Food and architecture critic Jonathan Meades’ recent BBC 4 series “Off Kilter” concluded with the narrator’s journey through what the Beeb describes as “towns only known from football coupons.” The Guardian’s Martin Kellner found the grim 3rd episode, “a stunning film, but one unlikely to be streamed on visitscotland.com.”
Where there was a choice between focusing on a row of wheelie bins in an urban wasteland or a troupe of bonnie tartan-clad Scottish lassies skipping through a field of bluebells, guess which Meades chose. In fact, the only tartan that appeared anywhere in the film illustrated a typical Meades diatribe against the 50 million Scots who live elsewhere, whom he called “lachrymose believers in this land of tartan shortbread, mail order cabers and bagpipe glens”. Their beef with the English he dismissed as “a 200-year-old PR stunt, the world’s longest-running exercise in victimhood”.
Over archive footage of fierce pit-head picketing Meades talked of “the human cost of efficiency, and adherence to the bottom line”, and “tens of thousands rationalised into involuntary idleness”. Fife, he said, was where we see “the social and environmental effects of the initially attritional and consequently violent coiffeur clash between the free-trading ideological helmet modelled by iron steel girder Margaret from Finchley and the smug warm-over worn by King Arthur of Stalindale, South Yorkshire”.
The programme was full of fine fancy writing like this “ like Michael Moore with wit. Comparing Scotland’s part-time footballers with their counterparts in England’s top division, he characterised the Premier Leaguers as “a bespoke cast of gladiatorial yob-gods, wag-roasting Croesus kids, who once a week descend from their Parnassian blingsteads to run around for 90 golden minutes of bravura vanity”. I cannot remember when I have enjoyed a TV programme more but I doubt there will be much dancing in the streets of Raith.