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Monday, March 2, 2015

Dirty Gaelic, the Black House and crap telly

After a winter hiatus indulging in the above while also allowing myself to become bewitched by the ironic Tartan Noir that is Kezia Dugdale's online presence, I've finally found time to praise and to bury.

First up is Outlander. I had read all about this expensively made thriller - a Scottish Game of Thrones apparently - and the notable inclusion of Scottish/ Gaelic in its script. I usually prefer Nordic Noir to mystical American stuff like GoT but the Scottish angle hooked me. It seems that even though it was filmed here and has received a fair amount of attention, it wasn't to be released this side of the Atlantic or the North Sea - both American and German audiences have so far been eagerly lapping it up. A spot of proletarian browsing online came up with the goods though.

What a disappointment. As the credits rolled, I spotted the name of the writer - Diana Gabaldon and various doomladen bells rang in my heid. Having run it past die Frau, I learn that her translated novels of horny Scottish clansmen and willing ladies are hugely fucking popular. It's basically Mills and Boon in the heather with groins moving to a port-a-beul. Minus the midges in the pubes and ticks on your scrote.

Outlander - rach air muin?

It's pretty shit to be honest but the gist of it is this - a posh English lady and her typically effete and stiff lipped husband find themselves in a post-war Inverness where pagan rituals are still commonplace. The lass goes to stone circle and the tursachan quickly spirit her away to the same spot but 200 years distant and in the midst of a skirmish between hairy Highlanders and Redcoat villains. The Gaelic Jacobites are portrayed as they probably were - hairy, smelly and plaid-wearing. All except one who is inexplicably clean-shaven - even his 18th century torso is hairless - and handsome. Nuff said.

Though tax-dodging pirates Amazon have announced it's release online, I am not inclined to watch the remaining episodes - one dose of romantic slush is enough though Outlander is not without its attributes. The excellent Bill Paterson is in the cast somewhere down the line and... there is some attempt at authenticity by having the Highlanders speak Gaelic, at least some of the time. To be fair, the Gaelic spoken is not bad though it is a tad wooden and forced coming from the mouths of non-Gaelic speaking actors. Some bits threw me - trobhad (come here) was pronounced as 'trew-ad' and not trow-ad for example but that's a minor gurn. Especially when everything else was so, so bad...

Unlike the Black House by Peter May. I always thought the Western Isles would make the perfect place for some Tartan/ Nordic Noir. So did Peter May, who has now produced a trilogy. This is the clachan a' choin. It's got gore, sex, authenticity (May knows the Isle of Lewis and her culture very well indeed), the Gaelic, the culture - warts and all, dour Presbyterianism and intrigue.

This is what BBC Scotland/ BBC Alba should be producing and exporting to the world...

...instead of cac like Bannan. Like Outlander, the PR lie-machine was busy grinding out comparisons to whet the appetite. This one was 'Gaelic's answer to the Killing'. It's like comparing Thomas the Tank Engine to  Steven Seagal's Under Siege 2 simply because of the locomotive angle. Except Bannan doesn't have any killing in it - only a jealous boyfriend lamping his love-rival. The only other crime to speak of is an underage quad bike rider escaping from the cops over the machair. Seriously.

No Nordic Noir here...
Nordic Noir - not the Skye Bridge

The Killing was dark - in all senses. Loads of night scenes, always raining, the vile excesses of human nature on display and no simple solutions to complex, multi-faceted issues. Bannan on the other hand was just a tourist advert - stunning scenery, no rain (in Skye??!!) and a transparent plot with too many lightweight characters. At best, this was a mid-evening soap opera filmed in a wild location. Strangely, it was given a slot after the 9pm watershed - perhaps it was thought that the one illicit kiss between the main character and her ex-boyfriend would cause a spike in teenage pregnancies amongst young Gaels?

Sadly, Bannan has been given a second series. Could BBC Alba's budget not go on something a bit more gritty?

To be frank, lift your dogshit.
If you want 'salty' language in the tongue of the Gael then one could do worse than purchase 'The Naughty Little Book of Gaelic'. Unfortunately, it is a slim volume but I hope it's one that will be added to in future editions. Indeed, an online 'Urban Dictionary' of everyday filthy Gaelic would be excellent.

Some delicious dirt I encountered included:
 Buinneach o'n teine ort - May you suffer diarrhea from the fire
Tòn air eigh dhut - may your arse hit the ice

Some good ones from the nether regions:
Pit air iteig! - Flying vagina!
Bod ort! - A penis on you!

The language also covers terminology for decadent or frowned-upon habits such as drinking and smoking. Responsible drinking is very much a new-fangled idea... from 'The Four Drams of the Morning' we have -
sgailc-nid - a nest-dram (sgailc = a slap or thump)
friochd-uillin - a nip of the elbow, taken while beginning to arise...

There is a healthy section on genitalia in which such gems are to be found:
bodach beag a' bhàta - little old man of the ship, i.e. the clitoris, stupid!
cirean-coillich - the rooster's comb, vagina
dos - the bagpipe drone, penis

For a French kiss, go to Sgalpaigh, Harris - pòg Sgalpach

The brevity of the volume may be down to the sources, most of whom seem to be of the academic nature. Perhaps, someone should fund an indepth study that travels the Highlands and Islands to interview fishermen, crofters, bar-workers, labourers, hotel workers and the like?

While not claiming to be an authority on the matter, I would, off the top of my head, add my tuppenceworth...
cuir corrag nad thòin is leig fead - put a finger in your arse and whistle
goc(an) - (little) tap, penis
rachamama - motherfucker
ith bod - blowjob

Someone pass a volume to the producers of Bannan please.


Anonymous said...

So you're reviewing something you haven't seen or read. I think that explains a lot about your opinion....

Unknown said...

In response to your "review" of Outlander I have to disagree. You obviously haven't read the books. They are not as you describe them. There is an actual plot and character development. I won't deny that there are great sex scenes but those are sprinkled into an amazing story. The production team has done a fabulous job bringing the story to life and doesn't deserve the shade you are throwing at them. Read the first book with an open mind and then let's see if your opinion is the same.

MacNaBracha said...

Anon- so you're commenting on the above blog which you haven't read? Yes, I viewed the first episode. No more.

Erica - thanks for the comment. No, I haven't read the books - I just commented on the television version. I guess I'm just not into romantic fiction. The sex scenes were good enough though. Pity she hadn't got together with one of the rough and smelly guys. Would've been less predictable.

WolfeTales said...

So - you made a stupid-ass assumption because the books have been labeled as 'romance' - which they are NOT. They can be shelved in this category; historical fiction is more accurate but could be and have been shelved in Sci-Fi/Fantasy.

Because you had prejudice against the author and your assumption of what you were watching - you watched only the pilot episode which, by nature, has to do a lot of background for the entire story. You have no real clue what the story or show is about or what it's like. You made up your mind before watching it then trashed it unfairly.

FYI a great MANY 'manly men' (my own mate included) think this show is great. And I really don't think Ronald D. Moore would head up some sappy, 'Mills and Boon' type show given his other credits.

If you don't like it - fine - but be fair. You have described this very VERY inaccurately. Your one write-up tells me your opinion can't be trusted about anything.

Anonymous said...

@ WolfeTales: why watching a whole series of something which has not convinced you in the first episode??? It is like reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of a book which you found boring and predictable within the first 50 pages...why bother?

If you like the film (and book) and consider it a great piece of art- fine! But give that writer some credit if he chooses to spent his time with something more worthwhile. in his OPINION!

Yes, it is a piece of opinion which does not claim to be fair, or nice, or accurate. It is a matter of taste and not an academic analyses.

WolfeTales said...

No it is NOT accurate. His opinion that he doesn't like it is fine. If it didn't tickle his fancy that too is fine. Say that - but he totally and completely misrepresented the show and the books! If you are going to put a review out for public consumption - at least be accurate. As I said above, comparing it to a 'Mills and Boon in the heather with groins moving to a port-a-beul' is just ridiculous given that Ronald D. Moore wouldn't touch such a thing!

I have stopped reading a books part way through because the author simply didn't grab me. Nothing wrong with their writing, good story, well written - just not my thing. But I've never misrepresented a book when telling people that! My living was selling books so I do know how to give a review that is fair and honest even if I don't like it myself. This was just total misrepresentation. THAT is the problem.