Hide your empty pint glasses: Irvine Welsh revives Begbie

Once again firmly in the zeitgeist following the huge success of Filth, the cinematic adaptation of his 1998 novel of the same name, Irvine Welsh has revealed that he has revisited one of his most infamous characters for charity this festive season. “He Ain’t Lager” – a short story Welsh has written for the International Network of Street Papers (whose output includes The Big Issue) – sees the return of Francis (“Franco”) Begbie, the frequently violent, perpetually terrifying psychopath who first appeared in Welsh’s own debut, 1993’s Trainspotting, and was last seen (chronologically) emerging from a coma at the end of its 2002 sequel, Porno (although his most recent appearance in print was in Welsh’s 2012 Trainspotting prequel, Skagboys).

The story picks up some time after the events of Porno and seemingly finds Begbie something of a changed man. Released from prison and visiting his family for Christmas, the former hard man has been ‘rehabilitated through art and falling in love’. Fittingly for the charity it’s benefiting, it also deals with issues of homelessness through Begbie’s brother, Joe.

Welsh is obviously leaving most of the story’s revelations for readers to discover themselves, but admits that it even caught him unawares: ‘I’m not sure where this came from. I never really know. I just think the character has to be full of surprises and I quite like this little twist in his life.’ He goes on to condemn the societal conditions that have necessitated donating the story to charity, saying ‘Homelessness issues are now sadly ubiquitous across the western world, and very much a product of the weak priorities our political leadership has set.’

The Big Issue’s editor, Paul McNamee, points out that ‘The Christmas period is a key time for The Big Issue and our vendors’, calling it ‘the most difficult time of the year’, and so is ‘delighted that Irvine Welsh, who has long been a big supporter of The Big Issue and street papers in general, has come up with a new piece of work for us.’ The issue containing “He Ain’t Lager” will be on sale from Big Issue vendors ‘in a couple of weeks.’

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