I live in suburban Glasgow. I can go many different ways into the city from here including at least three by bus or I could go by train since I live between two stations on the Inverclyde line. If I walked a mile or so, I could choose the Paisley Canal line too. Plus if I really felt like it, I could just walk, as I did one day in February, doing the Streets of Glasgow walk along Govan Road along the way. Just over the railway from here is the mighty M8, Scotland’s busiest motorway running from Greenock all the way to Edinburgh. As I’m not a motorist, I’m seldom on it. In fact one of the last times was a late night taxi ride from the town after I missed the last train. The curves, dips and rises of the motorway are familiar to many folk but feel strangely exotic to me.
The other day I was heading from Renfrew into town. From there I could have gone into Paisley then got on the train or a bus via Govan or Partick. Instead I decided to change at Braehead where most buses seem to go at some point. I could get either an express or one of those lovely stoppers. Just as I rocked up at Braehead, a Stagecoach express from Ayrshire pulled up and I got on, happy to see it was a double decker. As is mandatory on such vehicles, as written about here, I headed for the top deck. The bus was soon on the motorway, making good progress through the evening traffic. What I hadn’t expected was the different perspective on the passing surroundings, places I see every day, the top deck putting places to names on a map and generally providing a great vista across the city. I could see to its high buildings poking holes in the sky or just to the bridges along the Clyde as the bus crossed the Kingston Bridge and curved along at middle floor level onto Bothwell Street, suddenly on a city street and soon time to get off.
Whenever possible it is worth taking a different route. I’m lucky that to get many places from here, I can choose almost as many ways to do it. That’s also true between Edinburgh and Glasgow where there are no fewer than four different train routes plus the 900 bus along the motorway. Last weekend I was on my way back from the football in Edinburgh when I reached Waverley and discovered that the trains to Queen Street via Falkirk were disrupted. I looked along the departure board and saw that there was soon to be a train for Ayr via Glasgow Central and I headed for that. Instead of Linlithgow Palace, Falkirk and the Campsies, I got Carstairs, Motherwell and Lanarkshire. That isn’t a bad thing. The line via Carstairs is beguiling, brooding and interesting: a wide open landscape often closed off by low cloud. Every time I’m in the French art room at Kelvingrove, there’s a painting of a house set on a moor that reminds me of that train journey. Never knock a diversion.
Most of the time I’m in a travelling routine, spending a lot of life on McGills buses or ScotRail trains. Even picking a First bus or a different train can make the difference and guard against complacency. There’s always something new to see, even if it’s just a different glaze on the old and familiar.