T2. It’s good. Very good.

Just had the thrill of seeing T2 on the first day of general release, here in Leith, where Porno is set, but not a lot of the film is shot here. I don’t like multi-plexes, but 40 years ago Henry Robb’s shipyard stood right where we were sitting in comfort watching the film. It’s all part of the legacy. Not that Danny Boyle makes anything of it, in T2. This is an update of the characters, not of Leith.

So – no spoilers. Go and see it yourself. It’s worth re-reading both Trainspotting and Porno, and watching the film Trainspotting again if you haven’t done so for a while. The more familiar you are, the more you get out of T2. There are some lovely reprises, flash-backs, inversions, and twists. And it’s funny and entertaining while having its moments of honesty and sadness. The music isn’t as compelling as I was expecting, and although it is clearly set in Edinburgh I’m not so sure it’s going to be easy to string together the locations to form a tour. But somebody will be working on that.

OK, I lost my little wager. I was expecting Sick Boy to have a fantasy conversationalist along the lines of Shir Sean in Trainspotting and Alex McLeish in Porno. I was hoping Boyle would be taking the mick out lf Alex Salmond. He doesn’t. For fuller details, see the film. But I was right in the big forecast: never under-estimate Danny Boyle’s creative genius. I think this is set to be another classic, riding the title that has become a catchphrase in common parlance for all it’s worth. And the central rap: Choose this, choose that… it’s not copyright, but in all other senses it belongs to Welsh and Boyle and, well OK, McGregor as well.

And by the way, just enjoy it. There’s a lot of comedy, and even some farce. But there are some real truths in there as well. And there’s a strong story. I worried that at 2 hours it might be paunchy and flabby, in contrast to the very tight pacey punchy 90 minutes of Trainspotting. But it isn’t. The intellectualisation and contextualising will come later. It’s good. Very good.

We’re all getting excited.

Well, a very interesting time was had on the weekend of the premiere of T2. There was me taking a tour for my punters, with Radio Forth and Sky Entertainment in tow. My ideas of where to go and what to say went out of the window. See production teams? My punters contributed to the journos – vox pop for them, of course, and the guys played into it. I didn’t hear the Radio Forth output, but the Sky piece went online later in the day. They got me to say that line about there being gaps in people’s lives that were filled by heroin about five times. There’s no knowing why they chose that version, I didn’t think it was my best! I took them to the scene of “urban distress”, where Katey walks down the steps saying how 1960s planning didn’t work out. She was right on location for that – it used to be Leith’s magnificent Kirkgate, heartbeat of the town. And on Sunday they went on the orange carpet (railway orange – geddit?) and interviewed the stars. Fame by association.

Then during the premiere itself they had me live on Radio 5 Live. Terrifying! They had me lined up to be interviewed along with another guy who didn’t answer his phone and didn’t show. So it skewed the line of questioning that I was prepared for. Then the Skype connection went funny and I was cut off in my prime. Listen to it here , it’s about 13 minutes in.

Leave a comment in my guestbook, why doncha.

Trainspotting update – and it’s not just T2

All eyes this weekend are on Cineworld, Fountainbridge Edinburgh as T2 premieres tomorrow evening. More on that anon.

A nice piece of artwork on the wall of what used to be the Volley on Leith Walk (now the Mousetrap - go there, re-live it for yourself), where Tommy witnesses Begbie losing it at the pool table and assaulting a "specky wee gadge"

Nice, eh? Looks like Begbie, but at the games machines they have there now, not the pool table. It’s not just Danny Boyle who has to keep up. Leith is right up there too.

T2 brings the foursome of Trainspotting back together, roughly along the lines of Porno, the book sequel. The previews say it’s a regretful look back at youth from middle age. No suggestion that it takes the larger scene into account, you know, the IndyRef and Brexit. So, no mickey-take of Big Eck Salmond, as I was hoping for in my last blog. It’s personal. Which certainly tells me that in ten or fifteen years time there’ll be T3. That’s a captive generational audience Boyle has created, that likes to see itself grow older on the screen. Why not? – if there’s money in it. Not that it’s small achievement: Trainspotting had to not just capture a moment in the 90s, but also create one, such a strong one that the 90s generation can point to it, tell their children “that was me!” “I was there!” Well done, and good luck to you Danny.

Anyway, there we were, this morning, in the Mousetrap and the Docker’s Club, and other Trainspotting places in between, with Sky Entertainment and Radio Forth and some unreconstructed fans who had organised a reunion weekend in Edinburgh without realising the bit about T2. Look at Sky News tomorrow, around the half-hour for most of the day, and catch Radio Forth tomorrow afternoon for their takes on it all. And tune in to BBC Radio 5 Live around 7.30 tomorrow evening, when I am expecting to be in a studio discussion to fill in around interviews on the red carpet.

I really hope the film is good, after all this!

Blwyddyn newydd dda

OK, I’m staying with the Welsh theme – you’ll have to translate the heading yourself – although I’m back in the homeland now and I’ve had a couple of excellent tours over the Hogmanay. The level of knowledge and enthusiasm is wonderful. I’ve taken note of a couple of points made during the conversations, and I’ll be checking my drafts. Can’t afford to be even slightly wide of the mark in a published piece of work! Thank you, everyone.

There’s much discussion about T2, Boyle’s film of the sequel to which he can’t give the title of the book. It’s due out in a few weeks, maybe this month. Let’s start a hare running. In Trainspotting Sick Boy has a recurring fantasy conversation with Shir Shean Connery. Boyle picked it up and made something out of it in the film. In Porno Big Tam (as Shir Shean was known in his Edinburgh days) is replaced by Alex McLeish, then manager at Hibs FC. They go in for some macho man-management discussions, all feeding Sick Boy’s ego and giving the reader a wee smile. I’m betting Danny Boyle will give Sick Boy a fantasy interlocutor in T2, it’s a continuation element of the whole project. But it can’t be McLeish. Who then?

My guess is that Boyle will give expression to his hatred of identity politics and nationalism. Looking around Scotland, who would match Sick Boy’s gambling instincts, carelessness with facts, readiness to make wild, unsupported claims? There are a few candidates, but the king of all would be Alex Salmond. He could make Sick Boy’s efforts look like schoolboy stuff. Could be a laugh. Let’s see.

Nadolig Llawen

From the Principality of Wales I send my very best wishes for Christmas to you all on this winter solstice day of 2016. The sun is overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn today, so from now on it gets lighter and warmer all the way to the next cricket season. Thinking of which, it’s a shame our brave and heroic boys in white got so soundly humped in India in the last few weeks. Nice people, Indians, but when it comes to cricket they can be tricky. Without doubt, they are worthy number ones.

Last night in the pub the musicians turned up. Then came Mari Lloyd, a skull, in this case a horse’s skull, atop a small person with a sheet round her (him?). She was accompanied by two Welsh pipers, very nice. They asked the landlord’s permission to enter, which was granted on condition they sang some songs and generated a bit of good cheer. This keeps the pub safe over the winter. Fair enough. And a jolly good time was had by all. Nice people, the Welsh.

I’ll be at home for the Scottish Hogmanay, and you’ll see on The Walks page that I’m doing a couple of turn-up-and-go tours. Come if you can, you’re welcome.

Don’t get mad. Get even.

Oh dear me. First Brexit, then Trump. The fact that the pundits didn’t see either coming means the databases they were using were out of date. Something big has happened. But let’s not get mad. Let’s get even.

It’s inequality at the bottom of it. There is always inequality; now it is visible. It is flaunted. The people of the poor world – I was in Uganda this month – can see the prosperity of the world I come from. Tourists fly in, get on an air-con bus, go to their air-con accommodation, and go on safari. I was with family, and I got hot, bloody hot, we had punctures and stood by the roadside in the heat of the day – good fun, but even so the differences between our lifestyle and that of our new family are obvious. Very few people are employed, most work damn hard for very small margins without any prospect of advancement. Oh dear me, the warld’s ill divided. Them that work the hardest are aye the least provided. Meanwhile, people in Sunderland and Ohio see their livelihoods moved overseas, leaving them resentful in the Rust Belt.

Never mind diversity. It doesn’t help if a few more black people join the ranks of the super-rich. It doesn’t help if people can be openly gay and no-one cares. It doesn’t help if people of different religions live and work happily side by side. Diversity is all to the good, and we’re not going back on it. But it’s economic inequality that does the damage. In my lifetime in my country we have had mostly strong governments that have funded key infrastructure and services out of taxation. But government is becoming increasingly irrelevant and powerless. This is a world governed by the powerful. It was ever thus, this is a reversion to type, to the base instincts of humankind. My generation born in western Europe is the most fortunate in the history of homo sapiens.

So how do we get even? Don’t ridicule the Brexit-voters and the Trump-ists. Listen to them. Take them seriously. Address their needs. Their cheer-leaders would encourage them in a civil war with their own neighbours. The enemy is not the neighbour, nor the worker in another country who is now doing the work they did. The enemy is the corporate world, which exploits the workers around the world to the advantage of a very few who are unaccountable, who live the life of luxury and don’t pay tax. We have seen this throughout history. The answer is solidarity and collective action. Trade unions were formed to protect communities and individuals from the worst effects of capitalism. Capitalism has morphed into corporatism. Unionism needs to change shape too.

Excessive greed and petty nationalism

Time to take a wee break from the book. I’m hoping there may be something to report in the New Year. Let’s get back to the real business: the Scottish political scene. Watching an STV discussion programme the other evening I was struck once again by the bombast and, well, sheer rudeness of Alec Salmond. Rather than let David Mundell – no I have no time for Tories either – say his piece, Salmond was jeering “there speaks Scotland’s only Tory”. And other irrelevant and offensive remarks. Here’s a letter I didn’t send to The Herald:

I was brought up in Christian socialism, an old-fashioned name but it’s still good stuff. My particular strand is trade unionism. There has to be room also for individual rights, including the right not to conform. With every right, of course, comes a responsibility. And everyone has to have the opportunity to be enterprising, take risks, and reap personal reward. No individual and no group can become wealthy or powerful outside certain margins. In the modern day the main device for achieving this is that everyone pays tax, and key infrastructure and services are paid from the public purse.

This analysis is represented in modern party politics respectively by the Labour Party, the Lib-Dems, and the Conservatives. The present English-based Tory party is unspeakable, but the core principle of personal enterprise and reward cannot be disallowed because of them.

If I thought the SNP had any guiding principle for government I might join it. But their sole aim is to depart the UK. It’s a faith-based doctrine, not a principle and not an evidence based policy. Like everyone else, I want Scots and Scotland to do well: have a strong identity, be well governed, and be as prosperous as we reasonably may be in a world of too much poverty. If I thought that an “independent” Scotland would bring this about, I would vote for it.

The need for the core values of Christian socialism never dies. We will survive this unpleasant period of excessive greed and petty nationalism, and they will be put into action again.

I was at a Labour party meeting last night, and I’ll be out on the street tomorrow, drawing attention to the dire state of the health service in Scotland. No, the SNP government cannot duck responsibility, cannot say it is living within austerity cuts imposed from Westminster. And while we’re at it, what happened to make Nicola Sturgeon back the third runway at Heathrow? Even Iain McWhirter has rumbled her. Did she promise Theresa May SNP votes at Westminster when it comes to the vote? Is SNP policy defined by the shape of the last corporate bottom to sit on it? Why do the Scottish Greens go anywhere near the SNP?

Kevin McKenna has got on their case as well. He points out that the SNP has long said that local authorities should be able to ban betting shops from opening in poor neighbourhoods. But they have been awful slow doing anything about it. Meantime, if you were at the SNP national conference the other week there was a stand run by, yes, that’s it, the gambling industry. Funny, that, isn’t it? See what I mean about it being a principle-free party?

Well, I stick with the optimism of the last line of the letter that was never sent. But I’m afraid I can’t put a time frame on it, and I don’t know what will happen in the meantime.

Re-arranging material

It’s amazing how one’s material can be re-arranged. Some years ago I was talking with a chap in the publishing game who said it was obvious, to him anyway, that my book about Trainspotting must start with my critical analysis of the book itself. So I went with it, being a suggestible sort of chap. More recently I’m being told that since Trainspotting belongs so firmly in history and geography, I need to set the scene before I get into the literature. It works much better like that. Can’t say too much, but several of among my vast following will be incredulous when I report that there are real signs that my book will see the light of day. It’s no good moaning about how long it has taken. It has matured in the process.

The re-arranging is entirely in keeping with Welsh’s experience. He was happy to see his book re-arranged into the version that became the stage play, and then again when he agreed to let Danny Boyle put it through the mincer and add a lot of new stuff. Welsh is a DJ at heart – every time you touch the stuff it’s different, like no two gigs are the same.

So, I have the content and the voice for the book, now I’m arranging it into a shape that agents and publishers think they may be able to sell. That’s what it’s all about. Published authors all say the final editing and publishing process is creative in itself. Yes, well. They don’t always add that it’s hard work as well. And fun. Of course.

Edinburgh in August. Wish you were here?

I hope they’re not calling me curmudgeonly, out on the street there. They could be. Not entirely without reason, it has to be said. That’s the Edinburgh Festival over for another year, I’m told. How many shows did I go to? One. And that was with a grandchild. It was a bit disappointing, if you ask me, but if you ask her I expect she would say she enjoyed it. So it goes.

The monthly meeting of the non-fiction writers group I go to held the August meeting in the courtyard bar at Summerhall, a very convivial joint, and before turning up I was bit defensive about how curmudgeonly I have been. I shouldn’t have worried. My one show was an increase on some of my friends’ efforts. One chap, with nothing to do on a day off in Edinburgh in August went for a day out to Markinch on the train. MARKINCH! Jolly interesting he said. Now some might say that’s curmudgeonly, but not, presumably, him. It takes all sorts, does it not? (That’s not curmudgeonly. Ed)

Well, I’m with Richard Demarco on the subject of Edinburgh in August. It’s hit saturation point – too many shows chasing not enough audiences. Having thrived from being unregulated, the Fringe has gone professional and commercial to a disappointing extent. There’s some good stuff, very good stuff, well worth seeing and supporting. But, sadly, not cheap, not always worth taking a punt on a ticket like it was back in the day. And, as big Richard says, Edinburgh doesn’t deserve its good fortune. The city doesn’t have to bid for this and wait fifteen years for the next turn. It’s a cash-cow. They rejoice in ever-increasing numbers of tickets sold, shows seen, hotel rooms taken, tram journeys to the airport. An entirely commercial model, in other words. Where are the scholarships for artistic endeavour? Mind you, they can put on a spectacular for the telly. The nightly fireworks, and the biggie on Monday evening to finish off the Festival. How much does every rocket cost? (that’s curmudgeonly – Ed). But it’s worth it, to get the images and profile round the world.

There’s a line in my book tracking Sick Boy in the episode In Overdrive on the High Street: “The Fringe was probably at its strongest in the 1980s: mature, confident, flexible, subversive, aspirational, funny, open, and cheap, before it became a shop window for the professionals and a sequence of television studios having a month on the road.” That was then. But we’re dealing with fiction here, not history. I go on: “Sick Boy is not there to enjoy the fun in any generous or open way, but to personally take advantage of the ‘fanny of every race, colour, creed and nationality present’”. Ah, I was young once. I was no Sick Boy, of course. A decent fellow, me, if a little curmudgeonly. That’s history.

The Voice.

‘Ere the month is out, I must blog. It is written. So, dear reader(s? – more than one? – that would be nice), I blog. (does “to blog” exist as a verb? – Ed.)

You must not think, dear reader(s?), that I blog for blogging’s sake. No, this month I have been busy on the book project. You must understand the context for use of this term “busy”, of course. I have been discussing with a chap who could turn out to be my agent, if things go well. He’s seen some of my stuff. He makes good points. There could be two, or even three books in it. It’s good, he likes it, but what needs to be considered is – would it sell? I give myself on the page the same voice that I use on the street, and cover the same ground. That is, within a few sentences I can flick from history to geography, to community, to literature, to film, to drug culture. It works on tour – see the rave reviews I’m getting. Does it work on the page?

Of course, to support the voice on the page there will be illustrations and maps. Without them the reader would be lost. But there’s more to it than that. The environment, that is Leith and its ghosts, needs to come alive, to be a living organism and a character itself. That can easily be the sort of arty-farty literary pseudo-talk that gets you nowhere. But other people get away with it – Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, that sort of writer. Far be it from me to over-state my claims by this sort of association, but ye ken whit ah mean. Eh? The Voice needs to carry its audience and its readers with it. I like my voice.

So I’m working away quietly in the background. The thing is, what with retiring from the day job in August, which certainly loosens up a bit of time, and having a wee bit of (nice) family business to attend to, the chap-who-could-be-my-agent-if-things-go-well and I will review what we’ve got in early September. The target date for publication is mid-2018, Trainspotting‘s Silver Jubilee. So we need to get a move-on.

Even blogging once a month takes time out of drafting up the book. But it’s worth it, for you, dear reader(s?). Bleib bei mich. Stay with me.