I did my Comic Art Masterclass in a school in Penicuik this week, being based in Edinburgh for the month performing at Winter Wonderland, so arranged a taxi to get me there.
Like anyone who's used most forms of transport, I'm familiar with some costing more than others. Planes seem to cost less than trains and get there 8 times faster, cars seem to get cheaper every week (88p a gallon? What is this, Christmas?) but are slower than trains. And walking is the best for you, but the journey from Bristol to Edinburgh takes you a month and you only get a three star show out of it at the end, which hardly seems worth the effort.
And I'm used to the taxi ride from my house in Clevedon to my usual destination in Bristol costing about 20 quid and taking half an hour, compared to a bus ride that takes nearly an hour and costs around a fiver. Taxis go twice as fast but cost four times as much as buses, that's the equation I'm used to.
Edinburgh to Penicuik was different. 25 quid for the taxi didn't seem that bad at all. It was about the same distance as my Clevedon to Bristol route, maybe a bit longer, and it was warm, friendly and convenient. The journey home by bus was more of a surprise. There was I at the bus stop, jingling pound coins in my hand, and ready to dive into my back pocket should I need to break a tenner for the journey, and then the driver tells me the fare to Princes Street.
£1.10. One pound ten. Buses cost more than that when I was a teenager! The Beano costs more than that, and it doesn't take you on a scenic route into one of the most gorgeous cities in the known universe, and let you have a free copy of Metro to read at the same time.
Quite how a bus service can operate charging so little for its journeys - I subsequently learnt that you can travel anywhere in the Lothians, any number of journeys in one day, for two pounds fifty - I cannot begin to conceive. Added to which there is a bus into Edinburgh every 12 minutes, and this seems to be the pattern all over the area (a far cry from my home town's one bus per hour, and only two all Sunday, business plan).
Long may it last. Cheap buses, and plentiful, available for all. How is it that Edinburgh can have this so right, so sorted, and yet at the same time be wasting time and money on laying tram lines that go from Leith to the airport but don't quite reach the airport, and be carving up the streets of the New Town with hideous roadblocks that turn half the ancient boulevards into one-way cul-de-sacs and make the whole place look like Belfast during the troubles? Say lavvy.