Wednesday, 1 February 2017

T2; first there is an opportunity, then there is betrayal.

Back in the early 1980's I was working for The Co-Operative Wholesale Society's Meat group just off Smithfield Market. Part of my job involved travelling up to Scotland to try and encourage the Co-Op's up there to order more of our Poultry products.

I'd visit Edinburgh, missing out on the historic centre where the tourists go, instead I visited Co-Op stores in areas that had once been prosperous working class districts and watched people come into the stores to buy a single egg and one rasher of bacon for breakfast; which is all they could afford.

If I hadn't seen it I wouldn't have believed it.

I'd crunch on hypodermic needles, thrown down in the streets; where once there had been great industries now there was only heroin.

Once I needed to go from Edinburgh to Glasgow and missed the fast 'InterCity' train; I took the slow train instead. Two hours and over 20 stops. As I passed through the outskirts of Glasgow there were whole estates that seemed like warzones, only the war was being waged on the people who lived there.

Glasgow had been a thriving city of skilled shipbuilders; proud men of many trades. When I was there many of the old tenement buildings (which should have been restored and improved) had been demolished. This left a stark grid pattern of streets with just the foundations of the buildings that had once been there. The residents had been rehoused into great and anonymous tower blocks.

The appearance was as if an atomic bomb had flattened all the homes leaving just the street patterns and, left behind at the end of each street, a single storey flat roofed bar.

I visited some - the residents of the vanished houses used to come back to their old bars to see their friends. There would be lines of elderly men all drinking 'Boilermakers' - a half pint with a whiskey chaser.

I never saw such poverty - at least not until the Miners Strike.

So when 'Trainspotting' came out in 1996, it was like going back in time for me - full of memories.

The film followed four friends and their unsuccessful battles with heroin addiction, set amongst the collapsed world of Leith - Edinburgh's former port and industrial area.

It was brutally realistic, sad and very funny too.

Now, 20 years later, there's a sequel; T2. As I said to Robyn, if it hadn't been directed by Danny Boyle, I never would have gone to see it - I've never been keen on sequels.

The great Tower blocks are in the process of being demolished, there's a whole new Scotland growing up based on massive debt and government grants.

In fact it isn't 'Trainspotting' at all. It has the same characters but it's a very different film; less horrific, less desperate - it even has a happy ending of sorts.

I'm not going to give away the plot so I can only say that while the years have changed Mark Renton, they had less effect on the other three, so this is very much a story of regret and missed opportunities.

It's also belly laughingly funny and poignantly sad too - usually within seconds. Danny Boyle did not disappoint.

I laughed a lot and got very upset too.

Unmissable, a truly great film.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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