Former MP and life-long railway enthusiast Michael Portillo is recovering in hospital after mistaking an Irvine Welsh novel for a guide to the railways of the Borders and Scotland. ‘I figured it might be safe for me to go up north now, so when I heard there was a book about trainspotting in Edinburgh I couldn’t wait to get going. But after administering a near-fatal dose of heroin in a Leith crack-den, I realized that at some point I must have gone off the rails.’
Despite being an experienced journeyman of the railways, Mr. Portillo was unperturbed by the book's lack of explicit reference to rail travel. ‘It was clear from the off that it wasn’t your usual trainspotting guide as it contained no maps or photos and was unusually sweary for anything related to trains, if you discount the complaints desk at Virgin.'
‘But the book’s unusual narrative style was reminiscent of George Bradshaw, and I felt like I was being drawn into another world. Plus the thematic juxtaposition of choosing a dangerous and perverse preoccupation as an alternative to the insipid humdrum of modern capitalist society and the terrifying circle of destruction and isolation wrought by that choice really struck a chord when I was sitting at Darlington station at midnight waiting for the 00:23 to Newcastle, wondering what happened to all that power.’
Michael travelled to Edinburgh and visited Leith’s disused train station, where he met a small group of locals purporting to be trainspotters. ‘They were lovely chaps and had extensive knowledge of a little known ‘Intravenous Line’ which runs from Leith to various destinations including the local hospital. And when they boasted that they had something better than a “meat injection” I just just had to see what they were talking about.'
After an apparently accidental overdose, Mr. Porillo was found outside the A and E department and was revived by casualty staff. 'I feel rather a fool having got it all so wrong, but then I never did know what to make of the scottish.'
Despite his harrowing experience, he plans to go back to Leith. 'I have to say it was rather frightening experience, but so invigorating. I'm itching to get back! Literally.'
Moreover, according to reports from his agent, Mr. Portillo has made several acquaintances in the area and has been inundated with suggestions from locals regarding which rail bridges to crawl under to enjoy his new found past times for the remainder of his life.