Crimes of Passion – Roses, Kisses and Death – And Cigarettes.

Crimes of Passion – Episode 4

Roses, Kisses and Death

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So what will Nancy Drew be investigating this week? Five Go Mad in Sweden is into its fourth week.  I alluded previously to the Swedes not being too keen on this and I understand that after the first one, it went straight to DVD.  So, to this week’s episode with the usual backdrop of privilege and gentility.

We start with Fanny the clairvoyant reading her tarot cards and they show her roses, kisses and death. We haven’t seen any of the assembled throng in the room before other than Christer. He must be pleased to be already at the venue this week, as he usually has to travel from Stockholm.

The maid, Sofia, is listening in to the conversation about “Odd Gertrud” real name Gertrud Uddgren who had disappeared, many suspect murdered, several years ago. Next, the maid has gone outside with a torch and meets up with Bjorn and he is soon digging in the earth cellar. He quickly comes across a skeleton.

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Then we are treated to the magnificent opening sequence, with the great music and titles. They really deserve a much better programme to introduce, but I digress.

Eje and Puck arrive (expect more dead bodies) and Eje is wearing glasses!! Not particularly impressive ones, but he seems to be trying to rock the Clark Kent look. They talk of how nice it is that Christer is engaged. What?? Serial womaniser Christer?? Some mistake surely!

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Our wet twosome are soon meeting with Christer and fiancée Gabriella (Bella for short) and the rest of her family, as engagement guests. They are grandfather Frederik, his sons Jan-Axel and Otto, the latter’s wife Helene and Aunt Fanny.  Local policeman Loving arrives with Bjorn to say they have found a body on the estate.  Bjorn is also an Uddgren, and the son of the murdered Getrud.

Puck has a cold, but her nose is bothering her in more ways than one as hearing voices when in bed, her nosiness gets the better of her as usual and she sees that Otto and Frederik seem to be arguing. She is later woken up to be told that Frederik has had a heart attack.  Family doctor Dr Severin has arrived.

Eje and Puck are called to see now bed ridden Frederik, who wants them to witness his rewritten will. He says that he wants to put things right even if it means taking the shame to the grave.  The ever curious Puck doesn’t seem to question this at all.

We see Puck waken up at 3.25am, although I’m not surprised as she seems to have the loudest ticking clock in all of Sweden in her room. She sees someone leaving the house but can’t tell who.  She goes back upstairs and sees in Frederik’s room that he appears to be dead, with Fanny motionless on the chair beside the bed and Puck can’t wake her up.  She goes and wakes Christer who tries to get amorous, which seems to be his permanent state, but he is just half asleep and soon we see that Fanny had just had her coffee drugged.  (Maybe not such a good idea to lubricate Fanny after all?  I’m so sorry).  Frederik is indeed dead and has been poisoned.

As we see Helene struggling to contain some of her assets inside her dress, I opine that she seems much more Christer’s type and I’m sure he will be getting with her before the end.

Passion49Basic Instinct alert!

Christer is testing all the pills in the house to try to ascertain what had been put in Fanny’s coffee. He is crushing them up and seeing if any of them don’t make the coffee taste bitter.  He eventually discovers one that had been obtained from Helene’s cabinet.

Christer, Eje and Puck are trying to find the rewritten will in Frederik’s room and Puck eventually finds it under the mattress. It has been amended to give large sums to Bjorn and Helene.

Eje has a seminar he has to leave to go to but Fanny persuades Puck to stay and help Christer. I’ve no idea why she does this.

Christer visits Bjorn and finds wet paint on his boat outside. He also takes a photograph from a table when Bjorn isn’t looking.  As he leaves, we see that Bella had been hiding in another room.  Christer then visits Dr Severin, lighting cigarettes wherever he goes.  The doctor tells him that Gertrud had been a “good time girl” and that he had been with her at one point.  He also says that Helene is pretty much addicted to drugs now.  This time Christer steals Frederik’s medical file.  Police procedure wasn’t big in 1950s Sweden.  We see Frederik phoning to tell someone all about the visit after Christer has left.

Puck, snooping about again, sees Jan-Axel having sex with Helene (his brother’s wife). Christer goes to speak to Daniel, but finds that he has been shot dead.  He also manages to let a dog into the room to walk right through the crime scene.

Christer’s fiancée isn’t pleased that he was checking her alibi, along with everyone else’s, for the time of the doctor’s murder. Puck and Christer find the same paint that was on Bjorn’s boat at the side of the water of the house they are staying at.  Christer visits Bjorn who pulls a knife on him then runs off.

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Helene tells Christer that Bella and Bjorn had been an item and that they had been together again. Frederik had put a stop to the relationship, but following his death, it was back on.  He goes to see Bella but she isn’t in her room.  She sees him go back downstairs.  Christer gets a whisky and a cigarette and sits in a chair.  After taking a drink he slumps in the chair and drops the glass.

Bella goes in to see Puck and tells her Christer is not back yet. She also warns her that the murderer is still out there.  After Puck saying it is unlikely that she would be a target, Bella says “who knows what your sensitive nose might sniff out”.  No, I’ve no idea either.

We see Bjorn back across on his boat again, then Puck wakening up. As the door handle turns to her room and someone enters, she hits them over the head with something, but it’s Eje who has returned from his seminar.  She tells him he shouldn’t have sneaked up on her, and says, jokingly “I want a divorce!”  Eje doesn’t seem to be harmed.

Puck joins Christer by the waterside and sees him throw his engagement ring in the water. They have a moment together and their “will they won’t they” goes on, something akin to David Addison/Maddy Hayes in Moonlighting or Ross/Rachael in Friends, but with the addition of one of them being married to the other’s best friend.   Puck and Eje aren’t getting on well again and Eje tells her that “you make my head spin and not in a good way”.  Try watching it Eje!

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It seems increasingly that Puck is attracted to Christer simply because of the excitement of his world (and possibly the dullness of Eje). Do we want our two main characters to get together?  Eje is Christer’s best friend.  Puck is Eje’s wife. Christer will sleep with anyone.  Do we care?

The noises coming from upstairs in the house have to be investigated and Puck actually lets Eje come with her to do so. It must be his birthday or something.  There they find Fanny, Bjorn and Bella having a séance.  Bjorn runs for it, but Eje and Christer manage to catch him on the staircase.  Bjorn and Bella try to cover for each other by taking responsibility for killing Frederik, but neither of them was responsible.

So we end again with Christer and all the cast in a room, as the denouement is reached. He tells them that all the alibis they had given the local police for where they had been when Daniel was killed were bollocks.  He must really be getting sick of everyone lying every week.  Particularly so this week when it includes his fiancée.

But what’s this? Christer is doing all the talking!  Clearly Puck’s powers of deduction/interfering don’t work when she has the cold, although as is always the way in this series, the murderer decides to just give in immediately that everyone is in a room together.

He had discovered from Frederik’s file that he had been unable to have children, so it was not he who had made Gertrud pregnant. Helene tells them all that Otto was impotent and had never had sex and that she had done well to last 15 years before straying.

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We have a flashback to Otto as a soldier, where he looks like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. He and Gertrud had been in love and he had got her pregnant.  He made an appointment to see Daniel to have an abortion, but she didn’t turn up and wanted to keep the baby.  The scandal would have been too much, so he shot her.  His father Frederik had a heart attack after he told him of this, thinking he already knew, and his dad had told him he had to come clean or he would do it for him, so he had to kill him too.  When Daniel phoned to tell Otto of Christer’s questions, he decided to tie up that last loose end.  So 3 murders, two of which are to cover up what he had done originally, yet he spills the beans at the first hint of being caught.

There’s just time for Christer to get together with Helene, newly released from her sex free marriage and he newly fiancée free. She tells him that he is not one for grieving; completely ignoring the fact her husband is a triple murderer and will be going to Swedish prison for a very long time.  He says “In the right company, it can be quite pleasant”.  Up on the screen comes the word “slut” which is the Swedish word for “the end”.  It’s not clear whether they mean Christer or Helene.

An episode about sexual frustration, with none of the sexy. How I yearn for The Killing, Borgen, Spiral or Salamander on a Saturday evening. Ok maybe not the last one.

Two weeks left!

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Issues:

  • When people find a skeleton, why is it always the head which is uncovered first?
  • With a Fanny featuring again this week, are we back to a pussy again next week?
  • Christer’s hair seemed to have returned to normal.
  • Puck should have business cards with ‘dead body finder’ on.
  • Wasn’t particularly nice to refer to Bjorn as “gypsy” all the way through.
  • What was with the endless need to carry candles in the house in the dark? Did the lights only work during the day?
  • It has seemed to calm down on the cigarette smoking in the last episode and had been replaced with cake, but the fags were back with a vengeance tonight.
  • When Christer was speaking to Bjorn, the translation came up “You’re alibi”. Aaaarrrggghhh!
  • Have we discovered the point of Eje yet?
  • Did anyone else find Christer getting engaged to Bella completely implausible?
  • Were Eje’s glasses maybe some kind of cold deflector? This would explain why he didn’t seem to have any trace of the cold despite kissing Puck on the lips at least 4 times.
  • I seem to be caring less each week who the actual murderer is.
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Crimes of Passion – No More Murders – Oh Yes There Is!

Crimes of Passion – Episode 3

 No More Murders

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So here we are again. Episode 3 of the series set in 1950s Sweden.

What are we in store for this week? How long will it take Christer to get someone into bed?  How annoying and interfering will Puck be?  Will Eje be fixing something in his vest covered in oil?

We start with the usual TV company logo appearing on screen, which looks like the San Francisco 49s American Football team badge. We open this week with a woman, resplendent in curlers, knocking on her neighbour’s door looking to borrow some coffee.  As seems to be the way in 50s Sweden, when she gets no answer, she tries the handle of the door and goes in.  She finds her neighbour lying dead on the kitchen floor.  We then jump to a man thanking someone for a lift and entering a cabin.  Then up comes the excellent title sequence, with the James Bond/Mad Men theme music.

Christer appears and talks to the woman in curlers (she doesn’t look his type) and is told that the dead woman, Britt Andersson has “a lot of visitors” and “likes a drink” and to “have fun”. She tells him that a young man visited recently and that Britt had said it was quite an ordeal.  They seem to like saying the word ordeal.  Maybe because it sounds like they are saying “pish” in a Glasgow accent.

Puck and Eje are now newlyweds and, complete with Puck’s father’s cat, Thotmes III they’ve borrowed Eje’s sister’s old wooden house and her housekeeper Hulda. (We are told that you can’t beat Hulda’s cabbage pudding. I think I’d be doing my best to beat it to death. Cabbage pudding???)

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The cat, who we are told shouldn’t be let out of the house, gets out of the house immediately and Puck and Eje seems to be leaving doors and windows open on purpose with the number of times it gets out. On one of these occasions, it returns with blood on it, and Eje asks his feline friend where it has been. Thotmes the third must be Swedish for Lassie, as it takes him straight to a dead body. Eje decides this is something his wife should see (she hasn’t seen a dead body since last week) and shouts on her to come and see.

The unfortunate deadee is Tommy Holt. The chap we saw right at the start entering the cabin and the bloke we have seen creeping around watching things. He is the son of Colonel Wilhelm Holt and Margit Holt, and brother of Agneta. Although he isn’t really. Margit has enough forehead for the whole family. Tommy seems to have been asked to leave 3 years ago for a reason that the Colonel is not prepared to divulge.

Glamorous blonde Lou Mattson (and favourite to be Christer’s conquest this week) appears as an old friend of Eje. She is married to Yngve, who looks way too old for her and Yngve is the brother of successful authoress Elisabet.

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Christer appears, as there is a link to the Holts and the murder of Britt Andersson. It seems that Tommy was in fact adopted, which is news to his sister. It would also appear that Britt was Tommy’s mother. Although the Colonel had told his wife that his mother had died during childbirth. Way to mess up the family Christer!

We meet the busybody sisters, a kind of posh 1950s version of Cissie and Ada, as portrayed by Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough in the 70s and 80s. They let slip to Puck and Eje that Tommy had been staying with them. And that they had seen Tommy arguing with the Colonel. The Colonel, and everyone else, had said they hadn’t seen Tommy.

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As seems to be a feature of all of these, everyone in it seems to lie to Christer. It keeps us on our toes who might be the murderer, but are they not all committing an offence?

Christer meets Lou for the first time, as she is swimming in her pool. He looks her up and down creepily as she exits it. Yngve turns up so no action there.

The clues come thick and fast, well as fast as this programme allows, as we see someone stealing keys from Elisabet’s house. (Why does nobody lock their front door?) Puck sees Agneta and the handyman, Borje, arguing. Christer is talking to a mystery man (colleague perhaps?) in a restaurant and they talk about Yngve being home the night of the murder. A waiter interrupts to say that Yngve had in fact been very drunk in the restaurant that night and left at closing time. Elisabet tells Yngve that he has to tell his wife. It isn’t clear about what, but an affair between them seems most likely.

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Thotmes III has escaped the house again and comes back with a bow which we are told is “all yucky”. It’s not clear what this means.

We see Lou playing the piano at a party that her and Yngve are throwing. Everyone seems to be there which is odd given there has just been a murder. Puck is off investigating again and is going through Lou’s bedroom. Why she is doing this is anyone’s guess. Lou is playing the piano and suddenly bursts into tears and Christer sees her to her room (surely not!). Neither of them seems to bat an eyelid that Puck is already in the room. Puck finds a pair of shoes in Lou’s closet with one missing a bow.

Borje the handyman, looking increasingly like a young Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, tells Christer that he had seen Tommy at the house. Lou is taken in for questioning. Having a cat steal one of the bows off your shoe was clearly a crime in Sweden in those days.

We see someone walking into Elisabet’s house again, this time turning the gas on. It doesn’t seem to do her any harm as she turns up at Tommy’s funeral with Yngve and thinks she left it on herself. They are asked to leave the wake by the Colonel, at the insistence of his wife. As Lou is in police custody they think that it isn’t appropriate that her family attends.

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Christer and Puck are out walking again. (Just how does Eje put up with this?) They just happen to hear a cat meowing and then a splash. They run to the water where nobody can be seen, but a bag is in the water. Puck wades in and takes out the bag, which turns out to be Tommy’s jacket that he was wearing the day he was killed and Thotmes III is wrapped in it. Are you not supposed to put stones in it if you are trying to drown a cat? They are doing a great job of keeping it indoors.

Puck and Christer happen upon a cabin near the water and find Agneta and Borje inside in a state of undress. Agneta comfirms it was Tommy’s jacket. Christer says that there isn’t any blood on it. There also doesn’t seem to be any water on it as it looks completely dry!

Agneta and Borje explain that Tommy had caught them in a similar situation 3 years ago and told them that Agneta’s mother was on the way. She would never accept her daughter and the handyman as an item. As Borje hid, Margit arrived. (They could probably hear her forehead banging off everything.) Seeing Agneta in a state of undress with Tommy made her think they had been having an incestuous relationship. To protect Borje, they didn’t say anything and Tommy was banished. Really??

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Next, Borje is delivering groceries to Elisabet and there is no answer at her door. He of course goes in. No sign of her, but there is a letter on her typewriter saying she can’t take it anymore. Christer, Puck and Eje go to where the cat had been and find Elisbet’s shawl in the water. (We won’t wonder how they knew it was hers). They head to her house and find Borje next to the typewriter. Puck says that Borje must be in shock and Eje should make him a coffee. How Eje puts up with her I will never know. It certainly wasn’t like that here in the 50s! Christer opens a box in the room and immediately comes across a picture of Britt. That was lucky! (Sigh).

This somehow means that Lou is clearly innocent (?) and Christer picks her up from the police station. She doesn’t seem particularly bothered that she had been accused, or indeed that she missed Tommy’s funeral. Particularly when she tells Christer that Tommy had been at hers when Yngve had been away on business. She went out for dinner with friends after having sex with Tommy and returned to trip over Tommy’s dead body on the lawn. The flashback of this showed her to dive almost as badly as Cristiano Ronaldo as she fell over the prone body. She then saw her very drunk husband return from the restaurant and fall in the living room, with blood on his shirt.

Christer, continuing to be the bearer of bad news, tells Yngve that Lou had been having an affair with Tommy and that he knew Yngve was bankrupt and getting money from his sister. Christer returns to Elisabet’s house and finds her will under the typewriter which leaves everything to Tommy.

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Christer sees Margit heading off in her car and finds Puck and follows her. They find Margot arguing with the Colonel. It turns out that it was Elisabet that was Tommy’s mother and she had gone to Stockholm when she discovered her pregnancy. She had met Britt Andersson and used her name when she gave birth. Elisabet is also there. With Tommy looking for his real mother, he had gone to meet Britt in Stockholm. Tommy had found out the truth and was blackmailing his father. Puck tells them that it wasn’t Tommy that was having an affair with Agneta. It was Margit who had killed Tommy after finding him back home and him saying he now had a proper mother. She had also killed Britt in Stockholm thinking that was who had been having an affair with her husband.

So another case solved. We see Christer drive off after saying goodbye to Puck and Eje. Thotmes III has survived his many escapades, although he may have been the best actor. Just as we think Christer has got through a whole episode without any conquests, he stops to pick up Lou.

Excellent opening graphics and music. Great clothes. Poor story.

Issues:

  •  Was this week sponsored by the Great British Bake Off? There was cake everywhere!
  • Elisabet looked like a fortune teller with head scarf on at the funeral.
  • Lots more suitcases this week to justify Puck’s outfit changes.
  • I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Puck packed her funeral outfit.
  • I’ve no idea how authentic the rest of it is, but Swedes drove on the left until 1967.
  • Did Britt Andersson not used to be in the band Suede?
  • What on earth was Margrit talking about after meeting Thotmes the 3rd when she said “spit, spat, devil’s cat”?
  • What happened to Christer’s hair this week? It looked like a wig for most of the episode.
  • How did the waiter in the restaurant know what Christer and colleague were talking about and what night? He must have been listening for ages.
  • Eje told Puck at the start that nothing ever happens in Skogo, but that’s where they were last week, where multiple murders took place.
  • It seems the creators are happy to kill humans but not cats.
  • Translation seems to be getting very English. Phrases this week included “It’s all yucky” and “Am I in a pickle now?”
  • When Christer and Puck were following Margit in the car, how did they know where she turned off?
  • Does Christer only wear a light coloured suit once the crime has been solved?
  • Last week we had fanny and this week pussy. I was half expecting Mrs Slocombe to appear.
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Crimes of Passion – King Lily of the Valley – Hate it with a passion?

Crimes of Passion – Episode 2

King Lily of the Valley

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It’s touch and go whether I watch tonight’s episode of the drama series based on Maria Lang’s crime novels set in the beauty of Bergslagen, Sweden.  The first episode last week was very Enid Blytonesque, although they are all entirely different stories.  Anne-Marie McGarry in one of the many Facebook groups for lovers of all things Scandinavian Crime suggested I blog about it. So you can blame her for this.

It turns out each episode is based on an early novel of Maria (real name Dagmar Lange), written in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  Although these were not reported to have been received well in Sweden, BBC4 clearly saw something in them, and decided to screen them for the many in the UK with an insatiable thirst for all things Nordic.

Set mainly in Bergslagen in the 1950s, the films follow Puck Ekstedt (Tuva Novotny), her boyfriend (now fiancé) Einar Bure (Linus Wahlgren), called Eje, and their friend, police Superintendent Christer Wijk (Ola Rapace), as they solve various crimes.  I hadn’t realised these were permanent fixtures in each episode, but appears they are.

For those wondering, Ola was married to Noomi Rapace until 2011.  She of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame.  He also played Patrice in Skyfall.

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We begin with a wedding this week, with Christer attending with his mother.  Puck and Eje, now engaged are also there, but not before the opening scene where we see a car rocking from side to side, but contrary to what those of you with dirty minds might think, it is moving as Eje is trying to fix a flat tyre.

Lothario Christer is soon admiring a woman and discovers it is Dina, who he knew when he was very young, but hadn’t seen her in a long time.  After the church had filled up, groom to be Joakim stands in front of the assembled throng and thanks everyone for turning up, but that it appears his fiancée has decided not to.  As the opening credits play, I can’t help but think we are in for more lashings of ginger beer.

Alliteration fans would be delighted to discover that the potential bride, Anneli, had last been seen (according to Dina who turns out to be her best friend) at Fanny Falkmann the Florists.  I’ll try not to take the juvenile route with her name.  Anneli had gone in but not come out.  Fanny says this didn’t happen.

As everything had been paid for and people had travelled, a decision is made to go ahead with the wedding reception.  Here we meet Lars Ove-Larsson, looking like a young David Van Day, who is sitting with Dina.  He leaves and tells Dina not to come with him.  Christer is over in a flash and invites Dina to sit at his table.  We then see our three series stalwarts leaving with Dina and then Christer and Dina having sex.  It only took him 15 minutes this week!  He does seem to always manage to get the best looking woman in each episode into bed.  The lovely Marianne Vassbotn Klasson being this week’s conquest.

Puck joins Christer in walking the dog the next morning (yet more Blyton being introduced!!) and they discover Anneli’s  body at the side of a lake.  She seems to have been stabbed.  Her bag is lying nearby and contains, amongst other things, a key ring with Rock Hudson on it.  Christer goes and tells Anneli’s mum Gretel and step-dad Egon the bad news.  Egon is wearing a fine pair of striped pyjamas.

Christer discovers that the keyring had previously had the keys to her work on, and that she had gone to her boss’s house to give the keys back.  After visiting the boss, Sebastian, he finds that this is another person who had claimed not to have seen her.  Various witnesses had said that they saw Anneli running away from his house in tears.

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Fanny had been lying when she said Anneli hadn’t been in her shop.  But this was to disguise her having sex with married man Sebastian.

Puck is doing her usual amateur sleuth stuff.  She goes to Lars’ house and goes in.   A member of the Famous Five if ever there was one.  We see Lars returning and he walks into his house to see her in the living room.  Next up, Christer is knocking on the door and Puck answers!  Lars is lying unconscious on the floor.  Lars admits to driving away with Anneli, but she asked to be dropped off at the woods and for Lars not to come looking for her.

Christer and Puck go to the woods and just as they come across a cabin, they see a man hanging by the neck from a tree.  After investigating the cabin, they find it belongs to a Mats Norgaard, and it has pictures of Anneli all over it.

The information is coming thick and fast now, with us finding out that Sebastian was having a meeting with Egon (Anneli’s step dad remember) and also that Mats had been the ex of Anneli, and had written 3 letters to her from his home in Germany.

A word must go to the beautiful location of this week’s episode.  They refer to it being Skogo.  Gorgeous place.  Perhaps more style than substance though.

The autopsy is completed on the dead girl and her mum Gretel comes out with the line of the evening, saying that they should have the funeral as soon as possible, as she has “so many freshly baked buns”.  A key ingredient of any funeral as we all know.  We also discover that Mats was dead before he was hanged. (Or is it hung?)

Christer goes to speak to Lars again, and this time, the interfering Puck starts going through his car!  She finds rope in the glove compartment like the stuff used to hang Mats.  Lars runs off and jumps into the car that Dina is in the back of and drives off.  As Christer and Puck gives chase we hear the squealing of tyres and as they get round the corner, Lars is out of the car trying to strangle Dina.  We have a moment between Christer and Puck where he almost kisses her, but he doesn’t.

I suppose at this point I should mention that throughout the episode, the relationship between Eje and Puck is constantly shown.  Things aren’t going great and the marriage looks in doubt.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself not really caring.  Eje seems a bit wet and Puck seems more interested in being an amateur detective.

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We see Egon and Gretel’s Maid, Elvira trying to phone Christer about something she has found.  At the wake, Elvira is nowhere to be seen, until the ever inquisitive Puck (for inquisitive, I mean annoying) finds her drowned in the washroom.

Christer speaks to the assembled throng at the wake and accuses Egon of the murder.  Well he had accused pretty much everyone else by this point.  He scoffs at this.  Then Puck says that he didn’t love her as a father and suddenly he confesses all!  He had hidden the letters to his step daughter, he had been speaking to Sebastian about needing Anneli to marry Joakim for his money, he had stabbed Anneli after trying to grope her and she grabbed the knife and he had killed Mats to make it look like him.  He had also planted the rope in Lars car.

Puck tells Eje she doesn’t want to marry him because she doesn’t want to be a housewife because she wants to complete her doctorate and doesn’t want to do housework.  But because Eje loves her, he says this is ok and as long as they love each other, everything will be ok.  Awwwwww.  (boak).  This seems to do the trick.

We end as we began, with a car rocking from side to side.  But this time it is what the dirty minded think.  With Christer and Dina in it, caught after Eje and Puck drive past and catch them.  How they laughed.

It’s not really Nordic Noir, it’s Nordic Yellow.

I think it was better than last week.

Issues:

  •  Would a key ring with Rock Hudson on it have existed in the 50s?
  • You’d think Christer would get increasingly irritated at Puck’s interfering in police work.
  • How come Christer is an inspector in Stockholm but gets to investigate cases wherever he is? Are they glad to see the back of him? Has he already offended every woman in Stockholm?
  • After Christer had paid her a visit, Fanny said “Inspector” in a very strange way as if this was an insult?
  • What’s the story with the Swedes and funerals? Male family wear white ties?
  • As a civilian, and with no search warrant, I expect Puck could be done with breaking and entering, trespassing, assault etc.
  • I get the feeling a Swedish TV executive watched an episode of Mad Men and wondered what books they could do that could be of the same time.
  • If Puck focusses on her doctorate, how will she continue to investigate these crimes she seems obsessed with?
  • Every time Christer and Puck go for a walk, they find a dead body.
  • Enid Blyton or Agatha Christie? You decide.
  • Did they not ban cigarette advertising on TV?
  • How does Puck always turn up with a tiny suitcase and yet has about 15 changes of clothes?
  • Ironic that Christer appears to lust after every woman he meets, with the exception of Fanny.
  • I didn’t manage to avoid the juvenility of my mind and her name all the way through.
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Football Season 2014/15 – First pre-season games

Thursday 3 July 2014, Victoria Park

Pre-season seems to get earlier and earlier.  The World Cup is still in full flow when I attend my first friendly of the season at Victoria Park, Innerleithen.  Vale of Leithen of the Lowland League face Dumbarton of the Scottish Championship (that’s the latest nomenclature of the second top league in Scotland).

Very sad to hear that Vale are in deep financial trouble and are not far away from going out of business.  A new management team and new board members are trying to turn the club around.  Some attractive friendlies are hoping to attract some much needed funds.  The owner of local ice-cream parlour Caldwells forked out for new strips and other local businesses have been mucking in.

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It’s therefore very disappointing to see such a small crowd in attendance.  I doubt there could have been more than 50 for the game which, although on a Thursday night, is during one of the World Cup rest days.  Do the locals want the club to survive?  Dumbarton don’t have the biggest support generally, so they were unlikely to bring a large number with them, but there seems to be more of them than home fans.

Dumbarton are in much better shape than the hosts. They finished a very creditable fifth in the Championship the previous year and former Hibs stalwart Ian Murray along with his about to depart to Hearts, assistant Jack Ross, seem to have “the Sons” overachieving.  Ironically, I saw Dumbarton in their last game of the previous season, up at Dundee, in the game which won Dundee the league.

Dumbarton brought a large squad with them.  Vale had several players still on holiday and featured just one player from the previous season’s squad. It always amazes me how lower league clubs have players missing due to holidays, but it seems a regular occurrence.  I expect they have full time jobs and are limited on when they can get time off/school holidays etc.

Dumbarton played an almost full strength team and when Jordan Kirkpatrick opened the scoring in just 4 minutes, it looked like a long night was ahead for the home team.  The away side knocked the ball about well and although Vale weren’t out of it, it was clear who was the team from a higher level.  The excellent Kirkpatrick scored a great individual goal for the second on 23 minutes and then set up Colin Nish for a third five minutes before half time.

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Following a number of substitutions, Vale came a bit more into the game in the second half, but it was Dumbarton who completed the scoring when new signing from Morton Scott Taggart scored on 72 minutes.

Full Time: Vale of Leithen 0 Dumbarton 4

Admission: £5

Vale of Leithen: McMullen (Wilson 60), Sclater (Marshall 45), Gill, Elliot, Blaikie, Lynch (Anderson h45), Rixon (Brady 45), O’Brien, Ferguson, Morris, Tulloch.

Dumbarton: Lumsden (Grindlay 60), Van Zanten (Taggart 60), Linton, Graham, McLaughlin, Murray (Hopkins 72), Turner (Cook 72), Agnew, Nish, Kirkpatrick, Fleming (Megginson 60). Referee: Scott Millar.

Saturday 5 July 2014, Victoria Park

So two days pass until I am off on the road to Innerleithen again.  This time to see Vale of Leithen  play Hibs.  A lot of interest around this one as it is new Hibs manager Alan Stubbs first game in charge and the Sky Sports News cameras are in attendance.  Decidedly busier as well with 1,375 making the journey to Victoria Park.  There is even a tent selling hot food as opposed to the usual hole in the concrete wall, which is part of the dressing rooms.  Hilariously, some chairs have been placed in the undercover section of the ground.

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Vale have what is reportedly their first ever full colour programme on sale and there is a raffle on the way in to win a signed Hibs shirt.

Vale have Penicuik Athletic forward Scott McCulloch, a former Vale player, up front as they are still short of players.  Hibs seem to have brought pretty much everyone still on their books.  A lot of youngsters and the remaining first team players following the exodus after their play-off relegation on the last day of the previous season.  They also have two trialists in tow.  We are told Hibs will have a first half 11, then an entirely different second half eleven

Both clubs wore new kits with Vale giving the first outing to the kit sponsored by Caldwell’s, while Hibs were clad in new all bottle green jerseys, in recognition of the famous 5.  I’d heard it hadn’t been well received and it certainly wasn’t easy on the eye.  I think I only saw one Hibs fan wearing it in the crowd which maybe tells its own story.  The first half was pretty much one way traffic but despite their possession, Hibs were not creating much.  A couple of Hibs fans behind me started singing “We’re gonna win the league”, with the score still 0-0.  Jason Cummings scored the opener for Hibs from close range

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While the first half team was made up of a mix of 1st teamers and youngsters.  Despite the promised different 11 in the second half, Stubbs left a couple of the first teamers out for the second half, just in case things went wrong I assume.  Cummings also scored the 2nd then was taken off.  Liam Craig and Alex Harris scored towards the end as Vale tired, having played twice in 2 days.  In truth, Hibs were on top for the duration with very little threat from the home team.  A fine moment at the pie tent in the second half when one Hibs fan said to another “I can’t believe there isnae any singing.  Never heard us so quiet”.  His mate responded with “It was this quiet against Hamilton”.  (Who they lost to in the play-off final).

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A large crowd and hopefully Vale will have alleviated some of their financial problems.

Full Time: Vale of Leithen 0 Hibs 4.

Admission: £7

Vale of Leithen: Mullen (Wilson 64), Sclater, Dickson (Rixon 68), Elliot, Blaikie, Lynch (Tainsh), Brady, McCulloch (Ferguson 75), O’Brien, Morris (McGregor 50), Tulloch.

Hibernian: Perntrou (Brennan 45), Buxton (Dunsmore 45), Martynuik (Booth 45), Stevenson (Forster 45), Nelson (Hanlon 45), Gardiner (Burke 45), Martin (Craig 45), Tudur-Jones (Harris 45), Cummings (Crane 60; Sinclair 80), Handling (Allan 60), Todd (Stanton 45). Referee: Gavin Ross.

Saturday 12 July 2014, 3G Arena (Netherdale)

I’m not entirely sure if the best way to spend your birthday is watching a pre-season friendly in Galashiels, but that was where I found myself for Lowland League Gala Fairydean Rovers against East of Scotland Football League First Division side Eyemouth United.

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Gala joined the Lowland League from the East of Scotland Football League in 2013. At the same time the club changed its name to Gala Fairydean Rovers, following a merger between Gala Fairydean and Gala Rovers.

Eyemouth were previously members of the Scottish Football Association and were allowed to enter the Scottish Cup. Their most successful run in the competition was in 1959-60 when they reached the quarter-finals, eventually losing 2-1 at home to that year’s runners-up Kilmarnock.

Netherdale, or The 3G Arena has been the club’s home since 1929 and is located next to the rugby ground.  The ground’s stand was designed by architect Peter Womersley and built in the mid 60s. The stand has a capacity for 750 spectators and the ground as a whole up to 4,000. The cantilevered concrete structure is protected as a Category A listed building.

Both teams were short of players with Gala having half a dozen at weddings or T in the Park with Eyemouth having 9 players pulling out following the funeral of club stalwart Robin Aitchison the previous day.  A minute’s silence preceded the game which was observed impeccably by the 100 or so in attendance.

David Bonnar opened the scoring for the home side after 5 minutes and just two minutes later, Gibson made it 2-0.  Eyemouth were competitive, but had no cutting edge and Ross Aitchison scored the third with a great effort that went in off the underside of the bar just before half time.

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Aitchison got his second of the game after 50 minutes and Dean McColm made it five with 20 minutes left.

An injury to Aitchison meant Gala played the last 18 minutes with 10 men, having used all their subs, but almost immediately, Ashley Langford made it 6-0 on his debut.

Aiden Lauder got one back for Eyemouth with a beautiful chip from 20 yards over the head of keeper Dodds with a quarter of an hour to go.  The Eyemouth keeper shouted that “The comeback was on” (and smiled to himself a little too much), but  Noble restored the six goal margin with 11 minutes left.

A goal bonanza, and not as one-sided as the scoreline suggests, but Gala were clearly the better team.

Full Time:  Gala Fairydean Rovers 7 Eyemouth United 1.

Admission: £3

Gala Fairydean Rovers. J Dodds, L Stephen (K Hogg 46), D Thomson, G Robinson (A Commons 56), P Hossack, D Bonnar, R Aitchison, D McColm, J Gibson (A Langford 56), C Pinnons (R Noble 46) S Noble.

Eyemouth United. A Mutch, G Burrull, J Watt, R Wylie, D Burns, R Aitchison, A Lauder, M Scott (G Scott 59), C Lough, J Thomson & T Wyman.

Sunday 13 July 2014, Ferguson Park

Less than 24 hours after the previous game and I’m off to Rosewell to see Lowland League’s Whitehill Welfare take on the under 20 team of Scottish Premiership side Hamilton Accademicals.

The Junior club, Rosewell Rosedale, used to play at a park in the centre of the village, just to the south of St Matthew’s RC Church.  After the war this land was taken over for building houses, and the club moved over to its current location. The turf was provided by a farmer named Ferguson

Hamilton certainly seemed to have a few players that were well over 20 in their line-up.  Star attraction was Champions League winner and World Cup goalscorer Benni McCarthy lining up for Whitehill as a guest player.  Now 37, the South African is the brother-in-law of Whitehill’s right back John Hall.  Whitehill also have Penicuik’s goalkeeper Youssef Bejaoui playing as a guest, a former Whitehill player who left to sign for Cowdenbeath.

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It doesn’t take the SPL new boys long to open the scoring with Jaison McGrath putting the Accies in front after just 7 minutes.

McCarthy didn’t look full of running but the ability was clearly still there and he scored with a bullet header, from a good way from goal to equalise in 14 minutes.

He continued to influence the game and gave a perfect lay off to former Ross County player Kerr Dodds who rifled home from 25 yards.  Dodds then shows great feet in the box after half an hour and finishes well to put Whitehill 3-1 up, which is the score at half time.

I’m sure everyone in the ground is disappointed to see that McCarthy has not come out for the second half, but he stays to watch his team mates after getting changed. Having a quick chat with him, I tell him that it was “some header”, to which he replies “Beginner’s luck”.  He also smells amazing(!)

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Eamonn Brophy  reduced the leeway for Hamilton four minutes after the interval then equalised in the 59th minute.  McGrath then got his second of the afternoon to make it 4-4 Accies and The first of their trialists rounds things off with 9 minutes left.

Full Time:  Whitehill Welfare 3 Hamilton Accademicals 5

Admission: £5

Whitehill Welfare:  Bejaoui, Martin, Thom, McLaughlin, Hall, Dodds, Manson, A.Kidd, McCarthy, McIntosh Quinn. Subs Gallacher, Flynn, Noon.

Hamilton Accies:  Accies: Hill, Reilly (Hughes 55), McMann, Harrison, El Zubaidi, Smith (Trialist A 55), Armstrong (Trialist B 55), Simpson (Tierney 66), McGrath, Brophy, Docherty (c)

Referee: David Doig

Tuesday 15 July 2014, Ferguson Park

A quick return to Rosewell to see Whitehill Welfare up against Berwick Rangers of Scottish League Two.

For the second home friendly in a row, Whitehill have produced a programme, which is inexpensive at £1.  The content, however, is almost identical to the one for the Hamilton game.

Whitehill are along similar lines to their previous game (Sadly, Benni McCarthy free).  Berwick have brought “an experimental side”.  I expect they must have left their test tubes on the team bus.

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Kerr Dodds opens the scoring with another goal for Whitehill in the 26th minute.  Thirteen minutes later Dean Carse gets the equaliser for Berwick.

A Tuesday night in Rosewell in July is clearly not the time to be outside at a football pitch, as a plague of midges appeared almost as soon as the half time whistle blows.  Astonishing how many there were and pretty much everyone seemed to be affected.

Most of the second half entailed fighting off the midges, but Danny Noon set up Steven Manson who restored Whitehill’s lead in the 62nd minute and they held on for a well-deserved win.

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Berwick Rangers manager Colin Cameron told me he remembers Hearts 1998 Scottish Cup Final (which he played and scored in) “like it was yesterday”.

A good win for Whitehill.

Full Time: Whitehill Welfare 2 Berwick Rangers 1

Admission: £5

Whitehill Welfare: Young, McLaughlin, McDiarmid, W.Kidd, Thom, Manson, A.Kidd, Dodds, McGlashan, McIntosh, Noon.

Berwick Rangers: TBC

Referee:

Saturday 19 July 2014, Ferguson Park

Yep, it’s Rosewell again for my third visit in less than a week to see Whitehill Welfare against Penicuik Athletic, in their first game since ending the season as winners of the East of Scotland Premier League (And going up to the East Superleague).

The nice weather has disappeared and the ground is surrounded in fog.  And even some rain!  A seat in the covered area is procured.  102 brave the elements of a Scottish summer.  Another programme produced by Whitehill and it is the same one again!!  I think only 2 pages are different.  Home manager Mike Lawson has returned from holiday and will be at his first home pre-season game.  It’s Penicuik’s first game of pre-season and Whitehill’s fifth.

The kick off was reported to have been moved from the advertised 2.30 to 2.00, but at quarter past 2 there is still no sign of the game starting.  The game had been moved back to 2.30 but they hadn’t told anyone.

Penicuik goalkeeper Bejaoui is “in Aberdeen” and Penicuik have in goals someone who appeared to be warming up with Whitehill before the start.  Whitehill full back John Hall is playing in right midfield due to him receiving staples in his head following a knock in his previous game. It is considered he won’t head the ball as much in this position.  Penicuik don’t pick him after 2 minutes up as he cuts inside and hits what looks like a weak shot which somehow goes past the keeper.  (Fix!).

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Penicuik are back on level terms after 9 minutes when former Hearts, St Johnstone (etc) midfielder Neil Janczyk volleys home from close range on his debut.

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A lovely move carves open the Whitehill defence and a through ball by Janczyk finds right back Greg Ross, who lobs the ball over the onrushing keeper to put Penicuik in front after 17 minutes.

Penicuik haven’t learned their lesson and John Hall finds himself through on the keeper who takes him out as Hall attempts to go past him.  A sending off in anything but a pre-season game and manager Lawson turns to the crowd telling nobody in particular that he would have “been going mental” that he hadn’t been sent off if it wasn’t a friendly.  Wayne McIntosh dispatches the penalty to put the teams back on level terms.

Almost immediately Lawson is going “mental” at a refereeing decision, but he doesn’t seem to see the irony.

The half ends with the teams all square in what has been an entertaining, competitive match.

Three substitutions at half time by Penicuik and it being their first game made the second half a bit more one-sided in favour of Welfare and they played some good stuff against a tiring Penicuik.  They banged in 3 goals in the space of 10 minutes with the completely unmarked McIntosh getting his second with a header from a corner  in 59 minutes and then seven minutes later, a long range effort from Darren McGlashan spins over the keeper’s grasp.  That man again Kerr Dodds completed the scoring in 67 minutes when he finished off a great passing move from Whitehill.

The mist got increasingly worse as the game progressed, but you could always hear Whitehill’s high pitched Wayne McIntosh complaining!

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Both teams still have players absent, but Whitehill are shaping up well for the new season and Penicuik look like they have achieved a coup with the signing of the classy Janczyk.  Sad to see the perennially injured Penicuik striker Ryan McCallum not fit enough to take part.

Full Time: Whitehill Welfare 5 Penicuik Athletic 2.

Admission: £5

Whitehill Welfare: Young; McDiarmid (Trialist), McKenzie, W.Kidd, Thom; Hall, McGlashan, A.Kidd, Manson (Trialist); Dodds, McIntosh.

Penicuik Athletic: Trialist, Ross, Cunnison, Young, Dickson (Bunyan45), Burrell (Trialist B), Jancyzk, Lister, McCulloch, Killin (Trialist A 45), Montgomery.

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Kelis in Glasgow: Hungry for Success?

Kelis at the O2 ABC, Glasgow, 3o June 2014.

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Kelis Rogers born August 21, 1979 better known as simply, Kelis. In the midst of this gig, she talks about her first appearance in this part of the world in 1999, while she was still a teenager. A bloke from the crowd shouts out that he was there and that she played Smells Like Teen Spirit at that early concert. After a brief chat with the bloke, she speaks to the band, I think trying to see if they could play that again and seems genuinely disappointed that they don’t know it well enough. Kelis isn’t your common or garden pop star.

Born and raised in Harlem, Kelis got her slightly strange moniker as a result of a combination of her father (Kenneth) and mother (Eveliss) names. In her youth, she sang in church choirs, and learned to play several instruments. At the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, she formed an R&B trio. She was introduced to Pharrell Williams and with his support, managed to land a record deal.

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The singer-songwriter, who first rose to prominence on Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s ‘Got Your Money’ in 1999, released her first album Kaleidoscope, also in 1999 and breakthrough hit Caught Out There gave her a number 4 single in the UK. This song appears to be absent from her set lists nowadays. Further charting releases Good Stuff and Get Along With You meant a solid debut album was in the bag.

Second album Wanderland didn’t maintain the success upon its release, despite critical acclaim in the music press in 2001 and she left her label that year.

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Third album Tasty put her career back on track in 2003 with the quirky Milkshake becoming a huge hit and second single Trick Me was also a big European success. Further singles Millionaire and In Public kept the success going.

Kelis’s fourth studio album, Kelis Was Here, was released in 2006 with single Lil Star reaching number 3 in the UK. She was then dropped by her label in 2007. After she had left the label, they put out a fourteen track “Greatest Hits” in 2008.

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2010 album Flesh Tone saw another top five hit in the UK with Acapella. 3 further singles were released from the album, with 4th of July (Fireworks) being the most successful.

Latest release Food came out earlier this year. And the title may pay a nod to her training to become a cordon bleu saucier.

She has won Brit Awards, Q Awards, and NME Awards, and was nominated for two Grammy Awards and has released six regular studio albums so far. Outside her native United States, she had 10 top ten singles in the United Kingdom alone.

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She has collaborated with the likes of The Neptunes, Andre 3000, Enrique Iglesias, Nas, Bjork, Cee-Loo Green, N.E.R.D., Basement Jaxx and has even written for Cheryl Cole. (That’s a song, not her autobiography).

Given her history, it’s a bit of a surprise to find the venue far from full when we arrive. The tickets suggest “Plus Support”, but it’s that con where anyone turning up early is subjected to a “DJ” playing records. This is not a support act! In a first for my visits to the ABC, there is a curtain up pre-gig, which obscures the entirety of the stage. Is there some elaborate set behind the stage awaiting us?

As it turns out, no there isn’t. The curtains open just after 9 and Kelis and band take to the stage. (The venue had said she would be on stage at 8.30). One backing singer and two on brass. Both halved from her appearance at Glastonbury at the weekend just passed.

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Kelis has her hair tied up in enormous bunches at the back of her head and has a very tight kimono style dress on, with split up the thigh. She is certainly looking in good shape and immediately proves that her voice is in equally good shape, launching into the beginning of the Nina Simone classic Feeling Good.

The venue has filled up a fair bit since I arrived, but it’s certainly not full. A decent crowd in attendance though and it is a Monday night, in the midst of the World Cup.

She tells us that we are going to be hearing some old and some new. (If the dress was any tighter we might have been seeing something blue). She launches into the latest album opener Breakfast, one of the many highlights on that LP. The crowd are really getting into it now, and even more so when Millionaire is played next. The band might have been trimmed since the weekend, but they are sounding great and the backing singer has a beautiful voice in her own right, perfectly complimenting Kelis’s smoky lead vocals. Keyboards, bass and drums complete the line-up.

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As is the format with gigs, the set is a combination of the most recent album and old favourites, as she promised at the start. Kelis, however, can never be accused of being formulaic. We hear seven songs off the new album, but these are far from disappointing. While some of the instruments used in recording the new album are not in attendance, the band manages to recreate much of the sound, and it is an eclectic mix. While it would be easy to dismiss the music as R&B, it is so much more than that, and often not that at all.

Much of the set is done in her trademark husky tome, but the high note she hits on Cobbler is quite breathtaking. She sits down mid set, but this doesn’t reduce the quality, or interaction with the crowd. A fuller arrangement makes Milkshake sound like an almost different song and the trumpet on Trick Me is another twist. Acapella is given a more disco feel. The new songs sound very sing-along, and with extended airplay and more people hearing them, it is easy to picture stadiums joining in with them.

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All too soon, we are hearing Feeling Good again, which is reprised as the outro to the beginning’s intro. Kelis returns with band to play one more song, Friday Fish Fry, and then announces with minimum fuss that she will be signing things after the show “if we want”. This wasn’t very audible and I don’t think many heard it. I did though and was delighted to meet her post show.

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I’d recommend going to see Kelis if you get the chance. And have a listen to the new album. She is now selling her own range of sauces and piloted a cookery show on television in the United States. Who knows how much longer you might get the chance to hear her make music.

 Setlist

Feeling Good (Intro)

Breakfast

Millionaire

Cobbler

Trick Me

Rumble

Forever Be

Get Along With You/Good Stuff/Glow

Lil Star

Floyd

Milkshake

Jerk Ribs

4th of July (Fireworks)

Acapella

Feeling Good (Outro)

 Encore

Friday Fish Fry

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INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM – THIRD SECTOR QUESTION TIME

INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM – THIRD SECTOR QUESTION TIME

Wednesday 25 June 2014, Serenity Café, Edinburgh

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Another angle to consider the implications of the independence referendum, this time looking at voluntary organisations and the third sector. Badged as a sold out event, we head along in plenty of time to this venue – the Serenity Café itself is a great space, split over two levels, with one level being a small hall used for these kind of events and the higher level is a café/bar with television (showing the World Cup). Maybe it’s because of the fact that there is a good match on, but it turns out that the venue is only half full by the time the panel take to the stage.

The evening is being sponsored by the Public Affairs Co-operative (www.publicaffairs.coop) and is chaired by David Lee, formerly a senior assistant editor of The Scotsman and founder of David Lee Media & Events Ltd. He introduces the (for once, gender balanced) panel one by one allowing them time for opening remarks in between.

First up is John Finnie, MSP, an SNP member until 2012 when he resigned from the party following its change in position on NATO. He is now an independent MSP representing Highlands and Islands. His concedes that becoming an independent country will present its challenges but with challenges come opportunities. He then gives an overview of all the reasons why Scotland should be an independent country, but because he covers so many different areas it’s sometimes difficult to follow a story through the rhetoric. One point that did stick was that there are 140 seats in South East London, with only a handful held by Labour, so there isn’t a change that how Scotland votes is going to influence to outcome of the next UK election. He also says that each country must collaborate, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take charge of our own affairs. He concludes by quoting the first Asian politician in Scotland, Bashir Amid, who said that it’s not where we’re from but where we are going that matters.

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Next up is Jenny Marra, Labour MSP for North East Scotland Region, who tells us that this is the fourth referendum event she has attended in as many days. Not surprisingly, she’s in the Better Together camp and starts off by reflecting on the name of this café – Serenity – and how the serenity prayer was on the mantelpiece when she was growing up. She quotes it, and adds that it sounds like a good starting point for all politicians. Jenny talks about how she has no emotional tie for the British state, her grandfather came over from Ireland and founded the workers union in the jute mills of Dundee.   She says that the referendum is about how to eradicate poverty and inequality to make Scotland better and that she’s voting NO as she believes that separation isn’t the answer to that. She countered a number of the arguments that John had put forward, asserting that Scotland didn’t need more powers, only investment and new ideas to be put forward. She believes there’s safety in numbers in terms of sticking together for things like currency and pensions and that if the outcome is a YES vote, then we will be looking at 3-10 years of uncertainty.

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David introduced Lucy McTernan next. Lucy is Deputy Chief Executive for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and tells us she isn’t here to argue for yes or no. She gives us a wee history lesson, by saying that back in the day, when the question was on whether Scotland should be allowed to have a Parliament and some devolved powers, the SCVO voted for a Yes/Yes (Yes to a Scottish Parliament and Yes to tax raising powers) – there was a clarity that policy areas would all benefit from being handled locally. That isn’t coming across this time and everyone is divided about what would be best for the third sector and Scotland as a whole. She asserts that, whatever the outcome on 18 September, we need change. She is encouraged that the referendum has encouraged debate right across Scotland and people have become really engaged on the issue and she doesn’t want that to stop after we’ve voted – she thinks we should ride the tide of engagement. That’s why the SCVO is going to be working on voter registration campaign in the run up to the referendum, to ensure that as many people as possible can actually have a vote. She talks about inequalities, telling us that 870,000 people in Scotland (17% of the population) are living in poverty – as are a fifth of all children in Scotland. She finishes by recognising that the third sector will have a critical role in knitting societies together regardless of the outcome of the vote.

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Finally, David introduces Andy Myles, Advocacy Manager at Scottish Environment LINK – his previous roles include NHS manager, CEO to the Scottish Liberal Democrats and Special Adviser on environmental issues to the Scottish Government. He was also a member of the Scottish Constitutional Convention on the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. Andy reminds us that he is there on behalf of his organisation so he is not putting forward the case of either camp, regardless of his own personal views. He grabs the attention of the audience by stating that he thinks constitutional change is 10 times less important than climate change. He agrees with Lucy, that this isn’t just about having more powers – it’s about deciding what kind of Scotland we want to see, creating change and hearing people’s voices. He tells us that his organisation published their own aspirational document 2 years ago on constitutional change and sent it to both campaigns. Despite reminders, it is only very recently that he has received responses from them, which have been published on the website and are very disappointing. He finishes by pointing out that the RSPB has 75,000 members which is more than all the political parties in Scotland, so it’s really important that the civic sector plays its part and keeps demanding answers from the politicians.

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David opened the floor to questions, including some that had already been submitted. The first was that a number of organisations have chosen to remain neutral, but how can they continue to make their visions and concerns heard? Andy agreed that it’s the role of the third sector to raise their voice on behalf of their members, but he did feel that sometimes it was those with the quietest voices that seemed to get the biggest proportion of funding from the Government. Lucy added that a lot of this has been artificial and has become the perception via the media and politicians – it’s about ensuring that you are clear when you say something whether you are saying it in representation of your organisation, or whether it’s a personal view – those often get mixed up in the media. That often deters others from speaking out.

John was asked about the time taken for the two campaigns to respond to Scottish Environment LINK’s paper. He believed that it shouldn’t have been too challenging for both campaigns to have come up with something a lot quicker than they did. He added that it was perfectly acceptable for both sides to have been lobbied in that way, but not acceptable for the time taken to respond.

Jenny concentrated on the reluctance of people to speak out in the third sector, citing an example from one of the universities, who have a neutral position, but some people are worried about research funding, so presumably charities are in the same boat. She adds what’s good about the referendum is that it is engaging people in so many different sectors. She says that she doesn’t think it’s the role of the two campaigns to come up with the answer to policy questions, but it is up to them to answer the practicalities around the constitutional questions.

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The next flurry of questions are all about funding and tax. Here are a few of the main points:

  • Lucy agreed that funding is always an issue and that it was difficult to say whether the referendum was having a greater impact on that this year, although there did appear to be a delay in organisations receiving their grant offer letters. This made it even more difficult to plan for future years.
  • Corporation Tax – John said he didn’t want a mini version of what the UK currently does with this, but that he would want a completely different system. Jenny added that whilst she agreed with John around the risks of cutting corporation tax, she didn’t think a different rate for different parts of the same island was a workable solution.
  • Andy’s contribution was to point out that our resources are finite so we can’t have infinite growth – we need to start growing and measuring our society in a different way which isn’t just about economic growth.
  • What about donors in London? Are they still going to be able to contribute to chosen charities should they wish to do so? It was generally agreed these were the types of things that would go into the negotiation pot if there was a yes vote. John added that where there’s a will there’s a way when it comes to sorting out the negotiations around assets and capabilities.
  • The third sector organisations would be heavily involved in the practical steps should the vote be yes (although there should continue to be engagement and involvement if it’s a no vote too). The general consensus was that we all wanted a more inclusive, more equal society and community ownership would be a way to achieve that. The traditional models of community ownership was also something that didn’t have to be followed, with a reference being made to the way in which Hearts (transitioning into a fan owned club) had taken the decision to dump Wonga as one of its sponsors.

The next two questions were about social enterprises and Jenny talked about how she had asked why Remploy could not be given the contract for manufacturing some of the uniforms we use in public service, but that public procurement seemed to block this. She asserted that having a stronger Scotland, with more devolved powers but as still part of the UK, may in future allow this type of contract to be awarded in this way.

When asked about whether they were optimistic for the future, Andy said he was extremely optimistic – that we have the chance to decide which constitutional settlement will help us most to push forward with our ideas and visions for a better Scotland. Lucy added that she felt there was a huge amount of optimism in the third sector, but that we had to start helping ourselves and each other.

David then brought the debate to a close. This was an interesting debate looking at the question of independence from another angle. Having attended many of these types of events now, it’s clear that the question of independence is engaging people from across Scotland. At the end of the day, going back to the Serenity Prayer feels like the best way to sum up this one:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

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Devine Brown? An evening with Sir Tom Devine

Scotland’s Past and Scotland’s Present

McEwan Hall, University of Edinburgh, 16 June 2014

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Sir Tom Devine is often referred to as the leading authority on the history of modern Scotland. He is the only historian recipient of Scotland’s supreme academic accolade, the Royal Medal, presented by the Queen and his career spans over 45 years and the Universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh (he’s retiring from the University of Edinburgh where he is the senior research professor). He has written many books on Scotland’s history (The Scottish Nation, first published in 1999 which charted the history of Scotland from 1700 until near present day, actually outsold JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, for around a week or so at least). He has also lectured on many subjects and to many audiences ranging from 400 school pupils at the annual Christmas lecture of the Royal Society of Edinburgh to inmates at Barlinnie.

Sir Tom has won all three major prizes for Scottish historical research (Hume Brown, Saltire and Henry Duncan Prize Lectureship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh), is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Fellow of the British Academy – the only UK humanities or social science scholar elected to all three of these national academies in the British Isles.

I could go on listing other honours, awards and accolades that Sir Tom Devine has obtained over the years, but there would be no room to talk about the event which was held to mark his “retirement”. I will mention that the latest honour to be bestowed upon him is his knighthood, with that announcement being made in last weekend’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

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The high regard in which Sir Tom is held is obvious – to have former Prime Minister Gordon Brown squeeze in this event before he has to travel to Africa (he leaves the event towards the end in order to catch his flight) is testament to this. Gordon Brown begins the evening by reading out tributes to Sir Tom from Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour Leader Ed Milliband, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, and the leaders of Scottish Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, Ruth Davidson, Johan Lamont and Willie Rennie respectively.

We learn about how Tom recognised history as the “Queen of all disciplines” early on in his university career. He’s in the middle of telling us about how he made the distinction between generalisations and evidence based data, when Gordon starts to have issues with his microphone – due to him being very expressive with his hands which is also moving the device. Tom quips that we all know that Gordon and microphones don’t go together!

Tom talks about how the pendulum has been swinging from Britishness to Scottishness since the 1950s and how no-one can tell where that duality will split in September (did you know we are having an independence referendum?) – his feeling is that anything could happen, which is brilliant for his trade. He remarks on how Scotland and England have always been a bit of an odd couple, but have got on “tolerably well” – apart from perhaps in the 1980s when there was a certain antipathy towards the Southern English, as a result of what he calls “Tory types”. The deindustrialisation in the 1980s proved to be a turning point, as that was when UK government radical economic policies were at odds with the Scottish people’s will. This alongside the weakening of Scottish institutions such as trade unions and Presbyterian churches resulted in a vacuum which was ultimately filled by nationalists. There was general agreement that if you took the 1980s out of Scottish history it would be unlikely there would be a Scottish Parliament now. In answer to a question from Gordon about whether Tom was surprised that 50% of young people between the ages of 14 and 17 who had been surveyed said that they would prefer to have a UK curriculum and exam process rather than a separate Scottish curriculum, Tom remarked that young people change, which is just as well, as they can be “comprehensively intolerable” – cue knowing laughter from the 500 strong audience.

We were then treated to an interesting discussion on the variables – the what ifs – within Scottish history, for example what would have happened if James VI hadn’t died early, what if the French had invaded in 1745/46, if Charles had won at Derby, if there had been no Margaret Thatcher. He talked about what if the political heavyweights who, when the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, had decided to move to Holyrood, rather than staying in London, would we be having a referendum now?

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Roles were swapped and Tom interviewed Gordon. We were treated to some amusing anecdotes including when Gordon was at university and he used to type his essays. His tutor said that Gordon’s work had finally convinced him that typing could be as illegible as actual writing could be. His background in studying history meant that his first thought when the recession hit in 2008 was how in the 1930s governments were slow to act and to bring in the rest of the World. This resulted in him going to the US to persuade President Bush that this was a worldwide problem and that international powers had to work together. At first President Bush told him he should be speaking to the Treasury Secretary (but that he was very tired and was not able to tell the President what to do). He remarked that whilst he managed to persuade people to meet and to take responsibility for alleviating the crisis, economic growth still needed to be encouraged. He also talked about how he had obtained admittance from a senior person within the Royal Bank of Scotland who, the night before the collapse, told him they were only just beginning to understand that risk that they had been taking.

It was at this point that Tom opened the floor to questions for Gordon from the audience, remarking that he was honoured that Gordon had agreed to attend this event as not only was he about to fly to Africa, he had turned down an invitation from the Secretary General of the UN to be in New York. The first question was about the Iraq War and Gordon agreed that “peace” had not delivered what the Iraqi people had expected. In response to a question about how do you define Scottish nationalism, Gordon replied that the challenge we all need to meet is to reconcile a strong national identity with the need to engage with the rest of the world. He cited a visit to the International Monetary Fund meeting in the US, he had been met by a demonstration where one of the banners read, “Worldwide Campaign against Globalisation” – ahem.

Jim Naughtie, journalist and broadcaster then took over the reins for the final part of the evening where the audience were invited to put forward the questions to Tom. Jim asked Tom if he had decided how he was going to vote – Tom replied that he had indeed decided to vote. More seriously, he intimated that he will be keeping his intentions on which way that vote will swing to himself as he feels it’s necessary for his trade to be as truthful as it can be to the details and nuances of the issue – his trade can tell truth to power that way, at least as far as they can see it, and can also tell that truth to the media too.

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Jim asked if this was Scotland’s greatest decision since the 18th Century. Tom replied that in 1707 the decision to unite England and Scotland was not a democratic one, so in a political sense this decision is definitely up there with the one 300 years ago. In answer to a question about how significant having Alex Salmond as the First Minister and Leader of the SNP, Tom referred back to the earlier discussions around variables or what ifs – what he called “accidentalia” and said that undoubtedly the return of Mr Salmond to Scotland from the UK Parliament was significant, as he was a charismatic leader with a clear vision. Tom agreed that the Iraq War was a major factor in the change of the political landscape both within Scotland and the UK and that he believed that a lot of people will base their September decision on external rather than internal factors and topics. Jim rounded off by asking Tom what big questions he was leaving behind – the Scottish involvement in the slave business and tracing the track of Scottish migrants within the British Isles as opposed to overseas were areas which he thought were ripe for research. Tom remarked that in the 1960s the modern history of Scotland was less studied than the history of Yorkshire and it had been his privilege to work in a period where you didn’t have to ask “what do we study next?” It’s not really about the answers, more about getting to the right questions that should be asked.

Finally, Jim invited Tom to reflect on the problems and opportunities that a No or a Yes vote might present in September. Tom said if it was a Yes vote this was easier to answer – so much business to be involved in, so many discussions to be had as we just didn’t have the information to be certain on what would happen. He said it would be fascinating to see how Scotland worked out its reaction to that. He felt that there was too much focus on what the Yes campaign weren’t telling us, in terms of what ifs, as it would be impossible to tell. If it was a No vote, he said there would be a lot of Yes supporters who would be incredibly disappointed. It was therefore important that promises made before the referendum around new powers must become a reality.

A very enjoyable evening and nice to see Gordon Brown relaxed and amusing. Sir Tom was fascinating as ever, and Jim proved to be an able deputy when the former PM had to shoot off early.

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