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I walk to work in Dublin every day... daydreaming can’t be done on a bus

My pension, climate change, Gaza – thoughts flicker into existence on my walk, burn for a while and disappear into the nothingness

On Grafton Street, I’m among the delivery vans outside the shops. Photograph: Getty Images

I walk to work most days, leaving the house at about 7am. It takes me roughly an hour and 15 minutes to negotiate my way from the north side of Dublin to the south.

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My trek across the city bears little or no resemblance to hiking or hill walking. It’s not tramping as the New Zealanders like to say, or bushwalking which is what they do in Australia. This is city-walking. And city-walking, generally, if not always, has a purpose.

I have a destination. It never changes. And I have to get there by a certain time.

I do this walk freestyle. Like one of those climbers on a cliff face, swinging their way from rock to rock without a harness, I walk without earphones. Maybe not so much like freestyle climbers, now that I think of it. But still, I don’t listen to anything.


Which helps you notice things.

Nothing profound. Pretty basic. But I guess it’s good to notice. How suddenly it’s not so dark when you’re leaving the house. How week on week the brightness creeps in earlier and earlier.

I’d love to be able to say that this makes me very present in the moment, but I’m afraid that’s not the case. The usual takes hold. Thoughts flicker into existence, burn for a while and disappear into the nothingness.

I fantasise about retiring with a full pension. I worry about that damp mark on the ceiling of the extension. I fret over climate change. I figure out my food shopping and whether I should try out that recipe a friend sent. It seems easy enough and sounds delicious and then images of the horrors in Gaza will come to mind or of a refugee camp in Yemen that I saw on the news and I’ll have the briefest of revelations of how lucky I am, and then it’s back to my pension.

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And, of course, fragments of memory will appear and disappear.

A sight, a smell, a sound and suddenly people long deceased will be there, right beside me, and in an instant gone again.

Meanwhile, I’m on O’Connell Street or crossing the Liffey and then I’m among the delivery vans outside the shops on Grafton Street. It’s not quite as idyllic as it might sound. There are no whistling, apron-clad men in caps with trays of freshly baked goods heading through open doors. Maybe there never were. It’s just people doing their job, occasionally pausing, devices in hand to check inventory.

The bus is quicker. The 9 or 16 will get me there in under an hour and I’m no martyr to the cause. I’ll head to the bus stop if the weather is bad or if I have to be in early for any reason.

But daydreaming can’t be done on a bus. Not for me, anyway. The phone takes hold. And, anyway, high-quality daydreaming needs repetitive motion to get the brain churning up all those random bits and pieces lodged within.

I work in a school and sometimes catch glimpses of children staring out a window or sitting on the steps in the yard looking at nothing in particular. But then children are good at daydreaming and they’re good at watching – at taking things in. Much better than their grown-up counterparts. They don’t need to be moving from A to B or doing something physical. Schools are frenetic places and they know at some level that they need a chill-out every now and then.

Not so long ago, I spotted one under a picnic table we have beside the side wall. He had climbed into the space between the benches and was squatting there on his own, his arms resting on one of the wooden supports, staring out at the comings and goings.

All okay? I inquired.

Fine, he grinned and went back to his observations.

Friends are surprised that I do this. I’m not a driver, but I can understand the appeal of a warm, comfortable car. And time can be a factor, of course, as well as responsibilities for others. I’m single and can walk out the door with no repercussions for anyone.

And Dublin is not a particularly pedestrian-friendly city. It’s all about the car and how efficiently it can make its way through the urban landscape – where it can turn, where it can park and all of that.

But it’s is not the worst place to walk either.

And when I arrive to school, the blood is up and I’m good to go.

Then hours later, I’ll slip my Leap card into my back pocket for the trip home. The bus beckons this time around.

Once a day is enough.