Ian Rankin is eating a fish supper from the paper (it saves on washing-up) on his knees in the living room. The family meal is accompanied by Irn Bru, a drink that has been with Ian throughout his life. As a kid, he would mix some vanilla ice cream into it on a hot summer’s day. It was also perfect on a winter’s night as an accompaniment to fish and chips on the way home from the cinema. As an adult, he has found it to be an excellent restorative on many a ‘morning after the night before’.
Now, he is pouring himself and his family Scotland’s ‘other national drink’ from a proud silver jug into a tumbler with a warm gold interior that seems to reflect the bright orange drink to infinity. The jug and the tumblers stand on a sturdy latticed tray, reminiscent of Scotland’s heavy engineering past and the girders of the Forth Bridge.
The drinking vessel has been crafted by one of Scotland’s leading artists, and Ian believes that this is characteristic of Scotland right now, blessed as she is with an incredible variety of world-class creative people: writers, artists, designers, actors, musicians. Like many people, Ian is a big fan of Raeburn’s ‘Reverend Robert Walker Skating’. It makes him smile, and shows that event the most upright and serious Scot always has a playful side to them. When it comes to literature, Ian’s favourite quote to do with drink, albeit not very flattering to men or women, is from Martin Amis’ novel, ‘Money’: ‘Without women, life is a pub’. He thinks, however, that the Scottish character is above all shaped by landscape: jagged peaks, rugged coastline, douce country towns and vibrant cities. It is an awesome country and he finds himself privileged to call it his home.
Ian drinks Irn Bru two or three times a week, and he believes that you can tell a lot about a person by their favourite tipple. Inspector Rebus, for example, drinks pints, and would be wary of anyone who preferred bottled beer. There’s not much that Ian would never drink, though the warm bottles of screwtop Lambrusco which seemed so decadent to him as a teenager at parties are now, hopefully, a thing of the past. Now, sitting with his family, a chippy on his lap and a tumbler of Irn Bru in his hand, he is truly happy.