Tuesday, February 19, 2019

No tears, no lye, no alibis: "Three murders in three days, Jimmy?"

Plot, right, we need a plot. Can’t use the books - too long, too clever. What about this? Chopped up body parts turn up on beaches. Usual isolated community, weird characters, flawed cop, spectacular scenery. Contemporary issues, well, maybe some people trafficking from, say Nigeria. Sorted! Shetland Series Five.

Well, actually, that’s Trapped, series one, from 2015, set in Iceland and very watchable on Amazon Prime. It has the kind of budget, scenery and weather (the latter two captured in phenomenal filmic detail), that makes Shetland-the-show look like commercial for a certain frozen foods retailer. Trapped is very like Shetland, though, in its structure, characterisation and sheer daftness. Not a word of a lye.
"See if you look that way on a clear day, doll? You can see Iceland!"

  Back in Lerrick and environs, it’s episode two and the drain cleaner/flesh dissolver (selling like hot Izal medicated toilet paper from wir ain Shetland Janitorial) known as lye has evaporated.

Two more murders, Prentice and Carla Hayes. I suspect the copious fridge magnets, but no clues, even in the freezer compartment. Jamie didnae dae this, says Jimmy. But did Olivia (Daniel’s mum)? She has blood on her Primark. Quick test, white boiler suit. It's Hayes blood but they were already dead when she got there. She didn’t call it in because she needed  a top up on her phone. Pay as You Go, never a great idea.

 Wait a minute, here’s the daughter, Zezzi. Where? Dunno. Here’s Jamie, dead as well? Dunno. No, looks like he’s alive, just. Fake forensic elderly doctor locum person Cora: “Three murders in three days, Jimmy” She sounds delighted. More than in the last century in Real Shetland, if it exists anymore. I’m beginning to doubt it.

 Anyway, people trafficking. “I just find it hard to believe that it’s here on Shetland.” Me too, Jimmy, me too. And suddenly we’re in flirtatious mode with a woman with a part-Irish, part-Welsh accent who used to work for Shelter and is therefore empathetic and sympathetic and besides, her husband's off doing up a house. Let them have builders!

 Procurator Fiscal Rona “People are scared there’s someone going around butchering families.” Not Olivia. Jimmy thinks there’s something much bigger behind it. People Traffickers.Are you sure about this? No. Neither am I, Jimmy, neither am I.

 Illegal salmon processing plant. Manager in Oxfam suit was driving a van up by the Hayes’ place, searching for runaway smolts, or on sea lice patrol. He saw Calum Dinwoodie’s boat the Silver Darling nearby, the captain suspiciously reading a Neil Gunn novel. Jimmy’s on board the boat now. I’m thinking Keith Floyd or Rick Stein may be in the galley, cooking up some illegal salmon, possible marinated in lye. No, there are no chefs in the hold, just a handy credit/business/key/Monopoly card. Here’s Sissy and Bad Beardy Kiernan (false identity) Man, with what looks like one of the Away Day Caravan girls from Episode One, but isn’t.

 OK, Calum was moving people about in his boat, Jimmy thinks. Better check out his house. Morag the wife is there with the weans, but the music says Calum is lurking suspiciously. That looks like a Kia. Could anything be more suspicious than a Kia? Only a Dacia Duster. Sure enough, here he lurks. It’s Volvo versus Kia. There can only be one winner, especially when Calum dunts Jimmy about the fizzog. He’s huckled. In one of the least procedurally accurate police  interviews ever seen on TV, Calum admits he landed the refugees off Scrabster. Presumably not the one in Caithness. These people could, it seems, have Calum killed in a heartbeat. These people are everywhere. Jimmy is "just some guy standing on a rock in the middle of the sea". Morag might be at risk. Send Sandy! He’s got a penknife. Or a pen...

 To the hospital, where Jamie Hayes, it seems, is ready to talk. Actually, nobody’s told him his mum and brother are dead, so he’s a bit upset. Sandy tells Calum he’s heading up to Morag’s. Calum is somewhat concerned. Jamie, remarkably recovered, describes what happened. He was stabbed by a silent someone in a ski mask, but his mum saved him. Jimmy (not Jamie) then tells Olivia all this, in a room with green wallpaper. Lots of talking this week. Lot of talking about that talking someone else has been talking about.

 Back to the Lodberries, where Irish Shelter Welsh Alice woman is here to see Jimmy. What are your plans for tonight, oh, married woman? I will never turn down a free meal, she says, when my husband is wallpapering. 

 Tosh is back at the Hayes house. She finds a picture of an old cottage which is probably where Zezzi and the tattooed girl are being held. Unless it isn’t. Meanwhile Jimmy and Alice the Welsh-Irish rugby woman are having dinner and romantically discussing people trafficking. she used to work for Shelter, you know. Anyway, Alice likes talking about people trafficking as it shows there are folk with worse problems than her. She now sounds  sort of Dublin-American. Isn’t Jimmy tired of playing the grieving husband, she demands? Jimmy’s upset and goes for a walk. Dearie me, there’s an awful lot of talking this week. If this was Trapped there would have been a snow plough crash, a mass lobster crisis, a mad photographic stalker and at the very least an avalanche by now. We need MORE LYE!

 Och, Tosh, wandering around a sinister cottage in the twilight. You really should know better. Lights! Action! Jings, it’s Prentice’s cannabis farm! Such a thing could never exist in Real Shetland. Ahem.

Duncan tells Jimmy Alice fancies him and that he, Duncan is his housemate and not even slightly jealous. Sandy is threatening Calum.  Give me the names! Sandy gives Calum a pen, which is not a good idea. You can do a lot with a pen. Give me twenty minutes, says Calum. He writes slowly. Jimmy  needs a minute to speak to Alice. Good friends are allowed to analyse the shit out of each other, apparently, and flirt like crazy, even if one of them’s married. This is how they roll in Lerrick.

 Jimmy wants to go to Glasgow. He thinks you can get better espresso there. He's hankering for the West End. Byres Road syndrome. His boss doesn’t want him to go, not with all these new cafes opening in Commercial Street and needing the business.
 And finally we're back in the cells, or cell. I knew that pen was a bad idea. You should never have tried to work out a new plot twist, Calum. It takes more than 20 minutes and leads inevitably to extreme frustration. Now look what you’ve done.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

You wouldn't let it lye! Shetland returns. With the worst jukebox in the archipelago

Here we go! (Warning: many spoilers coming up; but they shouldn't make any difference, really.) 

Those are unsuitable clothes for a Shetland moor, if it is in fact not Ayrshire, where large lumps of Shetland are shot. But there are no trees, so it could well be the mythical state of Zetlandica. Or Narnia, post-apocalypse. Actually, here’s a fairly recent Land Rover Discovery, so it can’t be Shetland. We only allow Range Rover  Evoques here, maximum one year old.

Theme music, which sounds oddly like Emmerdale’s. It’s a sheep thing.
Right. Here’s Tosh, she’s having a psychotic episode. No, she’s just got her ear plugs in. Jimmy wants to know if she’s been out last night, when he looks as if he’s consumed about 20 pints of Jagermeister and a vat of sassermaet klatch. Face like a rhubarb crumble.  Or maybe it’s an allergic reaction to that next-the-skin gansie. C’mon, you were warned about that. Wear a vest.

We’re on Bananaman Beach, where there’s an arm, apparently uneaten by bonxies, otters (who are nothing like as cuddly as you may like to imagine) or the wandering packs of dogs Bananaman is famous for. Here’s Sandy. He can tell.

“It looks like it’s been…severed just below the elbow!” Yes. “Look at the fingers! No finger prints! They’ve been burnt aff!” Do you know what? I suspect lye. Sodium hydroxide. Don’t ask me why. Available from Shetland Janitorial, who also sell mugs and Henry Hoovers. Hey, Tosh what do you think?

“Any chance he’s still alive and bleeding out somewhere?”

Either this is a really dark joke or Tosh, you’re sacked. Or it’s a lye.

Right, here’s the Oldest Doctor In The World, pretending to be a forensic scientist. She knows her lye.  Someone tried to dissolve this limb. I told you about lye, didn’t I? Forearmed is forewarned.

Worse is to come. Glutinous slicing of peat, and, tushker laid aside, one man and his dog find a head washed up on a different beach. The Old Fake Forensic Doctor opines:
“It looks like he sustained a head wound.” Indeed. More of a neck wound, I would say. Like an AMPUTATION OF THE REST OF HIS BODY.

Right, we’re back to the lye. Sandy has discovered that the paper mill uses it. Good grief, how would Shetland survive without that paper mill, the only outlet for the pulp from all of our millions of trees.

Now we’re off to see a scrap metal dealer. All TV scrap dealers are sinister, especially ones with boiler suits and shaven heads. He’s called Prentice.. Jimmy instantly identifies blue barrels with tiny labels as lye containers. Has Prentice been selling that lye? Is he an illegal lye dealer? Tosh has her usual insight, though. Trust Tosh. If he were to use his own lye “he’d be daft as a doorbrush”? A doorbrush? What is that? Shouldn’t it be a hairbrush? Or a hydroxide brush? Or a toothbrush with DNA? I think that's coming up...

To the bus station -  one unlike anything which really exists in Shetland -  where that ancient detective trick of the pencil shading showing up the impression of previous writing is deployed to devastating effect. Pipelines.  Blame the pipeline! (People smuggling alert!)

Here’s Calum Dunwoodie or Dinwuddie, captain of the Silver Darling (one of several clumsy literary allusions: Gabriel Garcia Marquez alert) He’s Glaswegian and suspicious. (You're not making money. YOU MUST BE A DRUG SMUGGLER!) But not as suspicious as the fish processing plant which is up to its ears in black whitefish, allegedly. One big problem. That’s a salmon processing line. Farmed salmon. Ain’t no quota for farmed salmon. Tosh wants to dig a bit deeper she says. She’s suspicious. It’s whaddockgate! I suspect a red herring, though. Always suspect the red herrings, mackerel, skate or ling. Wow, the Shetland Catch folk won't be liking this quota-busting/blackfish theme. It wasn't pipes, by the way, back in the real world. It was conveyor belts.

Daniel – the dismembered body is Daniel – comes from Nigeria, but his mum is from somewhere else with a Spar Shop, possibly Wick or Thurso. In a flash she’s in Shetland, and upset. Good acting. Even Jimmy seems convinced. He buys her what looks like a pint of white wine in the derelict Westings, where Charles Trenet’s  La Mer is playing on the juke box, and not Steve Earle or Lynyrd Skynyrd. This is probably the least realistic thing in the whole production.

OK, here's the scooby: black woman, nasty wee white (peely wally) Prentice (shaven head, pickup, Confederate flag on windscreen). I think he may be a racist, Father. Oh yes. Is that a white hood in the back seat? Or just a seat cover?

“All the single men in Shetland are single for a reason”. There’s a Tinder joke. Someone’s stealing Marjolein Robertson’s lines.

Let’s introduce some prostitutes. In caravans. They’re not from around here. ‘Awayday Girls’ in Shetland to turn tricks for the druggy, sex-obsessed oil refinery workers. They arrive on the ferry, sleep with druggy sex-obsessed oil refinery workers and then go away again. Of course they do. And Prentice is providing them with boxes of tinned food, or drugs, or lye. My money’s on lye. They need it to dissolve things like, I don’t know: Nail varnish, or bodies. Maybe hedgehogs. There’s a major hedgehog problem in Shetland. They’re a menace when they eat the magic mushrooms. You're liable to get spiked.

Tosh is going on about Pablo Escobar’s Facebook Page. She’s having a psychotic episode. TAKE YOUR EAR PLUGS OOT, HEN! Tosh gets all the witty/most stupid lines.

Back to the scrappies, where there’s blue barrels galore full of lye. I want those blue barrels. Cut the tops off and they’re great for planting stuff in. You know, illegal plants. Like...kale. Or comfrey. If it wisnae for the lye. Washing is essential. Do you dissolve humans in here? No, don’t get ahead of yourself Jimbo. Only animal carcases. Like horses. And unicorns.

Possible dodgy love interest for Jimmy arrives, wife of somebody who used to do a lot of adverts who’s suspiciously renovating a house. Meanwhile, that Mark Bonnar, the gay love interest from last season, is moving back in with Jimmy as his wife has left him for a lye dealer sooth. Typical. One Hundred Years of Solitude arrives, as this is a crime show with literary pretensions (no mention of The Shipping News, which lurks beneath every barrel of lye and box of black salmon). That and Craggy Island. Those blue barrels are very small, Jimmy, not far away.

A mysterious internet video of Daniel’s sister pleading for mercy, help, money and a selfie stick pops up conveniently on a cop computer, where Tosh has been on Tinder (only works on a phone, dear, keep up, swipe left). See her and that laptop? That’s a Mac’n’Tosh! (Sorry. At least I didn’t say ‘a big hand, please, for Inspector Perez…)

 La Mer is playing in the background (copyright free music, budget saving move). Sandy knows his ProTools, and in a flash works out that there is only one juke box in Shetland it can possibly be on. The Worst Juke Box in the Known World. Next, Nana Mouskouri!

(Wait a minute. Was there a slow-motion car chase a few hours ago? Like Bullitt only on Tramadol and Stugeron, with Health and Safety rules ruling? Maybe. Who cares? Jimmy didn’t write off that Volvauxhall, which is the main thing. But why didn't the airbags go off? Cheapskate production values. Next you'll be saying half of this was shot in Ayrshire.)

POLIS RAID! To the Westings, which has clearly been HQ to a people trafficking operation, as there are sleeping bags and a message saying ‘Dear Inspector Perez, I am Daniel’s sister but I am no longer in residence.’ Which is just as well as there are more episodes, God help us.  Daniel’s mother has blood on her face. She shouldn’t have drunk that pint of white wine. It wasn’t even Prosecco. It was…it was…

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A whole heap of uploads, downloads, talk and music, podcasts and streaming

Apologies for presenting these in a lump of digital noise, but there's been some catching up to do.

First, apologies for the absence of 2 February's Beatcroft Social, which was inadvertently unrecorded...9 February is available now on the shetlandwebcams.com site with all the video from that dark and fairly calm (but cloudy) night, or you can listen to the whole thing streamed via Mixcloud here:

So there's that - plenty of interesting and reasonably pleasant music, some quite coherent chat, and Clive Munro's three tunes from the New West catalogue - and there's the Passing Place Podcast - speech (mostly; we add one out-of-copyright tune every week) from me and my neighbour Drew Ratter - the world and our lives, nattering and chattering from a Shetland perspective.

There are now three episodes - first one is just Shetland and poltics, the second is Up Helly Aa (local viking fire festival) and Brexit, and the third, just out, is Kindles, Martin Cruz Smith, books, God and the Gospel. Two very different journeys from faith to forgetfulness through Marxism and music journalism back to God again, sort of. And all available here:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Passing Place podcast - episode one

Drew Ratter and me, talking. Everything including the kitchen sink, from a Shetland perspective. We're going to try and do this weekly. This first episode is a kind of introduction, and covers Shetland, its economy, history and some scathing remarks about local government. Then we sort out Brexit. Of course we do. And Prince Philip...

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Beatcroft social as winds batters the Attic of Obscurity

Not that bad, to be honest. perhaps tipping 70mph at its worst, which is not quite up to the 120mph-plus winds of yore. This 300-odd-years-old house is still up, anyway, though it did shoogle and vibrate during the night. We're just about 20 of your old feet from high water mark, and in the past, the kitchen has been three feet underwater.

There's been rock armouring put in since then, and flood protection, but our power sockets are all above waist level on the ground floor.

Anyway, we struggled to get this show on the air, using a different system from the one deployed over the past few months. We just can't seem to get enough bandwidth, hence the lack of a Beatcroft camera and the audio-only nature of this programme.

And then the software we use, DJ Pro, began playing up, weirdly centred on a single track by Yvonne Lyon, which not only refused to play but also stopped any other track being uploaded for a period. After a bit, it was as if we'd cleaned the electronic pipes through which the music and chat flows, and it all began to work.

So get past the strange squeaks and blips of the first two tracks, and it settles down. I promise!