The Banana Flats
This is what we see from our backyard. It has a certain magnificence. Magnificent squalor.
The building, known locally as “the Banana Flats” due to its elegant spinal curvature, is the setting for Tommy-Boy’s melancholy death from AIDS in the novel Trainspotting. For the film, all the housing estate stuff was shot in Glasgow, for ease of access to technicians, equipment, and funding (the Glasgow Film Fund, which encourages shooting in that city, has no Edinburgh equivalent). Ewan MacGregor runs along Princes Street in scene one to convince us we’re in Edinburgh, then the whole movie ups sticks for Glasgow. It’s a shame, because the slums of Edinburgh have their own distinct character. It could be argued that the bad areas of any western city are more or less alike in their essentials, but the same is true for the tourist spots and rich areas. It’s the details that count.
This great concrete boomerang, which channels any sound, from a pin-drop to a demented scream, directly into our bedroom window, has been known to exert a malevolent influence on its tenants. While many of them are delightful people, quite a few have their share of problems to begin with — they all get shunted into this building by the council, so the social worker only has to park their car once.
Legend has it that a post-natally depressed mother threw her baby from an upper window in the ’80s.
Since we’ve lived opposite the Hell-Block, we’ve seen TV sets, chair legs, stereos, methadone bottles, and used nappies rain from its balconies.
Of course, it’s a listed building, meaning that it’s been judged to be of such architectural excellence that it can never be demolished…
Us and Them.