Travel: Trainspotting tour of Leith, 1st June 2013

Edinburgh

At the start of June, I was lucky enough to find myself in the rather beautiful city of Edinburgh. Of course, there was whisky and for the 50% of the group that eats meat there was haggis, neeps and tatties.

But on Saturday morning, we strolled out to Leith and met up with the fascinating Tim of www.leithwalks.co.uk to embark on a Trainspotting tour. At this point, I have to confess that I haven’t actually read much Irvine Welsh. In point of fact, I haven’t really read any. No idea why, just one of the many authors I haven’t encountered as fully as I could have done. Two of  my party, however, are avid fans and I am never one to turn down an interesting literary experience. Meeting up with Tim at the Port O’ Leith pub – a familiar haunt of Welsh himself back in the day – it became clear immediately that this is a man who knows his subject inside out, upside down and back to front. His copy of Trainspotting is the sort of battered, patched, post-it noted, much-loved book that can’t help but make a book lover smile at the amount of sheer love it’s received.

I won’t spoiler the details or route of the walk itself for you, as some things are best discovered in person. But if you ever find yourself in the vicinity I really do strongly recommend you try to commandeer a couple of hours of Tim’s time. We’re not talking about a typical ‘and on your left, Welsh once had a coffee in that very bar’ umbrella-following tour here – we’re talking something much more in-depth, personal and fascinating.

Tim took us on a walking tour of Leith that encompassed its socio-economic – and indeed, political – history just as much as it encompassed the physical setting of the streets of Leith and the background to the novels of Welsh. Emphasis was on Trainspotting, but with an expert at the head and two Welsh fans and two fascinated onlookers in the group it was inevitable that Welsh’s other novels feature strongly too.

At every stopping point along the way, Tim explained the background and history, talking eloquently about everything from the way working men’s clubs worked (familiar to us, but must be an interesting thing to explain to those whose culture doesn’t really include such institutions) to the architecture of the old station with a side order of the ravages the 60s’ fetish for concrete high rises on community. And of course, Welsh’s narrative decisions were woven in seamlessly. At every stop, having set the scene with wonderful eloquence and passion, Tim also read us key passages from the novel – and at one point caused much hilarity by encouraging our party to act out a section in their best Sean Connery voices.

Seriously well worth attending if you ever get the opportunity – Tim’s enthusiasm and frankly phenomenal storehouse of knowledge make it something far more than simply a novel way to spend a couple of hours.

And yes, I am finally getting around to reading the book. It’s a lot easier now that I’ve actually heard some of it read in the appropriate accent!

Event: An Evening with the cast of Red Dwarf, The Approach, Nottingham. 02.05.2013

Tongue Tied

It’s not often you head towards The Approach at a little before 7pm on a Thursday evening and encounter a distinctly nerd-flavoured queue halfway down Friar Lane. But since last Thursday involved the venue playing host to an intimate ‘Evening With’ appearance from all four of the crew of the mining ship Red Dwarf, it was perhaps inevitable.

The event was such a resounding success even before it took place that it took just two hours for the tickets to sell out, and from thereonin the sterling work of event organiser, Lee Wallis, guaranteed a coup for both him and the city of Nottingham.

Three quarters of the team took the stage early on in the evening, their longstanding camaraderie immediately evident in both their banter and their poking good-natured fun at the non-appearance of Danny John Jules, whose lateness will be no particular surprise to anyone who’s ever attended a Red Dwarf convention!

Craig Charles immediately commandeered the microphone, cracking jokes and generally getting the ball rolling with some highly amusing anecdotes in which he managed to demonstrate an impressive ability to recall several reviews verbatim (his acting has apparently been described as “like a cheese and ham sandwich without the cheese and bread”) while also extracting belly laughs from the entire audience.

Robert Llewellyn was induced to explain (and demonstrate) exactly how he came up with Kryten’s walk, and the three of them were happy to perform a quick rendition of Tongue Tied, encoring with Danny when he finally arrived to roars of amusement from the crowd and amused resignation from his comrades. Regrettably dancing-free, but as the stage was tiny and they revealed that with the exception of Danny they’d all had to spend a full week rehearsing that particular scene, maybe it was just as well for the safety of the pints in the first row of a distinctly packed Approach!

Tidbits of interest to the show’s fans (of which, of course I have been one since… well, since forever, really, since it started airing when I was 10 and I have older siblings of a sci-fi persuasion) were revealed along the course of the evening: the most pertinent being that Doug Naylor is in the process of writing series XI, and they’re all keen to participate! But we also gathered that Danny’s exits can take some time to perfect, that Craig has a remarkable memory for lines, and that Chris Barrie spent most of a day gesticulating in an assortment of increasingly bizarre ways in order to achieve the full, final Rimmer salute.

But really, the event was all about the boys from the ‘Dwarf themselves. It was evident throughout the entire night that this is a bunch of blokes who like and respect each other and have known one another for twenty-five years. The banter was both hilarious and good-natured, the reminiscing was plentiful and the mood was lively – in a setting as intimate as the well-chosen Approach, it felt a little bit like we’d all been invited to sit around in their living room while they had a natter and threw some jokes around.

RD Full Cast

They indulged the audience freely, slipping into Duane Dibbley, Ace and Kryten trying to say ‘smeghead’ when requested, and while Chris couldn’t for the life of him remember what CLITORIS stood for when asked, Craig’s impressive memory came to the rescue – after the inevitable few jokes. We still don’t know exactly what was on that double polaroid, though. Oh, and, we hate to say it, but Chris isn’t a particular fan of gazpacho soup. Too cold.

When pressed for the real high points, though, the guys came over all serious for once and made it quite clear that it was all about the camaraderie between the boys from the ‘Dwarf, who’ve known each other longer in some cases than they’ve known their wives. Not bad for a bunch of guys that describe themselves as ‘Last of the Summer Wine in Space’.

After a well-orchestrated Q&A session with the crowd, the cast lingered for a signing marathon as the poor bar staff did their best to retrieve the empty glasses left by a happy crowd in a sold-out room. It really couldn’t have gone better.

Given the phenomenal success of this event, I’d strongly recommend keeping your eyes peeled for similar future occasions.

Event Organiser: Twitter. Facebook.
Venue Website: The Approach Nottingham.