Friday, 22 May 2015


Seebüll, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Why does Denmark have such a small number of actors? Is it because the majority of Danish people think it's more important to do "real" jobs like dentistry and teaching and farming? Or are casting agents just really lazy?

So here is a new period drama about the Schleswig Holstein wars in the 19th century, but it's full of the cast of Borgen. (And at least two of them were also in The Killing.) Søren needs clematis for a leg wound. Kasper explains his bad haircut in season three. Birgitte is performing Lady Macbeth. Torben isn't in the first episode, or at least not in the bits I stayed awake for, but he is in the trailers.

So yeah, I kind of ended up skim-watching it on iPlayer while falling asleep. The whole thing didn't really engage me, sorry to say. I nearly turned off at the jar of sperm. Maybe enough people weren't being murdered on screen to justify its Saturday night BBC4 slot. (Though plenty were being slaughtered off it. Kasper claims he's killed 120.) Maybe there weren't enough newscasters or spin doctors. Maybe I am too much of a modern day history student, like the ones showed rolling their eyes in front of a windmill before going off to smoke a spliff.

But I do have a soft spot for the whole Schleswig Holstein-Southern Jutland area, having spent a couple of extended summer holidays there as a teenager. While there I heard lots of stories of the Germans' invasion of Denmark during the Second World War, so theoretically it should be interesting to learn about a time when Schleswig Holstein was Danish. But this apparently isn't how I want to do it.

The Danes' strained relationship with their neighbours was still in evidence 25 years ago, even if by then the only German invaders were driving Trabis over from the East in a bid to find a cheap holiday. The Danes did like running over the German border to buy cheap booze, although subsequent changes in EU Duty Free regulations may have curbed this since. But the older folk had sad recollections of the Second World War, and German concrete bunkers were still all over their islands and coastline, half-buried by the dunes and only then (in the early 1990s) being opened to the public for the first time.

The Danish flag flies proudly in everyone's back garden in South Jutland, a flag which is believed by the school master in 1864 to have fallen directly from God, as turned on its side it displays an image of the crucifix.

South Jutland is a landscape reclaimed from the sea. There are marshes and thatched red brick cottages.

The sand dunes are dotted with summerhouses, rosehips and buzzing horse flies.

Church steeples and wind turbines are the only height visible for miles across the level fields and mudflats.

The wide open beaches are covered in kite flyers in summer and gigantic jellyfish in autumn. They go on for miles.***

There may be no mountains but there are big skies, and it is peaceful and truly beautiful. The memories of my time there are complex - different relationship, different part of my life entirely, good things, bad things. I don't think it would ever be possible to go back there. Maybe this is why I couldn't get into 1864. Or maybe it is in fact just a disappointingly turgid, over-sexed period drama.

***Just watch out for the cars allowed to drive on to the sand. Oh, and the nudist section. Which ain't so pretty.

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