Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Are our ferries really safe? And is Bill Forsyth the greatest Scottish film maker?

Answers:
(1) Generally yes, but almost certainly not as safe as the battered old P&O ex-Baltic tubs that used to chug up and down between Shetland and Aberdeen in almost any conditions.
My evidence? Simply this. When NorthLink cancel sailings, it's always 'the captain's decision'. Sometimes it's tidal conditions in what is rapidly becoming the useless harbour at Aberdeen (Rosyth or Invergordon, I don't care which, just change. As long as it's not Scrabster). But more and more often it's 'for the safety and comfort of passengers'.
Now, conditions are NOT worse than they were back when you used to spend 36 hours on the St Sunniva or the St Clair, heartily wishing the captain did NOT have such confidence in his vessel. The fact is, the Hjaltland and the Hrossey are not able to handle extreme weather as well as the older boats. And I'm not making this up. One crew member I spoke to said the basic problem was that the boats had been 'very cheaply built' at a fraction of the budget set aside by P&O for new ships in their bid to the Scottish Executive to continue with the route. This, he opined, was the reason for a recent - and potentially catastrophic - watertight door failure.
And so the captains, wisely knowing what their boats can handle, choose to stay in port when the going gets rough. It ain't comfort; it's safety and the NorthLink boats aren't considered as capable as the P&O ones. And that's a fact. Not to mention a disgrace.
As for (2) I think so. Or neck and neck with Alexander MacKendrick (Sweet Smell of Success, Whisky Galore, The Maggie). I watched Gregory's Girl last night for the first time in 27 years, and it was truly, sweetly wonderful. It made me want to move to Cumbernauld. Or Cumbernauld as it once was, or was once dreamt of. It was full of surreal touches I'd forgotten - the magnificent Chic Murray, playing assembly hall piano; Jake D'arcy and Dee Hepburn's gloriously innocent football tactics dance in the dressing rooms; "How come you know all the best numbers?"
No violence, no swearing, no threat, the strange wisdom of the children, the sheer innocence of it all. It's a lovely, lovely movie. And it made me wonder if I ought to watch the very late sequel, Gregory's Two Girls, again, in the hope that it might not be as horrendous as I thought it was the first time.
Bill Forsyth's ouevre, if you can call it that (and why not?) contains some of the most consistently great work in Scottish filmology: That Sinking Feeling is a brilliant first feature, the class in handling a youthful ensemble cast heading straight to GG. then it's Comfort and Joy, best appreciated for its darkness rather than its comedy, before the two masterpieces, Local Hero ('we have an injured rabbit in the car')and the astounding, criminally underrated Being Human. Robin Williams at his best by a long way.

1 comment:

David said...

Seen the new cheap and nasty accommodation block addition to the stern of Hrossey ? Any soon Hjaltland?

Local Hero? Other good lines -

"....and there is 2 g's in Bugger Off"

"Aye-e-e, these lobsters fair see the World ...."