Fook, Not That Count Again

(Because this post is about swearing, and because I want to retain my 'family-friendly' rating, I have liberally interspersed any examples of curse-words with a few extra ‘o’s, just to take the edge off them a little.)

I can be a bit ‘sweary’ in real life.

No, not ‘Sweaty’, Mr Spellchecker, ‘Sweary.

I’m not the type of swearer who intersperses every third word with an oath of some kind.  Neither do I tend to swear in the company of those people who are most likely to find it offensive.  Put me in a Convent and bang my thumb with a hammer and I’m liable to say ‘oh dear’ or, perhaps more likely, nothing at all.  The swearing I do, is mostly for my own benefit rather than for anyone else’s annoyance.

For me, swearing is quite a helpful thing.  In times of annoyance or frustration, it gives me a quick ventilation option.  If tension is building up inside me for whatever reason, a quick (verbal) ‘Fook’ or two and I can actually feel my blood pressure rapidly fall back down a notch.

I was asked recently what my favourite swear word is.  I answered the question here.  To save you clicking if you don’t want to, it’s ‘Count’.  It’s not the word I use the most, as a matter-of-fact it’s a word I use very rarely indeed.  But it’s my favourite because in my opinion, it is a word which retains great power – the power to convey colossal annoyance, the power to really really offend.

So, no, I don’t use ‘Count’ very often.  I tend, like everybody else, to lean heavily on ‘Fook’ and the legion derivatives of the word.

Lots of people swear, of course.

Many would contend that swearing has become redundant because of its prevalence. That the crucial element of shock and awe has been removed or has at least been so diluted as to be utterly fooking impotent.

I tend to disagree.

‘Tell you why.

For me, swearing has provided  a rather useful analogy for writing.  The impact of both is utterly dependant on the level of intent behind it.  Writing or Cursing, it doesn’t matter which – if you don’t mean it, it won’t carry much weight.

People swear for lots of reasons.  Like it or not, there’s a certain cachet to it.  It’s a bit like smoking.  Everybody knows it’s bad and antisocial and all that but, for some reason, there’s a tiny extra edge to be attributed to whoever does it.  So some people swear to be cool.

Some people swear because they can’t think of any other word to say.  You often hear people pepper their sentences with curses. It’s something for their mouth to do while their mind casts around for the next ‘real’ word to say.

Some people swear to bully and harangue. 

But they’re just fooking eejits.

Me?  I generally swear for a different reason. 

I swear because I mean it.

Swearing hasn’t lost its power to offend.  Trust me on this.  What it’s lost, in a large part, is any intent.  Years ago, when swearing would have been more taboo, less intent might have carried the day and caused the requisite offence.  Not any more.  These days swearing needs a lot of intent behind it to make it count.  Otherwise it’s just insipid social wall-papering.

So if I swear at you, and I really mean it, I reckon I can offend you.  I ‘feel’ words quite strongly, you see, and I appreciate them a bit, and respect them and, as a result, I reckon I sometimes use them quite hard.

I only called someone a ‘count’ once and really meant it.  And that was in writing.  I’d loaned this guy a valuable piece of information on a CD (this is years ago when CDs were high tech) and he posted it back to me in a plain envelope with no plastic case.  The CD arrived back, broken into three pieces, and I had no way to replace it.

I posted it back to him and called him a you-know-what and I really meant it.

That’s the end of that story.  I don’t know what happened after that.  But I reckon it hurt him.  There was so much intent behind that single word that it could not but hurt.  That’s why swear words are powerful and a bit dangerous.  A swear word is a gun but intent is the bullet.  Either of them on their own are relatively safe but put them together and… well, aim carefully.

And if I continue to try to write like I swear – if I really mean it – then maybe I’ll be okay.

The Killing V The Killing

The world doesn’t usually come in choices of Black or White.  I’m thankful for that because it’s the Grey parts that are by far the more interesting.

I want to say a few things about the Danish TV Series ‘Forbrydelsen’ or, as it’s better known, ‘The Killing’.  In particular, I want to compare and contrast it to the US TV Series which was a direct remake of the original.  In doing this, I’m not setting out to deliberately present any spoilers – I always try very hard not to do that.  
However, it’s hard to have this little chat without dancing pretty close to giving away some titbit that might annoy a viewer-to-be.  So if you think you might enjoy these series some fine day, you might best leave the rest of this post alone.

My initial ‘Shades of Grey’ comment is very relevant here because rarely has the general opinion on a TV Series been galvanised into such clear Blacks and Whites.  For those of us who have engaged with both the Original and the US series in some respect, the view seems crystal clear.

And the general view goes like this;

“The original Danish series is one of the best things we have ever seen on TV and the US remake is nothing more than a risible, lazy, boring, insult to the original.”

That’s the view.  Black and White… But perhaps I am in an unusual position in that I have watched both series with equal interest and attention and I have to say that this is not my view.  My view is firmly in the Grey.

I have to say that my basic view doesn’t really deviate all that far from that rather forceful ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’.  You see, the Original Series was quite wonderful and I was completely enveloped in it and very satisfied with it.  As a result, the US Version, with new actors in familiar roles and with the slightly askew world of modern-day Copenhagen shed in favour of the more televisually-familiar Seattle setting, was always going to be a challenge and difficult not to view as an insult.

Via the Internet, I know of so many people who adored the original.  Without putting people in little boxes, their reaction to the arrival of the US Version on Channel 4 was quite uniform. 

“A pointless remake for people who cannot read subtitles.”

“’Watched Episode One, it was unbelievably boring.”

“Her woolly jumper isn’t right.”

I would have been the same, I reckon.  I loved the original too much to go back around all over again with the remake.  Except I am a writer and the prospect of seeing the same material done with a different eye was too tempting for me to pass up on.  For that reason, I approached the remake positively and with some anticipation.  I watched the entire Series One remake keenly, as I watched the entire Original Series.

Shades of Grey…

So here’s what I think (deep breath)

The US version of ‘The Killing’ is a very good TV series indeed.

and (deep breath No. 2)

‘Forbrydelsen’ is, by no means, a perfect one.

The key thing with the US Version is that it has been made with great integrity and care and this shows throughout.  This is no lazy ‘cash-in’ remake, this is a thoughtful attempt to transcribe a very good story to a more familiar setting.  Yes, the story and characters are the same as before but not exclusively.  Where something hasn’t worked for the writers, they have not been afraid to cut and add as they needed to.

One of the toughest asks was always going to be the female lead.  Sofie Gråbøl, who played Sarah Lund, in the Original, was simply extraordinary.  Mireille Enos, who reprises the role, (renamed as Sarah Linden), therefore had a virtual mountain to climb with us returning viewers.  She wasn’t helped either by a tendency to portray her, at times, as a sort of Clarence Starling type – jogging through the woods in that rather iconic way.  She also does a recurring ‘slapped child’ sort of look which seems a bit monotone upon occasion.  Nobody can beat Lund. 

But, wait.  As the series progresses, you can grow into Sarah Linden.  The last-but-two episode takes time out of the investigation for a tense and revealing episode unlike anything that happened in the Original.  I thought it was exceptionally good.  If you’ve seen the Original and want a good taste of the US Version, have a look at episode 11, then come and tell me it’s not good.

Okay then. I’ve dug myself a hole, let’s dig that little bit deeper.

The Original, for me, was not nearly as perfect as people seem to want to make it out to be.  There is this ‘Pack-Idolisation’ of it which is certainly ‘Nice’ and ‘Fun to be a Part Of’ but let’s keep our critical faculties intact too, eh?

The Politics of ‘Forbrydelsen’ often seemed, to me at least, to be obvious and grindingly slow.  There were times when I cringed inwardly that we were back in Troels’ bloody office talking campaign tactics yet again.  For me, the human stories were what made ‘Forbrydelsen’ superb.  The fall-out in that little family over The Killing was beautifully done… but that Politics… please… spare me.

The actual detective-work was sometimes lacking too.  Each suspect, in turn, was pounded upon like a tonne of Danish Bricks and the case quickly pronounced closed.  For all its perception as being an in-depth study of the consequences of crime, the series often came across to me as a gung-ho locked room whodunnit with credibility occasionally chucked aside in favour of yet another glorious twist in the tale.

The mother in ‘Forbrydelsen’ - Nanna Birk Larsen’s Mum, that is.  She was a very good actor, I reckon, but she wasn’t written all that very well.  Some of the things she was asked to do did not ring true for me at all and, as a result, she did not always convince me.  On the other hand, I felt her husband Theis Birk Larsen, as played by Bjarne Henriksen, was excellent.  Maybe I just naturally identify with the male side of the grief, I’m not sure, you tell me.

The much-celebrated revelation of the killer near the end of the original series was great fun but, again, it seemed a bit stagy and contrived to me.  Whispered hints etc…

You’ll all think I hated the original series now but, as I said, I really loved it.  I just find it constructive not to love anything – or indeed hate anything – in a purely Black and White fashion.  I do my best emoting in among the Greys.

The Emmys are on tonight and The Killing has quite a few nominations.  My favourite actor is Joel Kinnaman who plays Detective Stephen Holder, Sarah Linden’s sidekick.  He was wonderful.  I just read that the guy is actually Swedish, perhaps that’s why he fits the part so very well.

Finally I am going to really do a spoiler here so be warned.

Much of the word-or-mouth about the US Killing Finale has been poor.  It’s been branded as frustrating, unsatisfying and inconclusive.  
Well that’s because it really is. 

I didn’t know they were going to do this until the moment it happened but I feel it will help you to know it.  The end of Season One does not conclude the story, instead it finishes on a cliff-hanger with (I reckon) a good four episodes of the story still left to play out.

For what it’s worth, I think this was a bad mistake and a dreadful thing to do.  One of the great things about ‘Forbrydelsen’ was its completeness.  You were always secure in the knowledge that, however twisted the pathway became, the story would ultimately run its course and end.  To add this ‘Lost - Season Finale’ conclusion on the US Version did not sit will, with me or with many others.

‘Forbrydelsen’ is a great TV series and I recommend it to you, flaws and all.  But ‘The Killing’ (US) is no slouch either.  Perhaps it might be best to ensure that Series 2 of the US Version is permitted to be made thus completing the whole story before you start into it.

And Series 2 of ‘Forbrydelsen’ hits BBC4 shortly.

So that’s it.  Come, tell me what you think. 

Fight with me, if you must.

I won’t mind.

Well… I might.

Flash Fiction: The Sudden Garden

Suddenly there was a garden.

Where there had been no garden before.

It wasn’t much, a tiny grassed area, stone walled on two sides, just off the crooked shortcut path down to the main road.  Not much, but it hadn’t existed the last time I’d walked down there.  Granted, that might have been a month or so ago but not too much more.

I was in a rush, that Saturday morning when I first stopped and looked down into it, still I couldn’t resist easing my way down the slope to stand in that secluded, green, enclosure.  I say ‘enclosure’ but, really, it was only enclosed on three sides being open on the fourth to my shortcut pathway above.  The two stone-walled sides were high and neat and the third side was made up of dense hedging which separated the area from the busy main road just beyond.  The garden was empty except for a small dolmen structure which seemed to serve as a bench.

I stood for a moment, wondering what this garden was and how it had appeared so very suddenly.

My appointment was at the library so I dragged myself back up the steep bank, down to the main road and hurried across.  Meeting, as I was, the Chief Librarian, I couldn’t help but prod him for a little information about this newest corner of my housing estate.

“The Council got a little money and did it up,” he was happy to confirm, “apparently it used to be a mass grave for the people who died in the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.

So it was a memorial.  A long-overdue marker for poor people who passed away in terrible circumstances so many years ago.  That was a good thing and, in the short term, it made me feel good.

But I am a writer.

Things that make me feel good often turn sour in the clammy heat of a deadline.  Good ideas can be perverted when the mind-call for a story remains unanswered.

That’s how it was on that November Thursday night.  The newspaper deadline was the next morning at eleven.  And I had nothing… nothing at all.  Eight hundred words were required, as they were every week, on ‘Local Colour’, whatever that was.  The gig only paid pocket-money but it was all I had at that moment and the self-esteem alone - of having people in the street talk to me about my column - was worth quite a lot.

My mind turned to the 'Sudden Garden'.  I had known all along that there was a column in it, an easy one too, but I needed Colour.  My job was to divert and entertain the readers, in between all the endless budget cuts and lost football ties, and some old mass grave wouldn’t do that… not unless there was an angle.

I turned to the Internet, as I do for so many of my needs.

The angle was not very hard to find.

It was raining and blowing hard at five minutes to Midnight.  I had slipped on the grass bank which led down into the little garden and now my back was wet and doubtless caked with mud.  I stood as close to the middle of the space as I could and I listened.  There was only the wind whistling in the stone wall and the patter of huge drops on my hood.  If there were cars whizzing past beyond the hedge, as there always was, I could neither hear them nor see any hint of their lights.  I was utterly alone in the darkness, which was exactly what I needed for my plan, but which was still not terribly nice.

A quick read on the net had reminded me that the world-wide folklore attached to mass graves is legion.  The huge curve in the District Line in London was formed so the route could avoid a Plague Pit (untrue).  The Black Death virus still lives on in the ground of those areas (untrue).  And then there was the one I had decided to build my story around.  I had first heard it on a Ghost Walk around the perimeter of St Paul’s Cathedral in London many years ago.  It simply affirmed that, if you stood on a plague pit site at midnight and put your ear to the ground, you could hear the crying of the poor souls beneath… and the hearer would lose his mind.

Utter rubbish, of course, as were all the rest of the tales, but I knew my readers would lap it up.  Some would even write-in and berate me for my lack of respect in doing such a terrible thing but that would be a bonus.  Controversy is good, after all.

I shivered and checked my watch which thankfully had a luminous display.  Two minutes to Midnight.  There was no actual requirement that I do this thing on the exact strike of twelve but it seemed to add to the authenticity of the piece if I did and I was all-about the authenticity then.

I decided on a quick trial run.  I got down on my hands and knees. The new wet grass immediately soaked right through to my legs.  Slowly and, it must be said, quite tentatively, I pressed my ear hard to the grass.

A finger, cold and limp and far-too skinny, turned wetly beneath my earlobe and caressed me.

I screamed, leaped up, and shone my little torch down.  A worm, purple and bloated, sailed with surprising elegance back down into the soft earth.  I laughed nervously to myself.

“Daft Bugger”. 

And then it really was midnight.

At first I felt only foolish, lying on the ground with my ear pressed down.  I prayed nobody would see me and hated the feel of the wet invading me from so many different angles.  But then I settled and, despite the wind and the rain and the ludicrousness of the situation, I listened. 

I listened hard.

And what I heard was the plight of those who lay there.

All those stories I had scanned about the Pandemic, the tragedies I had clicked past to get to the  frothy gore, they all came back to me now.  The young men, the pregnant women, the vulnerable who had died in their millions.

From nowhere, an enormous empathy rose up in me for those people who had been taken by that terrible virus so long ago.  The speed and horror of their dispatch, the entire families laid waste in the space of a few short weeks.  What before had only been an opportunity for a tawdry column became, for me at that moment, a real mortal tragedy.  Whereas before, I could not conceive of the pain those distant people had endured, I now found that I could

There was nothing to actually hear, of course.  Only that world of pain for me to feel.

The old legends had proved themselves almost true.  By putting myself in that position, at that time, I had opened myself to all those people who had died and they had spoken to me.  I had not lost my mind.  In a way, I had found it.

As I trudged home, I resolved to abandon the column idea.  There was a lady on Upper Street who owned a white cat who had produced five black kittens.

For this week, that would do. 

Channel 31 Goes ‘Free to Air’

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to spend my birthday on set while a short film I wrote, called Channel 31,  was being filmed. The script started out as a radio play which IRDP produced in London quite a few years ago.  Marja, Tim and Richard at IRDP started many things for me and I am always grateful.

I blogged about it at the time both here and here.  It was a wonderful edgy experience which I think may stay with me forever.

Now the director at Claddagh Films, Dermot Tynan, has put the film up on Vimeo for all to see.  You can click through to the site to see it or else I’ve embedded it just below… at least I hope I have.  Here's a direct link to the Vimeo site in case the embedding is not working for you.

I hope our efforts raise a smile

I always like that moment on The Academy Awards when they show the nominated screenplays and some of the script appears on screen at the same time as the filmed sequence.

So I thought it might be fun to include a little of the script here as well in case anyone wants to hold one up against the other, so to speak.  The formatting has gotten a bit lost in the transfer to this post but you'll get the idea.


COSMO is crouched, listlessly stoking the enormous fire in the large, severely under-furnished, room. It is immediately apparent from his velvet dressing gown and his wild wild hair that he is a true eccentric.

Above him, on the mantle, a framed snapshot gazes down at him - Cosmo, Emily and Felix, from the good old days.


Cosmo turns and there, in the doorway, stands EMILY. Prim and dapper as ever. Her luggage is as compact as only a true 'girl in control' can manage.


He gets up and strides over to meet her.

How good of you to come, after all this time.

'Good of me?' It's our brother's funeral...

She starts to blubber a little, trying to hold back.

...not a bloody house party.

She drops her bag and runs to Cosmo's arms. Her crying becomes less restrained.

No more drama, sis, no more pain. I'm overdosed on bloody platitudes as it is.

The embrace goes on a moment too long for Emily's comfort. She resists a little. Sensing the reticence, Felix holds her away from him and looks amusedly into her eyes.

Besides, you're late, we buried him this morning.

Emily breaks away and moves towards the fire.

The flight was delayed. There was nothing I could do.

Don't worry, I don't think he noticed your absence.

He suppresses a laugh at his own little joke.

Are you high?

Just a little of Fraser's 'local anaesthetic. Want some?


She walks nervously across the room

Tell me about the funeral.

A burst of static noise catches Emily's attention. She turns to stare at the device which sits incongruously on the ancient dresser.

What's that?

The funeral, what to tell? It was wet... there were wreaths...

The static bursts in again. Emily, very curious now, goes right up to look.

The transmitter is silver-clad and hi-tech-looking in a '70's sort of way. A red L.E.D. display proudly blares the digits '11Æ and a large hand-held microphone is slung carelessly over the side and onto the floor.

It's some kind of radio isn't it? What's it for? Cosmo... What is it?

Cosmo is back staring into his fire, remembering.

There was a terrible storm, you know, ...the night he died.



Only candles light the room.

FELIX, lying on his back, is wrapped up tightly in his huge four poster bed. His bed covers are flat and unruffled. He is so close to death, he cannot even toss the sheets. On a chair, beside the bed, sits Cosmo, his head slumped on the bed.

Wind crashes against the house, rattling naked branches against the window panes. The rain beats down in torrents and the thunder and lightning is fearsome. Felix is certainly going out with a bang.

When he speaks, Felix is completely still except, that is, for his eyes. His eyes dart unceasingly around every corner of the room, trying to see his death coming.

Promise me, promise me. Please, promise me.

He'd been delirious for days. Whatever Fraser pumped into him had certainly done the trick.

For pities sake, Cosmo, promise me!



The fire casts demented patterns on Cosmo's face.

He'd spent his last months in the library, studying that appalling old family history. He was obsessed, you know, about that business with Great-grandfather.

What 'business'

Great-grandfather? You weren't told? They sorted his papers out two months after he died, 'found an express wish that all his medals be buried with him.



From a bird's eye POINT OF VIEW, a small group of black clad men stand around an expensive looking closed casket which has just been disinterred from an adjacent open grave.

There are patches of snow around and it is obviously bitterly cold. On a trestle-table, next to the grave, an impressive collection of war-medallions struggle to hold their place in the wind.

They exhumed the old goat on New Years Day 1889.

Cosmo giggles but it quickly becomes a consumptive cough.

From a POINT OF VIEW within the coffin, blackness gives way to blinding light as the heavy lid is prised off.

As it is lifted away the bloodstained and torn silk inside the lid is apparent. The men lean over and stare into the coffin with an apprehension which turns immediately to horror.



EMILY watches COSMO as he paces the room nervously.


He'd woken up, Emily. He'd woken up and couldn't get out - Oh I know how it sounds... but the silk inside the lid of his coffin was in shreds. He'd torn his finger nails completely off with his scratching, scratching...scratching.

It's just a story.

Perhaps it is. Not for Felix though, Felix believed it.



FELIX is fighting the restraint of his sheets, trying to sit up. He needs to reach out to FELIX to drive home his last wish.

Outside the storm has reached new levels of frenzy.

You must swear this for me Cosmo. Oh...oh...

His scream, when it comes, is high pitched, alien, and terrified.



CLOSE UP of the radio transmitter, quietly exuding its innocuous white noise.

And that's why the radio is here.

EMILY and COSMO are side by side now, staring at the radio.

You don't mean...

I promised. I'd had a few of Fraser's pills myself by that stage - wasn't too hard to convince. I swore I'd install a telephone line between his coffin and the house, in case he 'woke up' (Laughs) the girl at British Telecom thought I was off my bloody head! They wouldn't do it - no way.

You surprise me.

Our brother would have been planted ex-directory if it wasn't for Larch.

Larch? The undertaker?

The son. Old man Larch died - qualified for the staff discount - a few years ago. Son's a fat sod - we used to bung his head down the toilet in school. He kept asking after you. Do you remember him?


No. I knew he was a ham radio freak so I cut a little deal with him. Six hundred quid if he'd fix Felix up with a CB radio in his coffin. He was most obliging.

Do you mean, this 'thing' is connected to Felix's grave?



COSMO and LARCH are standing one either side of FELIX'S open coffin.
LARCH is a large bumbling man in mourning clothes which have never fit him right - and never will.  COSMO stands defensive, arms folded, there are places he'd much rather be.

The coffin stands on two trestle stands with the lid leaning against the wall behind. FELIX is laid out inside in his white shroud and someone else's rosary beads.

Old Larch had some ingeniously technical solutions to my problem...

Felix's feet are unceremoniously prised apart and a nice new car battery is wedged in between. It already has red and black jump leads crocodile-clipped to the outlets.

_...he did a very tidy job.

A compact little mobile CB unit is balanced on Felix's chest.  The cables from the battery are already connected in.

Larch mimes a 'Testing One two three' into the mike then offers it to Felix to have a go. Felix refuses.

A little trickery with aerials at the graveside and poor Felix was 'on the air'.



EMILY and COSMO are still staring, transfixed, at the radio.

So the 'radio' in the grave is transmitting?

Constantly darling. As long as the battery holds up.

God! On this channel?

I switched over. The 'silent grave show' was freaking me out a bit. You'll laugh; I started imagining I was hearing, well, movements.

This horrible thought breaks the spell.  Emily turns away and makes for the cabinet.

Christ, I need a drink

        *        *        *        *

Thanks to Dermot and Lara of Claddagh Films for bringing my little script back to life and to all the great guys who acted in it and worked on it.

Thanks very much.