Saturday, 24 August 2013

Getting carried away


It has been a more surreal than usual on the bus this week.  I saw a dog wearing a hat:  neither rain hat nor sun hat but a rather snappy fedora.  He was travelling in a Tesco’s supermarket shopping basket tied to the back fender of, appropriately enough, a ‘sit up and beg’ bike.   I also saw a man riding a bicycle carrying a birch tree in a bag.  Not a sapling, you understand, but a tree of substantial height waving its silver leaves gently about ten feet above the cyclist’s head.  It was a curiously soothing sight.

Another day, over the course of one journey I saw no fewer than eleven sofas, all of varying sizes, shapes, colours and conditions, tied to the tops of cars or lolling in the backs of small flatbed trucks of various design and headed east down Ferry Road.  Do sofas lead secret lives, I wondered, attending raves when their owners aren’t looking?  Is other furniture involved?  Is there a secret movement of radical armchairs holding rallies in the dead of night in a Safestore in Leith?  

It reminded me of a dark, fiercely cold afternoon a couple of winters ago when I was walking through the tunnel out of the Grassmarket where a busker was exploiting both the shelter and the fabulous acoustics playing ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ on his saxophone (which was accurate as well as enjoyable).  Heading up toward the Lothian Road I was pushed into the road by a three piece suite hurtling down the pavement, their little caster wheels practically smoking they were in such a rush.  It was quite a disappointment to discover someone at the back, pushing. 

Of course, one always expects to see unusual sights during the Festival, so the hats, dogs, trees and sofas might have gone relatively unremarked, had I not seen several bus spotters in the same week as well.  Easily recognised, they travel in pairs, discussing buses in a technical sort of way and have notebooks and stubby pencils and copies of ‘Buses’ magazine (which is apparently the world’s biggest selling bus magazine--although I expect this is only really impressive if there are other bus magazines?).

I should not, of course, be surprised to discover there are bus spotters, if only as a sort of logical extension of train-spotting (and what could be more appropriate in Edinburgh than Trainspotting?).  There is even a GB Bus Group, which describes itself as ‘a bus enthusiast society founded in 2006 aimed at those interested in the modern bus scene.‘  I hadn’t even realised there was a ‘bus scene’; the very words make me think of go-go boots, beehive hairdos and lots of polyester velour--like the stuff they use to upholster bus seats.  Maybe that’s where all the sofas  were headed:  to a totally groovy omnibus/furniture Velvet Underground fringe event at the Lothian Buses depot called something like ‘Transports of Delight’? 

Edinburgh is such a Salvador Dali sort of city just now that on Friday I came home from work, put my feet in the kitchen sink and read a book*.  But seriously, who would want things any other way?  Even the crankiest Festival nay-sayer could not fail to be charmed by the bus driver who, after a short debate with himself, decided he could allow a duck on-board...and he didn’t even make him pay a fare. 

*an act of homage to ‘I Capture the Castle’--a novel about, among other things, the importance of eccentricity.

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