Life as a bicycle courier in London is challenging. Julian Sayarer doesn't hold back in his honest and sometimes brutal portrayal of the world of bicycle messengers. We learn what it's really like to work in one of London's most poorly paid jobs. We meet a cast of fascinating characters who work as couriers and we experience a lesser-known side to the city. The book is often cynical, sometimes depressing but also rich in detail, observation and social commentary.
Julian Sayarer had just completed a record breaking cycle around the world. He wrote about this in Life Cycles, which I thought was one of the best cycling travel books I've read. Messengers sees the author return to London, somewhat reluctant to write a book about couriering, but his agent believes it is a great subject for a book.
I found this book less thrilling than Life Cycles, but still highly captivating for how honest and realistic it is. It draws you into the subculture of the bicycle courier. A world where couriers call each other by their radio call signs, instead of their real names. It's a world of hard work for low pay and very little respect. There are some moments of joy, like a romantic relationship with another courier which is much needed relief in the tough life of a messenger. There's a euphoria he feels when getting a package delivered on time, when nobody expected him to be able to. He recalls an incident of name calling over the courier radios that's hard not to laugh out loud at.
This is a job that brings you into contact with all of London society. The people who work alongside the author all have a story to tell about how they ended up in this job. Sayarer has interesting encounters with bankers, secretaries, the super rich, the homeless and the police. He tells of the dangers of the road, the daily conflicts between motor vehicles and bicycles for space on congested streets. You learn about a different side to London, often only known to those doing jobs like couriering.
This is another great book by Julian Sayarer. It's a realistic and devastatingly honest look at London through the eyes of a bicycle courier.
What goes around by Emily Chappell is another great book about London bicycle couriers.