Readin Trainspottin: Anna Stewart

Anna Stewart portrait
Category: Reading

When I’m thirteen, I sneak a read o Trainspottin at night in bed. I’ve seen ma Dad readin it in the kitchen efter wirk – drinkin coffee and smokin, and killin himsel laughin. I wonder, how come he’s laughin so much? Whit’s that book aboot? It’s got weird skulls on the front, whit do they mean? I ask if I can read it and he says, “No.”

Eh? How no? Dad ay lets me hae the books he’s been readin. How come no this ain?

Even though I’m dyslexic, I really like books. I ask fir them every Christmas. I like Dad readin Treasure Island and doin pirate voices, and I like readin The Twins at St. Clare’s under the covers wi a torch and wishing I could hae midnight feasts wi ‘lashins and lashins o ginger beer’, whatever that might taste like. And it’s good bein scared listenin tae Roald Dahl’s Royal Jelly on cassette. I dinnae like ah the books though, sometimes readin maks uz feel daft, especially non-fiction stuff, I could faw asleep strugglin tae understand whit wirds and sentences mean. I prefer stories and characters. And even though I’m a slow reader I still like makkin up voices fir fowk in my heid, stretchin oot lives in my imagination, lyin in bed pretendin I’m part o their world.

When Dad finishes Trainspottin, I nab it. It’s chapters are short and that maks it easier tae read, that’s why it’s easier tae read eh? The book’s affy growen-up, mebbe Dad’s right, I might get in serious trouble readin this. The book smells o his fags. Onyway, I’m thirteen now, I am growen-up, I need tae prepare mysel fir the adult world. I definitely dinnae want tae live in this Trainspottin world though, it’s well scary. But I keep wantin tae read it, I cannae wait till bedtime coz I wonder whit’s gonnae happen tae them aw, how are their lives gonnae play oot? I end up takkin the book tae school and readin it on breaks in this in-between space I’ve foond near the attic, coz yi cannae let people see yi readin.

I’m really fast at readin this book, how come that is? And it’s weird, the voices in ma heid come easy, they’ve clicked intae a rhythm – I’m no haein tae stop and start, no haein tae re-read lines like I normally do. How is that? A lot o the characters are sayin things the way fowk at school speak, the way people in Dundee speak. This is Scots, a language I’ve heard aw roond, and even though the story’s streenge, the wirds feel somethin part o me and the characters bounce fae the page affy real. I didnae ken a book could do that, or that voices fae here could get printed. I normally want tae be onywhaur but Dundee, coz this isnae the place yi read aboot in books and see in films. But Trainspottin maks me think aboot people wha live here, maks me wonder if this place might matter efter aw. And it’s no aboot the story, it’s aboot the way the story is telt. When I finish Trainspottin, it’s spine is aw cracked so it opens independent o ma haunds. I put the book back in the kitchen and I mind o Dad laughin: somehow mair free coz o the wirds.


For the UN’s International Mother Language Day on 21 February, we're running a series of blogs from authors from around Scotland. Check out our #AneYinWan Scots tag on your favourite social network for more Scots celebrations.

Anna Stewart

Anna Stewart is a short story writer from Dundee, Scotland. In 2017 she won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award and was shortlisted for the Royal Academy and Pin Drop Short Story Award. Her stories have been published in For Books’ Sake: The Weekend Read, Riptide Journal, New Writing Dundee, and Gutter Magazine issues 05, 07 and 12.  She's been shortlisted for Bloody Scotland’s Short Story Competition, and won The Dragons’ Pen at Edinburgh International Book Festival. Check out her website.