In these first few settling (or unsettling) weeks, another question I am frequently asked is how I am finding the commute each day from Bishopbriggs to St. Mungo’s in the morning, and back again in the evening. For anyone who doesn’t know, circumstances recently dictated that the Passionist community move out of the old St. Mungo’s Retreat in Parson Street and relocate to a 4-bedroom house 5 miles away. This question sparks off vivid memories.
I grew up in Partick in the West End of Glasgow, but when I was eleven and the old tenements were, sadly, being pulled down, I moved with my family further west to Drumchapel – once described by Billy Connolly as ‘a desert wi’ windaes’. For the first year I was still attending St. Peter’s Primary in Partick and so I had to commute the 5 miles there and back, Monday to Friday, on the bus. After that I went to secondary school at St. Mungo’s Academy, so there was an even longer 6-mile, each way commute, that required two buses there and back. Invariably I was late and the headmaster used to pounce on me in the mornings and compel me to hop around the quadrangle on one leg, three times, before I would be allowed up to class, where, depending on who it was, the teacher might feel inclined to dole out a further punishment. No complaints, that’s just the way it was, and to this day I am very good at hopping on one leg.
After school, I went to work, firstly in Watson and Philip (Catering Suppliers) where I was the fondant maker; and then in the Singer Sewing Machine Company in Clydebank, where I began my Accountancy studies. Those weren’t too far from Drumchapel but, after being made redundant from both of them, I ended up at the Oilvetti Typewriter Factory in Queenslie, on the Edinburgh Road, about 14 miles away; so I was back to a lengthy 2-bus commute, twice a day, for the following 5 years.
I then joined the Passionists in 1975 and so, for the last 41 years, wherever I was, I have lived on the job, but now I’m back to being a commuter again, sharing the lot of many other commuters, and, dare I say it, it’s not too bad. Perhaps in the middle of winter when I have to scrape ice off the windscreen before leaving the house, and then have to sit bumper to bumper in snail moving traffic, I may feel different, but for now it’s okay.
One of our parishioners, who has a very stressful job, was telling me the little techniques he uses to feel that God is with him, helping him to cope. As God is the God of all our journeying, so too I can invoke God’s presence in my daily commute.
Here is a prayer for commuters:
God of the journey;
Your light is the shining light I need as I travel through life's mystery;
Your word, the voice I strain to hear, that still small voice that leads me,
Safely, to the place where I must go.
Your presence is the calming company I need, as I travel this narrow road;
Your fellowship, the warmth I crave, to help me on my way. Amen.