Friday, 17 February 2017


There's definitely a thread, or should I say, line, of drugs running through this weeks blog. Some may disagree with some opinions I've written here, in fact, it may just get "right up your nose".

Never one to turn down a chance to go to the theatre, especially if it's with a free ticket, I took up the invite of my friend Innes to join a packed house at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh to see the musical Rent. Loosely based on Puccini's La Boheme, it is set circa 1989 in New York City. It follows the lives of a group of friends living in the East Village, as they deal with love, loss, AIDS and modern day life, with transmission through sex and drugs of the HIV virus playing its part in the demise of some characters.

At least, that's what I'm told it was about.

It is closer to a rock opera than a musical I would say, and though the choreography and the singing voices of the actors was without fault, the score was just one big noise. Eventually it all blended into one, and I struggled, as did those around me, to make any sense of what was going on. Thankfully, with the pre knowledge of the synopsis, I was able to occasionally pin a scene on what could be a part of the story, but other than that, I can't say it grabbed me. What you might call a "Marmite" show. I was so unimpressed personally, I did something I've never done before, and left at the interval.

Part of that was the experience, but part was also that I was pretty much exhausted from a recent project I'd undertaken.

Just three weeks ago I invested in a new rental apartment in the centre of Edinburgh city. To say that you don't get much for your money these days is an understatement. It's probably just as well that I'm not going to allow tenants to have pets, as it's so small you couldn't get a cat in there, let alone swing it. At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking very little needed done before getting it on the market. As the first few days rolled by, it became evident that was not the case.

Various bodged repair jobs had been crudely covered up, which all needed corrected, but worse than that, there was an unidentifiable smell. The more I worked in the place, the more I noticed it. To cut a long, investigative story short, I finally deduced it was the stale and acrid residue of a heavy hash smoker! The brown tar-like substance I literally scraped from the upper reaches of the UPVC window frames, was enough to bring back your lunch. I'm not suggesting it was the previous owner, as during my investigative work in lifting the floorboards, there was a strong smell of something similar emanating from the flat below. Two weeks on, and I'm not much further forward in getting rid of it, despite using sealers on the walls and woodwork, as well as deep cleaning. I am now at the stage of stripping off all the wallpaper and starting again.

The bedroom is the one room that is unaffected, and despite being small, it looks great now that it is finished.

Everything comes in threes they say, and to round off the week I had a drug experience of a different kind, in the form of T2, the sequel to the 1996 film Trainspotting.

Same cast, same director. The story centres around the return of Ewan McGregor's character Renton, who, at the end of the original film, made off with the groups illgotten drugs money. Having fallen on miserable times in Amsterdam, he returns to Edinburgh and looks up old friends. But the psychopath Begbie (Robert Carlyle), in an unconnected incident, escapes from prison, and when he learns that Renton is in town, he seeks revenge for being double crossed.

It lacks the energy and pace of the first film, but it has enough surprises and moments of disgust to be just as entertaining in its own right. If you haven't seen the original though, a lot of the references will be lost on you. Production values, helped by a much larger budget of course, were far higher, and it was a lot of fun location spotting in the setting of Edinburgh. There's a nice start to the film to show a lot has changed in the past 20 years, as McGregor's character arrives in Edinburgh, and travels on the modern tram into the city centre, with a look of surprise on his face as he stares out of the window.

A familiar visual moment for me in the first film was when they visit the UKs most remote railway station at Corrour, and the view toward the hill Leum Uilleim, a favourite destination of mine. It was fun when the sequel returned to the same spot. 

Famously in the first film, Ewan McGregors character delivers a monologue, based on Iggy Pops Lust for Life. It memorably starts off:
"Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a big television. Choose washing machines, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance..."

In T2 they update it well, and it serves to demonstrate some changes of the past 20 years:
"Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and hope that someone cares what you had for breakfast. Choose reality TV. Choose a zero-hours contract, a two-hour journey to work. Choose the same for your kids and smother the pain with an unknown drug someone made in their kitchen..."

Choose Life.

Then a remarkable moment happened as we wandered home, discussing the films merits. As we came to a road junction, a recognisable figure came round the corner. None other than Aidan Bremner, father of Ewen Bremner, who plays Spud in Trainspotting! It was an astonishing coincidence, even more so as it is also 20 years since I have seen Aidan! Ewen was born and brought up where I live in Portobello, so there is a strong connection, and his father and I have been friends since the start of the 90s, when I ran my deli.

What a fitting end to a Perfect Day.

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