”
The conversation between Ellie and I focused on school and overseas commutes. She was lucky enough to experience the joys of public transport in Stockholm, whereas I got the bus every day from Chorlton to Fallowfield and back with international students! Sometimes students would march right up to me and expect me to start answering questions that I couldn’t answer without my computer. I just wanted to ease myself into the day by doing a crossword on my phone. One Japanese student even shouted “TEACH US SOMETHING!” I was mortified!
Two girls who stand out for me, were Myeongshin and Soyoun, who were from South Korea and so lovely! We used to get the bus together around 5 times a week, so we got to know each other quite well. I can remember it was around the same time as my niece was born, I would often show them pictures my brother sent me. On her last day, Myeongshin sat waiting for me in reception, we got the bus home together one last time, when we got off at the stop near Electrik, we both realised that this was the end of our bus companionship and that we might never meet again. It was such a bittersweet moment as she turned in the direction of Morrison’s and I headed for Four Banks. We are still in touch now via Instagram and I really hope that if I do make it to Seoul to eat my bodyweight in kimchi, that we would meet and I would have a wonderful guide!
I’ve recently been made redundant and had to return to school on 1st October. So there I was waiting again, the bus was late, typical! A guy came up to me and gave me his Dayrider ticket, so that eased the pain, but then when I got on the bus a woman sat really very close given the circumstances in 2020 and starting clipping her nails! YUK!! I am very grateful for the changes that my redundancy is allowing me to make. Not getting the bus is probably my favourite change of them all.
It was very hard to settle on one particular ‘regular journey’ when taking a trip back in time this week, but I opted for the daily commute I took on the Paris Métro back in the summer of 2008, when I was 22. I was spending the summer working as an English language trainer for a telecommunications company based in a suburb of the French capital called Vélizy. I had the wonderful good fortune of having a friend of a friend who was sub-letting her tiny apartment in the first arrondissement – or borough – i.e. right in the centre of the city, just a stone’s throw away from the Louvre.
Each day I would take the Métro out to the industrial estate where the telecommunications company was based; it was a pretty boring, non-descript area compared to the wonderful architectural gems of the streets of central Paris. The commute itself involved me changing at a station called Franklin D. Roosevelt, located at the heart of the Champs-Élysées. Sometimes, if I had nothing in on a morning or was feeling particularly indulgent, I would leave the station and go for a coffee and a croissant at one of the bakeries. I was living the Parisian dream: breakfast on the Champs-Élysées on my way to work! The flipside was, of course, the strikes on the Métro. There were, perhaps unsurprisingly, a few of them over the course of the summer, and on those days I would have to queue up on the platform, all the passengers squashed together like sardines, and wait for several trains to pass until there was one I could fit on, and inevitably end up late for work.
The Parisians have a saying: ‘métro, boulot, dodo’, which translates roughly as ‘commute, work, sleep’. It refers to the ‘rat race’, or a life where the daily grind leaves no time for pleasure. Perhaps a few of my fellow passengers felt like this summed up their life, but not me; my daily Métro commute remained an enjoyable novelty all summer long – at least according to my memories!
Since my breast bone broke as I opened my car door in 2008, I have been reluctant to drive far in case something like that happens again. Consequently, my favourite journey over the Pennines to see family and friends has had to be done by bus and train. I have had lots of offers to come to pick me up, but while I was able I preferred to be independent.
The journey on the 86 bus from Chorlton Bus station to Oxford Road Station for the 8 am train to Huddersfield was much slower during the week with the bus crowded with commuters. I really enjoy train rides. I especially liked the journey in spring when the bluebells can be seen from the carriage windows as Delph is approached. I enjoyed the journey no matter what the weather as the scenery changed as the train climbed the hills, leaving the busy conurbation behind, before entering a series of short tunnels, then the three mile long Standedge tunnel, before reaching the impressive Huddersfield Station, with the statue of Harold Wilson to greet me.
From Huddersfield Bus station at 9am I had a forty-minute ride on the front seat of the top deck of the bus, feeling like a seven year old, not a seventy year old. There were always changes to notice. In July 2014 the road to Holmfirth was part of the Tour de France. The route was decorated with yellow and blue bunting. Lots of old bikes were painted yellow and suspended from shops and public buildings. The bus often had to go slowly as it followed lots of cyclists who were following to road up to Holme Moss for quite a long time after the event.
Each second Wednesday of the month was my favourite time to make this journey. There is a short Communion service at the beautiful small church, followed by a charity coffee morning in the village hall where the local school children serve endless cups of tea or coffee. I used to meet up with old friends for a good catch up, l then would go to see some of my family who still live on the farm where my father grew up. I often used to have lunch in a cafe which was part of a woollen mill where my mother worked as a mender.
So many lovely memories come flooding back of a very happy childhood spent in the Holme Valley when I made this journey.