Today, the Edinburgh Festival will shut up shop for another year, more or less signalling the end of our first full year in Edinburgh. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean the city is pulling down the shutters. Last February, I wrote to Tiny Letter subscribers that even in the depths of January, Edinburgh maintains a wide range of treats for the arts enthusiast, and that Longsufferinggirlfriendoftheblogbeth and I had recently seen The Lanterns Of Terracotta Warriors in the quad of the University of Edinburgh’s Old College.
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It was pleasingly nostalgic to wander around the old quad of the faculty of law for the first time in around 18 years. And we were back there last week. There were no ghosts, of Chinese warriors or law students. Just a pretty building in the place we live. And I was excited to be there.
We were in the quad for a showing of Restless Natives, a Scottish comedy. I mean, it’s billed as a comedy, and it passes the laugh test. But it’s clearly inspired by Bill Forsyth of Local Hero and Gregory’s Girl fame, so there’s plenty of pathos, too.
Long plot short, it’s the story of two lads in mid-eighties Edinburgh who become modern day highwaymen and folk heroes. The screening was billed as “a rare chance to see a Scottish comedy classic.” Rare is right. I saw Restless Natives for the first time in my early-mid teens, and over twenty-five years later couldn’t have been more excited to see it again. I once spent an afternoon’s lawyering trying to find a place online to buy a DVD of Restless Natives, to absolutely no avail.
It was drizzling as the film began, but I was still amazed to find the quad almost deserted. I guess people who saw the movie at an properly impressionable age are now in or approaching their forties and aren’t so inclined to hunker under an academic arch in the rain to see it again.
Beth took a look at what Ian Wiki had to say about the movie:
The film performed well at the box office in Scotland but struggled to make an impact elsewhere.
The source for that report being Alexander Walker’s brilliantly-titled Icons in the Fire: The Rise and Fall of Practically Everyone in the British Film Industry 1984-2000. I can see why Restless Natives did well in Scotland, though. Firstly, it’s got a cracking soundtrack by Big Country’s Stuart Adamson.
And while I’d seen Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell sprint around Goldenacre playing grounds for Chariots Of Fire, Restless Natives was the first time I saw a movie set in contemporary Edinburgh, beautiful and gritty. Finally, the lead character was a hopeless romantic of a daft young Edinburgh laddie. While back then I was already aspiring (!) to hard-headed realism, for better or worse Wilde and (young) Morrissey and films like Restless Natives had already left their indelible mark.
More contemporary Edinburgh cinema was on the horizon, though: Shallow Grave in 1994; Trainspotting in 1996. And as Beth and I headed out of the rain to get some grub at Ti Amo across the road, they were changing the reels to show Trainspotting in the quad, cognitive dissonance be damned.
The next night, we saw the author of Trainspotting the novel at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It was kind of sad. Irvine Welsh shows shards of being a good bloke. He likes good music, and answered the obligatory YES/NO #indyref question from the audience with some insight.
But it seems like he had one good book in him, the one he had to write, and very quickly The Acid House cash-in collection of stuff from the back of the drawer and the ambitious misstep of Maribou Stork Nightmares rode off the edge of a cliff. Now he’s had another twenty years to fill. So rather than reading from the Florida-set book he was ostensibly at the Book Festival to promote, Irv read from his work in progress, a crowd-pleasing collection of Sick Boy-isms.
And the crowd lapped it up, gales of laughter sweeping across the main tent. As he swore! In a Scottish accent! Just like it was 1993! Just like everyone wanted to be a teenager again.
Except, did they? In last week’s comments thread, I reflected that
…remembering some of the upsides — the thrill of new discoveries, the excitement of different experiences — helps me remember how fresh those things can make everyday life. For me, that’s something worth aspiring to. So I hope that’s what I mean when I tell Longsufferinggirlfriendoftheblogbeth that I’m seventeen in my heart.
The laughing crowd were in The Baillie Gifford Main Theatre to rehear the words of their youth, hoping they would rekindle that thrill, when the pressures of being grown-up had distracted them from — hadn’t left them time amid the priorities for — the new and the exciting.