Dastardly deeds in Sweden

Much of my early life was spent travelling.

In particular, there was a period during which I was in the export market, selling gorse grown in Dunedin on the Chinese market, where it was used for the manufacture of bicycles.

There was a side market for the prickles, which, of course, were used in those days to irritate musicians and street performers.

It was a good time: I always had a pound in my pocket, and I was often away on business.

I would regularly end up in the Scandinavian territories - not because I needed to be there, but due to a lack of any directional nous on my part.

Cold.

Bloody cold, it was.

It was a surprise, then, all these years later, to see a new show on television, set in Sweden.

Wallander, of course, is a British television series on UKTV, adapted from Swedish novelist Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels, with Kenneth Branagh as the eponymous police inspector.

Sweden has changed.

For a start, everyone speaks with a British accent, despite the newspapers being in the language of the Swede.

Swedish, I think they call it.

Branagh's Wallander is dead moody.

He spends a lot of time - a lot of time - staring darkly and moodily into the distance.

He has a lot of stubble.

His rugged visage has the washed out, bleak, frozen pallor of an Ystad sunrise in autumn.

He is clearly an existentialist.

He questions what life is about.

His empathy with victims he cannot contain, and the price he pays is a personal life as washed out, bleak, frozen and grey as an Ystad sunrise.

Series three of Wallander started last night.

We were on a big ship with the word Scandlines on the side.

A frightened young woman clip clops her way through the ship, hiding when she sees members of the crew.

She steps outside the warmth of the cabins to find the sort of frozen ferry railing you will know well if you have ever clung drunkenly to the rails of the inter-island ferry on a frozen winter night sailing back from Wellington.

You know this will be her last night, and that frail frame will soon feel the shock of the frozen watery tomb that is the Baltic in autumn.

To make things worse, and to make Kenneth Branagh's character even more of an moody grey existentialist, Wallander's dog digs up a skeleton in his back garden.

That is just after he is called in to deal with the young lady - now dead - washed up on the beach.

Oh, oh but it's bleak.

And grey.

There are just three episodes of series three.

Only two to go.


- Charles Loughrey.