I went to primary school in Edinburgh. When we went out and about in the city, we invariably took the bus, more often than not a double-decker bus in colours of deepest maroon operated by Lothian Buses. I always liked to sit on the top deck of the bus and normally at the front, not just to see the view to wherever we were going but also to look down the periscope. In those days before CCTV was widespread on public transport, the driver could look up to a mirror strategically located at the front of the top deck to see if anyone was causing bother. I liked to look down and see what was happening even if it wasn’t that exciting: usually it was the top of the driver’s head, invariably flecked with grey if it wasn’t bald. Often that was more exciting, though, than what was passing the windows.
To this day, if I am on a double-decker bus, I tend to opt for the front of the top deck. I am a fan of what Patrick Geddes called the ‘synoptic view’, and the best all-encompassing views you tend to get are on high. When you can’t go up a hill or in a hot-air balloon or whatever, then a bus just has to do. If I can’t get the front, I usually try for the first seat behind the stairs, which also tends to have more generous leg room so it is possible both to see what’s going on and do so without one’s knees grazing one’s chin.
Edinburgh is a great city to explore by bus. It has an excellent and widespread bus network and not all of the buses are maroon, thankfully. I have seen some strange sights from its buses, though, including flat dwellers sunbathing on the ledges outside their residences in high summer, two floors up. I’m an advocate of ‘whatever works’ as a life strategy but there are limits. I seem to remember that was in Tollcross, near the Cameo cinema.
Glasgow is also a fine place to explore by bus. I don’t know if I have written here before about the 90 bus, which goes absolutely everywhere, or at least from Braehead to Partick, a couple of miles as the crow flies but via Govan, Battlefield, Rutherglen, Parkhead, Springburn and Maryhill. I covered part of its route on the road to the Scottish Cup, just before Hibs went on to win it last May – post here. The 3, which stops about 200 yards from here, covers a similarly epic route, from Govan to Drumchapel via Cardonald, Crookston, Pollok, Pollokshaws, Shawlands, the city centre, Partick and Scotstoun, though I have noticed that it is being served increasingly by double-decker buses. Happy days.
Sadly a lot of the buses I use are single-decker buses, low and unassuming, not to mention without much of a decent view. My last, decent double-decker journey was just after the New Year, down from Edinburgh to Prestongrange, a journey covered many times in my life en route to work there. Like so many times before, I stepped to the front of the bus on the way back just in time to get that view across Morrison’s Haven towards Fife and Edinburgh just as the sun began to set, just another perk of being up high.
Incidentally, this post was inspired by an article in the Edinburgh Evening News, entitled ‘10 Things Everyone Who Grew Up In Edinburgh Will Remember‘. I also remember going to the UCI Cinema and for a pic ‘n’ mix at Woolies, though in Musselburgh.