Trawlermen

Sadly, last night saw the end of BBC1’s marvellous series on Trawlermen. Each programme followed the fortunes of deep sea fishermen operating from Peterhead or the Shetlands.

 In the brief windows of opportunity EU fishing quotas allow them – who else can only legally work 50% in a month – they braved enormous seas, and a series of technical problems, to haul in cod, crabs, haddock and such luxuries as Ling roe or lobsters. The camera work was superb, making me almost feel sea sick as these quite small boats rose and fell in heavy seas.

One almost needed subtitles sometimes to get the impenetrable Scottish accents. Things improved last night with one crew from Ulster, whose English was much clearer. Given the dangers they faced, all the crews seemed to retain a good sense of humour. They also had an amazing ability to quickly think their way through technical problems, usually involving a full net being snared on some submarine obstacle.

Like BBC4’s series on agriculture, this was the BBC at its best, reminding us that this country consists of far more than disgruntled Pakistanis and Somalis padding along the incresingly alien streets of our major cities.

Immediately afterwards I was gripped by ‘Wounded’ which followed the fortunes of two soldiers horrendously injured in Afghanistan. Some say that we should not show this – or the vaguely mawkish scenes which accompany the Union-flag draped coffins arriving at RAF Lyneham for the journey through Wooton Bassett. I disagree. Modern warfare is not a computer game. People really get killed or injured. Apart from the courage of the two injured soldiers – one a triple amputee, the other blinded – the film emphasised the skill and compassion of the surgeons, nurses and physiotherapists and psychiatrists who helped the wounded make such difficult readjustments. 

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