Choose Scotland. Choose kalyard kitsch and tartan tinned shortbread. Choose being run by someone in London. Choose being rubbish at national sports, well the ones which people care about. Choose a kilted image of a warrior nation when actually we would most all die from pie induced heart attacks if we ever had to fight. Choose heavy drinking, wife beating, not knowing where your weans are, not caring where your weans are, not caring where you are as long as it is in a pub. Choose waking up in the morning with a warm fuzzy feel that Edinburgh Castle is still there, the mountain tops have snow on them and Euan McGregor is the greatest man to play Euan McGregor on the silver screen ever....
I chose not to choose Scotland, I Moved away.
Then came T2 and I was, by royal invitation, asked to move back, well come back for a week as it would so transpire.
It all went arse about tit really, ,my oldest mate asked me over and having inherited a bob or thousand, said he would pay, The Scot in me at first said no, I am busy trying to start something new, which will inevitably fail, such is life being a presbyterian, self doubting lowlander. Then part of me said this is too good to be true. Then part of me felt guilty for taking advantage of someone who could use the money towards nurturing their cannaboid addiction or paying for the retirement home said misuse will lead to due to the risk of precocious senility. All those typically Scottish thoughts. Maybe I should let Westminster decide for me, BreEntry, personal, not for Doncaster and Sunderland's mumbling racists. I chose not to choose to be Scottish, I chose to come to Scotland on an expenses paid trip to see Trainspotting 2.
I compromised with myself. I had a window, a bit longer than a week. I could stay off FB and shitey SM so no one would really know who was expecting any pish from me in those few days, and claim winter holiday for the next couple as an excuse after the weekend to have some time to recover and see my mate in Edinbra' on the homeward leg Stretching it to a week brought down the flight and local train costs here enough to rebalance the guilt-benefit equation my inner Scottish wee stupid self was trying so hard to work over to the ' nah, I'm scottish, dont enjoy yourself at someone else's expense". I chose something else, I chose to book the tickets.
Now my oldest pal is a bit chalk to my cheese . But we have a lot in common, a lot of water under collective bridge of growing up together and growing old apart. We both have moved out of our hometown and started families elsewhere, but he is ahead of me on two counts the cunt. Firstly he has left one already, and had a bairn with another only to be kicked out of her place for his usual self centredness, smart alec ness, fuckwhittedness and passive aggression. Not always so very passive. He an only child, me practically that too, my brother being more than a decade older than me and off to sea aged 16. Us both facing up to the facts that the world expects more of you as an adult and father than we are fucking well prepared to give back to the cunty cunts.
I did it all wrong just the same, We are small doses with each other, usually his irritation takes about 16 hours and then he starts picking on things and trying to make sure we understand that this is his place or his son should not be told off, or that you may have bought lots of shopping but that bottle of scotch is a gift he will enjoy all the more for not opening before your tail lights leave his gaff or holiday caravan for the last time. I let him however, know that i was comong for longer than a four day weekend stint, and that was saving him money. So he ended up coming down from the darkest and most twiggy bits of the Aberdeenshire sticks to the so called capital with its parliament and shortbread tin castle. Pissing valentines day too, him with the roof down on his saab cabrio, may as well brought a pink, heart shaped balloon and deep throated the wanker with my tongue getting picked up at the Airport.
Like letting your mates tie you to a railway line, I let my mate know where and when I would be coming to Scotchlandshire.He planned accordinglky to enjoy my company to the full, much to my fcuking chagring the cunt, because I wanted to do some clearing out at my mums house in preperation for the inevitability of her entering a nursing home or having a timely demise. I should have lied and arranged to meet him on Friday and done the big night out on what used to be the big night out in Aberdeen, Satruday. I chose not to be smar, I chose to be at his mercy.
It dawned on me that a leopard does not change its spots, they get a little grey and blurred around the edges that is all, some of them fucking well merge it seems too. It took a whole 24 hours before his irritations and irrational 'friends accounting' took hold. As twice before at least I have pitched up with wads of food, I bought a good fifty quids worth of shopping including some ethanol based libationary fluids. And as before he seems to think that staying in one of his hovels is a novelty, kiind of depravitiy tourism, which I should set such a price on as to then transfer the entire ownership of said vittals and alcohol to him. :Two years ago it took my other half to say that he just did not deserve another bottle of scotch for letting us stay two nights at his shitty no longer mobile home rental, no matter how fine the location. It feels like you give someone half the contents of your wallet yet they expect to command its entirity. This has gone on since 2002 I do believe, a fucking decade and a fricking half. Neither of us has sodding well learned.
This time we discussed it though, and I told him to fuck off when he wanted coffee and a sweet after I made dinner night two, having done loads of dishes from god knows when and the preivous nights late night steak, cooked by a smoker who needs a tadd extra salt his nibs does indeed indeed. He complained about the cheap steak which he had chosen and I had paid for, which I cooked damnable well since it was rump after all, hot pan, let it cool a wee bit after the initial sizzle, rest the fucker after juices rise tropugh on the second turn. I wanted a slosh of wine not to go out and do the coffee at 10pm. Peace broke out as he realised that I wasnt taking his pish seriously, and after some wine and his whining, I waited for an opportune moment to become the immovable object which moved, got hima coffee and a damn good micropot sticky toffee pudd' and his unstoppable force managed to surrender to inertia. Peace broke out. T2 was still two nights away.
The last evening was spent running around delivering kids, him having gone like a good daddy to baby swimming at half nine and come back 3p,m with no explanation or even a bastard SMS to me. I had taken a lie-in and also taken full advantage of his whisky collection, which he really shouldnt keep in its original boxes as it hides such comrade driven evaporation. I went for a walk in countryside of which likes drove Lewis Grassic Gibbon whats his face to write books from sheer boredom, about something actualy happenign there. Rolling farmland, exposed to the winds from the North Sea and the Snow topped grampians. The long whale's back that is Benachie a little to the south, I can imagine why the picts held it in such reverance as it is the only sticky up bitty of note and elegance amidst miles and miles of sheer boredom. Perhaps it was more fun with bears, wild boar, elg and wolves running around chomping on your relatives or being chomped upon by them.
The day after we took a tour to where I used to live in the very shadow of said mountain. The house I had been lodger in was still there and the farmer, Geordie Skinner, still was the landowner with his Clydesdale horses. The nice lassie at reception at Pittodrie house told me. My mate took full advantage of being on the high margin colas, and the bill came to twenty three fucking quid for two pints, a whisky and those effing colas. It was interesting, because it was newly opened, 25 years ago, when I lived there. A place where I had turned down sexual intercourse with boith a girl of fifteen and a lady in her fifties thankfully. Not at the same time, it was a niece and aunty coincidence only, them liking tall chaps I guess and not having had it for a while.
Aberdeen's great grey corridors beckoned finally, and we made it in time well for the last late night showing of T2. Dinner was in a middles to shitty tex mex, some big retail opportunity site pish with an awful attempt at being original in decor and ambience. A chimichangas, not had since Dublin days out at Black Rock, soaked up most of the hotel room booze we had downed and some of its own interestingly labelled 'blond' beer from a hard up craft brewery somewhere. The film began about 1125. at night. It was almost empty, and we were the only vocal ones,. guffawwing and lauighting out loud.
On choosing life- one of the guys in the ads was right out of RSADA and he blew the proceeds on not chossing life, he chose some dope and had enough weed for all his mates too. He is now a hollywood director, who i beleive has directed Euan McGregor amonghst other names, one for sure is now Harrison Ford.
"It's been twenty years" as Spud put it. I am sick of Nostalgia. Sick and tired of the sick longing to rekindle, to relive to regurge it all Now at last though I find it an interesting experience rather than having either nerves nor excitement. It happened. As it it was back in 1971 when I was a student. Lang Syne. T 2 though obviously left me a little more melancholic, as if by design, for Renton is now a mere one year younger than my good self, and more Euan McGregor than ever befucking fore. Much like some other nostalgia tripping peoiple do, and our day at the Chapel o' Garioch the day before, the film played heavily on the past, quoting a bit too thickly from "T1" so to speak. Howevver it had a good enough series of plots, and wound the characters back together for what must be one last time, please tell us, just this and no more.
As with middle aged life though, you cant go making a comic book hotch potch of random scenes and let those around you work out what the fuck is going on, while you expect everything to be exciting and edgy. That is the mid life crisis, trying to go back to relive your youth or use your accumulated financial resources to OUT live your youth. Life is duller, harder and has responsibilities and regrets. Health is poorer, fitness is notable by its absence as ailments set in. T2 was for me an unnerving parallel universe with Einstiens theories of relativity pissed on, different speeds but the same time line, scared me. These once pop up cartoon characters now had histories, depth and most of all, most of cunting all, the same pathos you find around you and in your own life. Friends dead to you, times as a child a distant echo, the promise of youth denied by the realities of the world where you arent born with a silver spoon up your arse.
I left feeling my age, and feeling vulnerable a bit, but a little Begby in me kept my chin up as we walked up the hill passed the lappers to Union street in the midst of the pub to club transfer time. I found it all intimidating, so muich so that we asked a pair of coppers where to go, and they oddly enough knew a premises licsenced for later night entertainments and refreshments which was suitabkle for two middle aged fuckers who looked like they maybe had been through lives not unlike those of Renton and co. Drummonds had been on the go a quarter of a century ago as kind of indie rock bar, and now it was a kind of noisy rocky bar, with various detritus who did not fit into, or did not want to fit into the plastic club scene and had seen enough labias and bleached anuses for one life time donw the lappers already. The bonniest Jean in the toon of aberdeen even admired my Hunter S' style attire, hawaiin shirt under leather jacket, and kissed me, mostly because it was her first chance to enter demial about becoming engaged to, remarkably enough, a Johnny Lee Miller look alike who was celebrating his 40th. We down some more, and then sauntered off to the Casino,
I was feelign rather jolly at this point, and I had the furhter pleasure of the world's self appointed smartest alec, pish all his money away on the bad odds of the roulette wheel and the five pound stake black Jack table. THe beer was good though. A taxi back o'er the Dee to some god forsaken Hotel somewhere I did not really remember south of the city other than a big retail pharmacy lay out there and you could eventually get to Cove. 5 am we got to sleep, and the arse decided brekkie would be maccie dees, down the road. Him not being a breakfast man. Luckiuly there was tea and shortbread and some baguette at my place for me.
I took off down the road then to see my crumbkling old mother in the west coast. Not quite fully incontinent, however th\e smell of pee was notable. as was her yet more reduced mobility., Yet what can you do, be there for her, be nice, hug her, run after her a bit and ask all around care supporters and neighbours if she should be in a home against her will, or if she is kind of relatibvewly speaking coping. Which my brother does not agree with ,and rubs his hands at my meagre inheritance being pished away in private nursing home land, five hundert a week. She is no longer just in the long autumn of her life, she is in the flickering last light of december the 31st I do believe. And that is both a great sadness, but also a great joy. As with T2 there were some jamais vu things, happened. I came across old photos of me, pretty much first time home from hospital with my red haired, proud mum standing there as my bother swaddled me in his arms while wearing a klnd smile / not that I have seen that much since, there is usually a patronising or derisory look in his eye when he smiles at me. That gave me a great joy, to realise that I had come home to love and given my mum so much pleasure of being a mother again having lost at least two bairns in pregnancy I have heard about. I was not such a difficult wee boy, and we enjoyed many good times just me and her, going to London to see the museums in the autuimn holidays, or taking my pals on a picnic on Loch Fyne. She enjoyed my freinds parents, mostly outliving them all as she approaches 90 next birthday. She gets great joy now of knowing I have a family and she will see them once more at least before she is released from the pains in her body which come with such age.
It was nice for her to see me, you see. A few vistis earlier I felt stressed out and worried for her, and for me in a way. My childhood environment, our great family pile, our home, our caslte was going to be squandered away and bought inevitably by a developer to be bulldozed into oblivion and superceded with six figure properties. My refuge too as an adult in times of financial hardness and loss of jobs. Finally moving home to look after her when she broker her leg and hip and being resided to my local lot away from the metropollii and job prospoects. This time though, no, the house is a home still for her, it will pass on with her into history and those stories, uniquely just our familky as it was buiilt for us, will be remembered well by those who remain, and the photos of times before those again, will enter our own little folklore. You can level a house, but as long as the folk are long gone, you can never level away the joys and the strife, the happiness, the tears, the rich history every family experienced within such a long standing little mansion to the ordinary, middle income slekt.
I like the anonymitiy of being back at a place from which my generation pissed off from, it being boring as hell and representing the whole econbomic pressure cooker with the lock being those in privelidge of wealth or age or both,. The older sitting in safe jobs for thirty years, the young wondering why they would never afford a fucking house. One more old palk turned out to be visiting thouuygh and we had a good pint and a chat of real old times at secondary school with his mum and then down the boozer. No one knew me at the pub, and I knew one person though, I used to feel like I was hauinting the places there, about to bump into the living and scare them or be banished or exorcised by them. The last few trips the dribble of faces I knew and could maybe be bothered to talk to, ran dry and I became pleased after a while to have my anonymity. No one to know me, no one to cut me down to size, and no one to have trivial life explaining conversations where one party walks out dissatisfied with their own lives or bored to death at the very least.
In the house, thiis time i could ruthlessly throw stuff out I had gathered over the years. A lot of it actually wasnt mine, it was stuff which had been packed in with mine. I went through my old shoe boxes of post cards, and found a different view of myself. Old love letters - did I ever read of how much Sandra and Esther loved me? Did Kirsten not deserve a reply? Could Fiona have been the one for me? The wealth of the life I had came back to me from the late 80s when I was a young man about Uni. And what a nice coincidenc at one of my favourite pals from that time was home in Edina and could go for a beer on my last night. I threw out the detritus, the old train tickets, the old UCCA applications, variuous tatt, but wnet rhought a lot, careful to keep those little momentos and a time line especuially from uni in those wonderful four years, 86 to 90. I chucked out more stuff than I have ever, ever done before, without flinching. Such is life, loose the shit you no longer need and move on.
Edinburgh came after a last indulgence at the Esdquire house weatherpoons, a place I had flirted a couple of times with the Newton Mainrs/ ears Den females. Sandy or craig or both worked there in the 80s. I had a steak pudding instead of a flirt. and changed trains at GSQst. Martin met me off the Calton street road exit, I think it was thirty years since I came out there last, bursting onto the windy, dry evening with Kenny Dobie on a visit to the auld toon, to meet Sandra. He did some parent stuff,. His kid was quick to get on the phone after his athletics night at Meadowbank, and leave us oldies alone. We eventually wandered out for a bus, which completely confused me as for direcvtion, rendering me 180 degrees out in a mystical uphill part of Leith as far out as Portie' in my mind's eye. We had in fact gone round and were facing back up towards the new toon, the Leith west triangle catching me as many a dribver, out.
The pub half way up Leith Walk was a kind of hipsterish place with a couple of good beers on the go. Craft beers are indeed a bit better crafted than big brewery ones. We chatted of old times, and who and what, but as always wi Martin, we talked alot about the now time, the future, politics and personal economics, relationships etc. The bogs had a pile of posters, retro clubs, alternative nights, The clientel appeared suddenly bohemian as were the bar staff. I realised that we are now in a new underground era, the same as we had in the otherwise plastic, thatcherite eighties were there was a hard street movement against all the sqaureness.
Life suddenly seemed even brighter than it had at Drummonds in Aberdeen or with my old pal at my local, or seeing my mum smile. I felt like a ghost yes, but one who was allowed to be human there for a week and wanted their life back , and got more of their life back than they had bargained for. A bit too much maybe, because now I want to Choose Life, Choose Scotland, choose waking up in the morning and knowing who the fuck I am.