IRVINE WELSH FEATURE
But what is this Marabou stork‘.’ A real bird I
apparently. which Welsh first spotted while watching the telly ‘off my face‘ in a Leith pub. ‘They‘re the total bad bastards ofthe bird world.‘ he explains. ‘lt‘s a really hideous looking thing — it hangs out with vultures and all that.‘
We thought he was a trainspotter and all along it was birdwatching Irvine Welsh was into: apparently this is a man who can separate the wheatear from the chaffinch. ‘l've always had this empathy with our feathered friends.‘ he says with a straight face. 'Birds and fish have always fascinated me because they have these infinite possibilities. [Still no trace of that cheeky grin.|
()n this stretch of canal here. you get all sorts of
aquatic birds. You get ducks and kingfishers and swans. There was an albatross on the canal the other day — I don’t know how it got there.‘
our Marabou stork is no dopey. Disney
baby-in-a-bundle. kind of stork. This bird‘s
a killer that wades into the lagoon and gobbles tip flamingoes like pink 'l‘wiglets. Although the bird does exist. for the purposes of Mara/mu Stork t‘y’ightmares it‘s a mythical beast that represents the inner demon Roy Su'ang must kill in his subconscious. Although ecstasy plays a part in this psychic journey. describing the nightmares as mere acid flashback doesn‘t do justice to the book. Welsh has used ecstasy as a plot device to effect a rapid change on the character‘s mental state. but this is no ‘rave novel‘.
‘l‘ve seen a lot of people who were quite fucked tip and violent. who weren‘t in touch with their feelings.‘ he says. "l‘hey‘ve taken an ecstasy and they‘re interacting with people in a totally different way. Drugs open Roy up and make him talk about his feelings. Once you’ve done that. it‘s very hard to get the genie back in the bottle. He‘s done something so bad that he can‘t actually live with it in his heightened sensitivity. but he can't go back either.‘
Roy‘s horrific crime. which stands out from the casual-on-casual violence. is described in graphic detail. which takes Welsh's writing to a
Marabou Stork Nightmares
It’s a rites-of-passage moment for Roy Strang as he is
transformed from bullied to bullier.
I arrived at the secondary school heavily suntanned from South
Africa; my ugliness now mildly exotic. There were loads of kids
At school we used to kid on we were gobbing on the back of each other's heids. like blowing out compressed air. This cunt really
central female character. she exists more as an obstacle in Roy Strang‘s moral quest than a real person. ‘I find it very difficult to do women characters.‘ he readily admits. Welsh says feedback from female readers is positive. which suggests they are not confusing the characters with the writer. This has happened in the past. though. with critics assuming Welsh must have. lived the life he describes. That he isn’t credited as a writer of imagination still rankles. and the new book comes with this disclaimer: ‘A very big thanks to my family for not being the one in this book.‘ For the record. lrvine Welsh was not a soccer casual either.
Through his characters. Welsh has raised (ilaswegian-baiting to a fine art. In Holland. Welsh discovered that a similar kind of rivalry exists between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Like l-Zdinbttrgh. Amsterdam has never had to try too hard. creating a kind of cultural complacency. which is fast turning the city into Europe’s slacker capital. ‘lt's really relaxed. but there‘s no edge to the culture at all here — there‘s nothing to kick against.‘ says Welsh. ‘Rotterdam’s mor‘ like (ilasgow. It‘s quite an ugly place but there’s a lot of vibrancy about it.‘
Welsh plans to stay in Amsterdam fora while longer — he’s finding it a good place to see [Edinburgh from a different perspective. Maybe he‘ll even do some writing if the steady stream of raver acquaintances who head for Amsterdam ever give him peace. He reckons it‘s a good time for him to be away from Britain. however. as the Welsh industry goes into overdrive. Several theatre productions of Trainspotting are whining round the country and a film version is now in the hands of ‘the Shallow Grave punters'. with an option on The Acid [louse already signed by Channel 4.
‘l‘m finding it very therapeutic after all the attention with the books.‘ he says. ‘lt’s just nice to come and mellow out.’ And with that. Irvine Welsh strolls off for a canal-side constitutional. ’_l t'l’Iara/mtt Stork Nightmares is published on 'I’hursilay 20 April by Jonathan ('ape (£9.99).
‘lt’s horrendous, but I think it took something like HIV and AIDS in the schemes to give writers like me any kind of legitimacy at all. In a sense it maybe gave me a way in to write about Edinburgh.’
new level of grimness. lit 7)‘(ti/t.\'/)()Ililtg. there was something fundamentally comical about a person so desperate for a fix he would fish around the l,'-bend of a blocked toilet to find an opiate suppository. The humour in Mara/mu Stork Nightmares is used far more sparingly. The relentless misogyny of many the characters in Welsh‘s stories is continued in Mara/ma Stork high/mares. Although there is a
brought: Ma and Dad never even found out.
Life at school was easier after that. once that basic principle was established: you didnae fuck aroond with Roy Strang.
<0 Irvine ll’e/sh I995
in the arm. I then went to the next period class.
The teachers attd the police got involved. although Mathews. to be fair. didn‘t shop me. he just collapsed in the playground and was taken to the hospital.
I simply spoke nicely to them all. After all. I was now Roy Strang. a hard-working. intelligent pupil; university material. Thomas
from the primary and from the scheme who remembered Dumbo Strang. In particular. there was a fat kid called Tam Mathews.
That poor cunt Mathews. All the time he was watching swotty Strang from the back of the class. he must have been totally unaware that l was psyching myself up for that moment. Mathews became my first victim. I was glad it was him: glad because he was big. tough. loud and stupid. This time it would be mair than just the spike on the compass.
He spat on the back of my neck as we were leaving the classroom.
did it but. I felt the thick spittle run under my collar. down the back of my neck.
I could see a flicker of disbelief. then hesitancy in his eyes as l squared up to him. He said something which brought a few laughs from the kids who had gathered round to witness Dumbo Strang‘s humiliation. but the laughter turned to gasps. to ooohhhss as I produced a small hunting knife from my pocket. one which I’d bought from Boston’s of Mirth Walk. and stabbed Mathews three delicious times; twice in the chest and once
Mathews. the teachers fell over themselves to testify to anyone that would listen. was not a hard- working. intelligent pupil. He was a bully and a thug. Yes. the police knew the Mathews family. They also knew the Strangs. but I was far too convincing in my mummy‘s boy role for them to make that association. The consensus was that. obviously. the Mathews boy must have put the fear of god into poor Roy Strang for the boy to be so scared he had to carry a knife. Nobody remembered the compass back in primary. No charges were
The List 7-20 Apr IWS 11