When John Lennon Met Edinburgh

John Waters in Lennon: Through a Glass Onion 'Union
John Waters in Lennon: Through a Glass Onion 'Union
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WHEN I was 12 years old, and had just won a place in a junior football match against a rival touring schoolboy team, my Uncle Tom gave me a miniature FA cup-type trophy on which he’d had inscribed: “To Scotland’s future inside-right”.

History has shown my dear old uncle’s prediction to be as wide of the mark as some of my shooting in the actual game, but that was always going to be the case. What I remember most from the incident is the feeling of nationalistic love from my staunchly Scottish uncle.

I was a lad born, and growing up, in south-west London, and yet in his entirely tartan world I was obviously, and irrefutably Scottish.

Of course, I am in part Scottish through my Glaswegian father, but my environmental conditioning was very London.

My two favourite footballers were Jimmy Greaves and Dennis Law. I was a little schizo at times. My school friends would come round to my place and, after hearing my dad speak, would comment: “Cor, your old man ain’t half a Jock, innit?”

I would reflect on that and deduce that I couldn’t really tell because it was just ‘my dad’s voice’ - nothing unusual about it to me.

Now, finding myself back in Scotland in a working capacity for the first time, I’m intrigued about heritage and the innate effect it has on us.

I’ve brought my two-man show Lennon: Through a Glass Onion to the Fringe, and I’m thrilled to feel a natural sense of belonging here (east coast/west coast, it doesn’t matter to an ex-pat).

Unlike my Australian colleagues on tour with me, I am unfazed and totally comfortable with the dialect being spoken around me (I am the group’s official translator and interpreter). This, of course, works both ways, as many Scots find the Aussie drawl incomprehensible.

I am bombarded on both sides with “What ‘d he say? What ‘d he say?”

I have one of the world’s great communicators, in the persona of John Lennon, as the subject of my performance, and I’m loving the way all the different cultures, even the sub-cultures of the English speaking world, join seamlessly together when it comes to appreciating great songs and an engaging New-Age philosophy without pretension, which is what I believe Lennon brings to the table.

And just as I found the New Yorkers to be particularly possessive and protective of Lennon, which helped make that city take to us as a show, I discover on arrival in Edinburgh that John Lennon had a heartfelt and deep relationship with this city that stemmed from his childhood and continued on into his successful adult years.

John had an Edinburgh-based cousin, Stan Parkes, who was like an older brother to him, in the sense that he travelled to Liverpool to collect the young Lennon and take him up to Edinburgh for holiday stay-overs - a trip which was repeated almost yearly during John’s school years.

It seems that these trips were much anticipated, and that John felt a special ‘belonging’ when he was in Edinburgh.

It all adds up, when you consider that he was completely dissed (in the modern parlance) by both his mother and father when he was a mere toddler, that any environment which provided a feeling of family and the nurturing from that which most of us take completely for granted, would be a primal source of comfort and confidence for his fragile sense of self and his seething, suppressed anger.

I can look around me in this beautiful old city and feel many sources of reassurance - things that tangibly speak to me.

Things that, for various different reasons may have given John Lennon that same relaxation. The solidity of walls of thick blue and grey stone. Stone that, in the form of the cairn I’m building in a field at my home in the Highlands of New South Wales I associate with Scotland, and Scotland alone.

It kinda makes me feel like apologizing to my Uncle Tom. If I’d not been so fond of travelling abroad and playing in bands and acting on the telly, I might have applied myself a bit more to the game he and I loved, and end up playing as Scotland’s inside-right.

Lennon: Through A Glass Onion, Assembly Hall, The Mound, until 28 August, various times, £15-£17.50, 0131-226 0000