Things I Can’t Watch When I Am Ironing #1: Trapped

Scandinavian drama has revolutionised TV watching for me. I can no longer watch while I knit, paint my nails, check Twitter, feed the cows on Castle Story or compose a blog post. I have to actually Watch. The. TV.

While this is a blow to my productivity, and means I get a lot less ironing done, it does make for a totally immersive experience. It’s those sub-titles, you see. Dip your head for a moment and you have missed a major plot twist or a searingly important clue.
Another thing about sub-titles; you still need to hear the dialogue. You can’t talk over the top of it and play some chilled out sounds. Your head needs to sync the subtitles with the voices or you lose the whole tone of the conversation. Weird.

Even though the plotting was tighter, Trapped took more concentrating than The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge because Icelandic names are so mad. In the Norweigan and Swedish dramas, you can tell when someone is saying someone’s name because it sounds like, y’know, a name. Sarah, Birgitte, Saga – all obviously names. In Icelandic the only name I could pick out was Andri. The murder victim was called something like Germuddseunorsoorr and it sounded something like “Erghurghoer” – as does the rest of Icelandic for that matter. The only word I picked up was “tak” for “thanks” and Scandi drama fans all know that by now anyway.

Hinrika, played by Ilmur Kristjánsdótti

Hinrika, played by Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir. She wears cardigans well

But this is not a criticism, oh no. Having to concentrate meant you couldn’t miss a thing, which was vital for this brilliant mash up of Agatha-Christie-meeting-gritty-ice-bound-edge-of-the-world-hell.

The (unpronounceable) town is tiny, served by three police officers who have hardly anything to do. Then a torso turns up in the fjord, then a nasty Lithuanian people-trafficker, then a man supposedly responsible for burning his girlfriend to death eight years before. At the same time, a white-out of a blizzard has cut the town off from the rest of the country, unhelped by an avalanche that increases the body count and (more unhelpfully) blocks the road.

The storyline is excellent, each twist and new clue dished out at just the right time with just the right amount of drama. For once, everything tied up properly and what could have been melodramatic (being locked in a deep freeze in Iceland…) was played so well it just ramped up the tension.

Being Iceland, the scenery is spectacular, obvs, and despite the body count, I can’t see Trapped doing the tourist trade anything but good.

As with all the Scandi-noirs, the acting is a knock-out. No-one is glamorous, no-one is over-emotional or over made-up, everyone is real. Wonderful Hinrika is one of the most fully-rounded characters on the screen at the moment, and the world is crying out to see Andri and her team up again for a second series.

Andri, played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson

Andri, played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson. He is impervious to cold

Things I think about while iPlayer is buffering:

  • Who writes those sub-titles, and can I do it please? The Trapped sub-titles were pretty stagey – at one point someone supposedly says “you and your ilk”. Ilk? Ilk??! No-one says ilk anymore, do they?
  • In Scandinavian dramas they always interview children without any parental permission or responsible adult present. And the children are always pensive-looking and docile. Why? Is it the climate? Are they too cold to smile?
  • Why are the settees in Andri’s in-laws house so uncomfortable-looking? Does Ikea not ship to Iceland?
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The ground elder plan for world domination

Despite the fact that gardening is as pointless as housework, only colder, filthier and you get scratched more, I have always enjoyed an afternoon with the secateurs and a trowel.

I find gardening calming and centring, despite having the very opposite of green fingers. I can’t make anything grow. Anything I plant, be it seed, bulb, rhizome or sapling, either never makes it out of the earth, or does so for one weakling season before fading into a brown mush, never to re-emerge.

Know your enemy…

But I am good at weeds. I can spot them out of the corner of my eye, and know exactly how far down to jabble my fork in order to pull out the tap root. Weeding is therapeutic – unlike dust, once a weed is gone it’s gone. Apart from one weed. The weed I know best of all: Ground elder. Ground elder is EVIL.

Ground elder doesn’t look evil, the way nettles do, or the frankly terrifying giant hogweed. But this is part of its plan. It has little green leaves, quite a nice green colour – quite nice leaves in fact, not spiky like thistles or coarse like dandelions. But that is just its cover story. The evil power of ground elder lies in its labyrinthine root system.

The roots are thin, maggot-coloured, and travel for miles. Miles and miles. At regular intervals they send up shoots with more leaves on, spreading more roots until there is a ghastly intertwined net underpinning your whole rockery.

These roots are sentient. They deliberately choose spots that makes them impossible to dig out; nestled down the sides of immovable stones or crazy-paving cracks, and, more nastily, in the middle of a clump of daffodils or crocuses. That way, when you try to tease them out, you pull up all your lovely innocent flowers as well.

ground elder and root

See that root? Now imagine it creeping round your NECK

And tease them out you must, for ground elder roots have a crafty survival mechanism. They are so brittle they snap when you grab them, so you leave half the roots still in the earth – where they regenerate.

Just the tiniest scrap of root holds enough power to take over your garden in a year. It will re-root itself, push out more evil rootlets and sprout those acid green leaves as soon as you turn your back.

Don’t leave the smallest speck of ground elder anywhere near the earth, and don’t, for the sake of the gods, chuck it in the compost heap. Burning is the only language ground elder understands.

Weedkiller? Ha! **bitter laugh**. Aren’t you paying attention? Ground elder is creeping and insidious – you find it nestled in among your lovely plants like a green cuckoo, starving them of daylight and nutrition. Spray it with poison and you spray them too.

I once spent a whole year getting rid of ground elder. Every time I went into the garden all I did was inch it out of the ground. I became a mite obsessed (you noticed?). I even started dreaming about it, about pulling those great long tangles of white roots out of the earth. I feared waking up one day to find it had reached the windows and was edging under the frames and sending its network of evil into the very framework of the house.

Somewhere there is a giant mother plant – Mother Elder – controlling all these roots, directing them towards each other so they can eventually join up and strangle the earth. One day my trowel and I will find Mother Elder and carefully take apart her roots, inch by strangulating inch. The bonfire will light up the horizon.

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Choose your weapons

Until that day I burst forth on the first fine weekend of the year, gauntleted and armed with my favourite weeding fork, ready to hunt down the tiny shoots of ground elder that have re-emerged from the winter frost.

And when I find – and destroy – Mother Elder, all her insidious subsidiaries will wither and die, like Sauron’s army when the One Ring falls into the fires of Doom in Lord of the Rings. And I will have saved the world.