Thursday, 11 February 2010

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Having covered it in pastiche (q.v.) I thought it about time that I tackled the real thing. The book that launched Irvine Welsh’s career, Trainspotting was subsequently picked up by filmmaker Danny Boyle who turned it into the must-see film of 1996. I ought to know; I was a student at the time and saw it in the cinema. Twice.


While the book mainly focuses on a cast of drug users from Edinburgh, its style is of a collection of vignettes with a motley collection of chancers, drunks, losers and nutters flitting in and out of the loosely connected stories. One of the most memorable of these is Francis ‘Franco’ Begbie; an alcoholic sociopath, prone to exploding into mindless violence at any given moment:

The probem wi Begbie wis... well, thirs that many problems wi Begbie. One ay the things thit concerned us maist wis the fact thit ye couldnae relax in his company, especially if he’d hud a bevvy.

Mark Renton, one of the principal narrators in the book, is out on the town for someone’s 21st and Begbie is tagging along. He’s obviously started already:

The Beggar had been bevvying up before we met him. He looked seedy and menacing done up in a suit, the way draftpaks do, indian ink spilling oot from under cuffs and collar onto neck and hands.

It’s a night out that promises to be a heavy one. Begbie is mouthing off and itching for a fight. Spotting a bunch of heavies coming into the bar, he’s plotting trouble while Renton goes downstairs to get the next round in:

Ah take the drinks back, the nips first fir the women, then the pints. Then it happens. Aw ah did was put a pint ay Export in front ay Begbie. He takes one fuckin gulp oot ay it; then he throws the empty glass fae his last pint straight ower the balcony, in a casual, backhand motion. It’s one ay they chunky, panelled glasses wi a handle, n ah kin see it spinnin through the air oot the corner ay ma eye.

The glass splits someone’s head open. Begbie’s downstairs demanding to know who did it. Within minutes, all hell has broken loose:

One fat cunt fae the group ay psychos goes up tae this other group ay guys at the bar n sticks the heid oan one ay them. The place goes up. Lassies scream, guys issue threats, push each other and exchange blows as the sound ay brekin gless fills the air.

Or as Welsh would have it, a normal night out in Edinburgh...

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