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Once upon a time…

A long time ago an editor summoned me to his ‘office’, which in those days was the old Homes Bar. He cut straight to the heart of the matter, Edinburgh Lothian Transport’s Number 22. At which, his eyes lit up as if Celtic were still in Europe, and he rubbed his hands together with obvious relish. Although his joy was self-evident, there was a wistfulness to his mien, as he took a sip of his dark rum & tomato juice and sallied forth.

“The No 22 bus is a smashing little story, I know we’ve covered it twice before, but I feel there is mileage in it yet. From the Gyle to Ocean Terminal in twenty-eight-minutes. You’d hardly credit it. And it’s a boon to the local community vis a vis that environmental stuff.”

At this he reaches a crescendo, “is there a better bargain to be had in the whole wide world of public transport? All that for £1!” He asks me to add that exclamation mark to drill home his point.

Which sets him of again: his neck muscles bulge like hawsers, and he gulps for air while making a fair approximation of someone swallowing a barrage balloon whilst eating a truckload of Jacob’s crackers.

A hefty slap on the back returns his eyes to their sockets and his tongue to its sprocket.

To fill the silence, I point out that the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island is free. He sighs, ignores my reply, and returns to his brooding

“Now look at the treatment the No 22 is getting from that tram and their bloody roadworks. Diversions and the inevitable delays that follow, it’s a crying shame, we are witnessing the wilful destruction of one of Britain’s great bus routes.” (Here he takes a swig of Jägermeister from his hip flask “for the gout.”)

“I’ve got it! A Leith take on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or Roald Amundsen discovering the Great North Passage. A warts-and-all account of the No 22 Bus route, from terminus to terminus.

“You must start at The Gyle Centre, did you know that the copper used on the roof would cover Murrayfield Stadium seven times?

“Then stroll down to Ballgreen - or Baile na Greine as was - that’s Gaelic for Sunnytown, by the by. You could pick up the Water of Leith here or head on to the West End”, here he loses his way, “do you remember milk bars? I feel sure there was one on Lothian Road, you could do some research on them: sardine sandwiches and flavoured milks…

“Where was I? Oh yes… you must do Leith Street and down The Walk, past the Playhouse (opened by Laurel and Hardy) then on to Borland’s Dart’s and Television shop – where you’ll find all your televisual and darting needs under one roof. (N.B. It’s still there by the way… unlike apprenticeships.)

“Leith Walk then. Fourteen street names on one thoroughfare, sometimes you’ll find two different names on either side of the same road. Tip your hat here to Storries bakery’s bonnie window display of all that’s good to dunk in tea. My recommendation is the bran scone farl. There’s fixin’s!

“Left now at the Fit ‘o’ the Walk, Wetherspoons was still on the horizon, for now it was still a snooker hall, and on to the beating heart of Leith’s regeneration (which is itself to be regenerated) Ocean Terminal.”

The editor splutters to a halt, he looks and sounds like a man who is overcome by excitement at the realisation of his own brilliance. An Advocaat & Glayva soon clears the great man’s throat and he rallies to a final verbal flourish.

“There’s ideas for you boyo,” he says,

suddenly affecting Welsh.

“A journey down the Number 22 Bus route, a microcosm of the world in thirty minutes, a veritable melting pot of cultural exchanges.

“All human experience can be found on that route if you look hard enough. I’ll even give you your title; A Journey To The Heart Of The World: Psycho-Geography and LothianRegional Transport Route Number 22.” ■


Makes you wish for the time when the No22 only came in threes

A hefty slap on the back returns his eyes to their sockets and his tongue to its sprocket



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