Unlike his unfortunate role in Reggie Perrin on BBC1, Martin Clunes was ideal in his job as guide around the Islands of Britain in the first of three new episodes in this series last night. One of the islands in last night’s show was the fabulously named Muckle Flugga, which apparently is the most northern tip of Britain and after which, if you fall off and get swept out to sea then have to swim for the nearest land, you’d end up in Canada.
According to the show’s ‘blurb’ the point of the series is for Martin to explore the “hidden Britain – the stunning, wild, curious and culturally diverse islands around our coast, and listens to the fascinating stories of what life is like away from the mainland from the people who live there.”
I’m not entirely sure why ITV considers these places to be hidden – they’re quite obviously in plain view should one wish to travel that far north – but nonetheless, it was one of those programmes that you can sit and watch with a cup of drinking chocolate and a few digestives and not think; you just get to see nice stuff. I like that…
So, last night, Martin travelled to the Shetlands which are the most isolated chain of islands in Britain and are in fact closer to the Arctic Circle than to London.
His first port of call was the aforementioned and wonderfully named Muckle Flugga, which is a “lighthouse rock” where the Atlantic and North Seas meet. And for all the cutesy esoteric naming of the island, the seas around it play host to some ferocious storms which have claimed the lives of numerous sea farers, so while it might sound like a place out of a kid’s book, it’s no picnic living there apparently.
And Martin didn’t look very physically stable as he clambered, slipped and often nearly fell off the dozens of steps up to Muckle Flugga’s lighthouse which, we were informed, was designed and built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s father. And to be fair, it was quite a feat for someone scared of heights… you wouldn’t have got me to do it, not for a big clock.
After Muckle Flugga – dang, I just love writing those words, and saying them out loud! – Martin continued his travels to Forvik, Unst, Eigg and Barra, meeting all sorts of ‘colourful’ people along the way, and for some, ‘colourful’ should be read as ‘nutty as a fruitcake’, but without exception, all the characters in last night’s Clunes’ encounters were interesting and often very amusing folk.
And he was warmly welcomed wherever he went, proving either that he’s immensely likeable and personable or folks in the Shetlands are just nice; I suspect it’s both the former and the latter… and it’s almost impossible not to like Martin Clunes and I liked him even more when he was very clearly relieved that a deer hunt on the isle of Harris ended fruitlessly with no deer being even grazed by a bullet.
So, back to the ‘colourful’ people he met, who again could be more aptly called ‘nutty as a fruitcake’, one of my favourites was Stuart Hill, a man whose main goal in life is to acquire independence for the Shetland Isles from mainland Britain.
I thought Martin showed exceptional depth of character not to burst out laughing as Mr Hill read out his letter to the Queen – which she didn’t answer apparently – about the debacle that’s raging amongst literally tens of people. But to be fair, albeit that Stuart was a tad eccentric, he was a very likeable man, so well done to you Martin for not taking the urine out of him and his quest.
And there was more ‘eccentricity’ to come in the form of a bus-stop in Unst that’s fully furnished and has its own website – I thought that was epic – and then there were the grown men who like to dress up as Vikings, just for the hell of it mainly, and indeed, who amongst us doesn’t?
Overall, this was a fun watch and informative if you wanted to be informed; me, I just liked the scenery and watching Martin being scared witless a few times as well as meeting some crazy folk… it was well worth a look and I’ll be tuning into the other two episodes as well.
What did you think of it?