3 The sunlight shone on the table.

toyed playfully with a few dirty

dessert plates. fell off the edge and

on to the floor in a pool. ‘l‘he fat man

i a pink towelling dressing gown. lle i didn't look too cute btit maybe he

wasn‘t trying. He took a slug of

vodka and ginger and gulped it

down. It was l 1.45 in the morning.

and hard. ‘l)on‘t mention the drink.

bulk. l le has a big frame on which

looks as though he could give one of

l talkedin his sunlitdiningroom.a


came into the room. l le was wearing

Robbie (‘oltrane looked at me long

It might upset my mum.‘ UK: there was no drink. Robbie (‘oltrane had warmed milk and Rice ('rispies for breakfast. He‘s not so tottgh after all. The first thing abottt (‘oltrane is his

hangs an awesome amount of fat. l lc

the chubbier .lapanese Sumo Wrestlers a run for his yen. But like a lot of fat people he handles it well. moving rather daintin abottt. As we

couple of frail-looking trendy left-wing decorators came in. one sporting a ‘Baldies Against l-‘all-ottt' badge. to do up his newly acquired home in Hackney. [East London. He cuffed them gently on the head. The scene reminded me of the dog Butch in Tom and .lerry playfully scuffing his puppy: ‘l)at's my boy‘.

We talked about the hooks of Raymond Chandler. which he had recently been re-reading. (‘oltrane celebrated the moral code of the private eye. as (‘handler constructed him: ‘l)own these mean streets at man must go who himself is mean: who is neither tarnished nor afraid. lle bemoaned the new cult heroes of this. our time: ‘Rambo and Rocky: they are intellectual and moral simpletons’. The words came spitting otit. with high scorn for the ‘Might is Right‘ school.

It would be a lie to paint (‘oltrane as someone who spends his time delivering po-faced judgments. For a start his conversation comes with a fierce spray of obscenities. vttlgarities. and crttdencss. Some people blink. some stammer. some say ‘er': ('oltrane says 'Fuck you'. But he is funny. For instance half way through his leetttre on Moby Dick (‘oltrane was handed a patch of carpet by one of the radical decorators. An ugly. lascivious. leer disfigured his face. which is hardly pretty to begin with. His fingers stroked the carpet fabric. His eyes were shttt. ‘l)on't tell me . . . lt's‘ Marjorie McNulty.’

Then he was on the phone for five minutes finishing off the details of a treat fora childhood friend.

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John Sweeney meets Robbie Coltrane preparing to make an impact with the Red Wedge Comedy Tour at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms on 13 March

involving a ('adillac. a Royal Box and a running joke I didn‘t comprehend. 'l‘his friend didn't appear to be very famous or useful to Coltrane. but he was taking titne and money to do well by him. Later (‘oltrane phoned Lenny l lenry in Liverpool. to cheer him up. He cares about his friends and he cares about his politics too. doing gigs for miners and steelworkers. These are not the activities of a pampered. giddy human being.

However. I would not like to be (‘oltranes’s bank manager. ‘Recently. it transpired. the bank made some cock-up after he transferred branches and his cash-card was swallowed tip. (‘oltrane bawled for the manager ‘1 want to see him and I mean I want to see him now‘ and got his way. '(‘oltrane gave the manager. fttll of bureaucratic smoothness. a lick with the rough edge of his tongue. ‘I don’t suffer fools gladly.‘ he said. I think he’s wrong: he doesn‘t suffer fools at


'l’ime trickled by. I offered to giv c (‘oltrane a lift to l lammersmith.

. where he had an appointment. 'l‘he car slumped to his side as soon as he got in. Pretty soon the traffic hit the the sand and we were moving at a sloth's pace. I was worried because he was going to be late: "l‘hat‘s all

! right: I'm the star.‘ I thought that

was a bit selfish. but let it ride. A quarter ofan hour later we had moved about five yards and I suggested he could get the tube. ‘.\'o lcan’t travel by public transport too many hassles‘. 'l'he price of fame is being subjected to autograph hunters mobbing you at best : at worst he told me a couple of chilling stories which he asked me not to repeat. "I‘hcre are some fruitcakes ottt there.‘ stuns it up.

Does he get roughed up'.’ ‘.\'o way .‘

he replied in a fine mimic of a (ilasgow l lard Man. He is proud to be Scottish and a ('elt. and sneers at the lack ofcrcativity and independent thinking in the soft underbellyof Britain’s southern parts. He thinks ‘once you lift the stone ' there is something squalid about the Anglo-Saxon values which won the Falklands war and has delivered victory after victory for Mrs'l'hatcher. As a staunch supporter of the Labour Party. he is delighted that her image of i invincibilityisbeginningtocrack.

llc admires Denis l lealey. 'l'ony Benn. bttt is a little diffident about Neil Kinnock. As for ‘()ld Weetabix llead' (Scargill): ‘1 agree ltttt per cent with what the man says. it's just you have to seduce the public and he isn't attractive. You have to make compassion as attractive as greed and piggery. It‘s like goingout with girls. At the end of the day they have to fancy you.‘

He doesn’t like Bernard Manning

(does anybody). l)avid Howie's acting (‘lf he can act then I want three hit singles. please'). .‘ylrs 'l’hatcher (‘I could hit her' ). l)onald Sindcn. (‘ockneys. Rupert Murdoch. ownersof Morris ’l‘housand listates who don't varnish the ash woodwork and hay e Wimpey Autos written on the back window and good satirists who hay e succumbed to the thrall of money. He had some pretty rttdc things to say about Anthony Andrews too. And he can be very. very rude indeed.

We got to where w e were going. had a swift drink in a pub and I watched this vulgar fat man disappear into the traffic. recalling his maliciousjokes and obscene digs.

Yet there is a large streak of decency and niccness there. and genuine courtesy too. however hard he tries to obscure it w itlt 'l'he l lard (ilaswegian Stuff. llis public school education may have something to do with it —- or perhaps his nieeness comes from his parents. a rcpttblican atheist doctor w ho could hay e been a great stand-up comedian. dead now. sadly. or his lovely mtnn. still alive.

Whatever the source ( 'oltrane givesoffthis slightly odd. disconcerting. unsettling air of goodness. a little likeBoo Radley. the ashen-faced madman who saves the kids in To [vi/la line/sing Bird. ('oltranc is a whole man. a little tarnished perhaps. bttt not afraid. llc'sambitiotts. but ambitions to do the right things ill a rounded way.

A fat man in a hurry.


ROOM FOR REVIEW Polygon’s expanding new titles.


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ORIENT EXPRESSED Catherine Bowie describes lfleinJapan.


Chin chin & chop chop through the oriental restaurants.

Al'he List _' Ill Mar 37