The number 22 bus from Edinburgh's Princes Street to Ocean Terminal in Leith has to be one of the great journeys of the world. From elegant Georgian architecture to delightful junkies smacking their kids, it's a smorgasbord of human triumph and human faeces. Before it gets replaced by a new-fangled tram, here's are 22 things I love about the 22 bus and its route.
1. It's pink!
2. The blind man who stops every bus yelling 'Are you the 22?' (Note to blind man: it would maybe help if you took off your ipod - are you a glutton for punishment or what?)
3. The 'clientele': ranging from Scottish government workers and urban professionals to fragrant homeless people.
4. It's gay friendly: the 22 passes Priscilla's drag bar and Number Eighteen, a gay massage parlour. I love Priscilla's. Sadly I've never been in there, but yesterday, scrawled on the window in semi-literate luminous marker pen was the legend: 'TONIGHT - Miss Kitty Litter'. Genius. And if you're a fan of that little known drag act 'E.Coli', on St Patrick's day they offer free Irish Stew. Unless 'irish stew' some kind of niche gay euphemism?
5. Unexpected pathos: In the sheltered wheelchair ramp at the side of Majestic Wine lives an old man with a white beard and dreads - dodgily but quite accurately known to the locals as 'Black Santa'. Or at least he did live there until the powers-that-be at Majestic cruelly boarded up his house. Santa, if by chance you've got a laptop and you're sitting in Starbucks using the free Wi-fi, I wish you good luck in your new home in a cardboard box on the motorway.
6. The joy of overhearing the conversations of stupid people: 'God, there's no worse feeling than missing a bus is there? It's awful. It just feels worse than anything.' I heard a girl say to her friend yesterday. (You sure about that? How about waterboarding? Losing your entire family in a fire? Having your fingernails ripped out by Triads? No. Apparently nothing. Duh.)
7. Edinburgh bus rules. In Glasgow, everyone piles on, fists flying. In Edinburgh you have to wait for people to get off before you get on. V. civilised.
8. The CCTV. Check your hair in the bus telly as you get off.
9. The amusing shop names of Leith Walk. The Yummy House, The Spicy Pot, The Cat's Miaou, Lolo's Gemstone, and Chimei, which I can't go past without internally yelling 'CHIMAAAAI' in the voice of Timmy from South Park. Not forgetting Borland's Darts and Television (because throwing darts at the television is FUN!)
10. The S&M Hotdog: on the way to Leith shore, the 22 goes past a snack bar with an enormous fibreglass hotdog standing outside it. With a deranged expression on its sausage face, it stands there gleefully slathering itself with mustard and ketchup, waiting to be devoured. Weird.
11. Watching the inevitable slide down the social scale from the bottom to the top of Leith Walk. Bottom of Leith Walk - Italian delis, theatregoers, groups of well-heeled Spanish children on school trips. Top of Leith Walk - lepers with nae teeth.
12. The silvery glistening delights of Leith Shore. The water of Leith is really quite beautiful on a clear morning, even with dead ducks and Farmfoods carrier bags floating in it.
13. God, finding 22 good things about a frigging bus is hard.
14. The bus stop is right outside the Disney store, which means I can watch Tom and Jerry cartoons through the shop window while I wait.
15. It's never late. Or early. If you miss it, there's always another one along. It's just always there. In fact, it's so reliable that you could probably phone it at 3 am and cry about getting dumped and it'd be all like 'oh, don't worry, he was a bastard anyway.'
16. You can play ned bingo.
17. I've never had to stand up on it, ever.
18. Once this total loony got on and started singing the complete works of Gilbert and Sullivan under his breath at super fast speed. It was a virtuoso performance.
19. It deposits you at Ocean Terminal, where you can eat and go shopping - providing you only want a helium balloon from Birthdays and a M&S sandwich.
20. It stops outside an aquarium shop which has a sign on the door saying 'No Dogs. We have a cat.' (WHAT ABOUT THE FISH??)
21. It goes past Gayfield Square *giggles like an idiotic 9 year old*
22. Er, that's it.
8 months ago