And so, once in a blue moon, there comes a TV series that enthralls, uplifts, informs, makes you howl laughing, feel nauseous and is only very occasionally tedious.
That series is Coast. I’ve been watching the programmes for what seems like years and I’m not fed-up yet. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been caught in it’s trawler net as it plies the waters around this sceptred isle with a little detour for the less sceptred tax haven isles a stone’s throw from France.
I don’t even know what it’s billed as. A documentary series I suppose, although it’s not quite that. It has its own characters – geeky speccie geographer and writer Nick Crane, who earned my total adulation as Map Man and then doubled it in another humble and un-glamourous series featuring him walking down the central meridian that bisects England. I enjoyed his book Two Degrees West, too.
Nick has a rucksack with an umbrella sticking out of it. I’d like him even better if it was a duffle bag but there you go – no-one’s perfect. Given a choice between him and George Clooney, it would be….erm. NI…NIC…GEO…. GEORGE CLOONEY. Damn.
He won the USA’s Polartec Adventurer of the Year Award, for a lifetime devoted to “bold, low-impact adventure.” Now if that isn’t a spectacularly low-key geeky award, I don’t know what is. What a bloke.
But ok, I’ll admit it the main attraction of Coast is the long lingering helicopter-borne camera shots of the sea and cliffs in the best weather imaginable. It’s the weather of dreams – the kind of dreams you have when you’re huddled shivering against a sand-dune on Great Yarmouth beach in mid-August sporting goose-pimples the size of man nipples.
Then there are the other presenters – a hairy-legged, long-haired historian Neil Oliver who looks a bit of New Romantic and who has innocently provoked the ire of DT man to the point where he shouts insults at his TV image from the other corner of the sofa. The phrase “wet Scottish git!” is at the mild end of the abuse. DT man was much amused watching New Romantic Neil reporting from the original Butlins holidaycamp at Skegness, looking out of place in his muted country greens and multi-pocketed walking trousers while nubile dancing boys in spandex cavorted on stage.
Dr Alice Roberts is a girl’s own hero type of woman – outdoorsy medic (one of my work colleagues was at med school with her), anatomy expert and archeologist and frankly a bit hippie with dyed strawberry red hair and a peculiar knitted hat and no make-up. She was last seen pouring the camera crew’s urine into a concoction designed to extract alum from rock and demonstrate just how it was used back in the 19th century to make dyes “stick” to fabrics producing more vivid colour-fast hues.
Then there is Mark Horton, who is ruddy of cheek and a bit roly-poly and smiley like a terribly jolly over-grown cherub. He’s head of archaeology and anthropology at Bristol Uni. He has trouble with his “r’s.” His finest moment was launching into a conversation with a chap who was very knowledgeable about the south Devon coastal railway but who also had a peculiar oddity of speech. The resulting clash of speech impediments had us sobbing with mirth.
His other finest moment was on a recent programme talking about something near Hull. God knows what was special about it. I was giggling too much to hear after DT man recreated the scene in the planning meeting “Now of all the places around the coast we can send Mark Horton, where shall it be? Ah! Ferriby…”
There is another woman marine biology type Miranda Krestovnikoff, who is perfectly competent but hasn’t really impacted on my consciousness the way the others have.
So I recommend this series. It’s varied and largely absorbing. They are digging stuff out of the sand one minute, showing ancient movies of Edwardians at play in Scarborough, looking at cliffs and creatures and old industries and examining the latest culinary fish invention from Youngs at Grimsby – the jumbo fish and mushy pea finger.
I love it when they feature places where I’ve been. I love it when they look at places I’ve hated (Great Yarmouth) or places I have yet to explore (Cleethorpes, Bognor, Folkstone).
It’s the kind of rich, informative tapestry that is the best kind of BBC programme. A joy, really.
For anyone interested, seriously accurate properly checked-out info about the presenters here
The latest programme, including the prototype Jumbo Fish and Mushy Pea Finger, is here