25. Suburbia

Jim Shelley takes the scenic route to suburbia and back

Tapehead no 25

Red lorry. Yellow lorry. Red lorry, yellow lorry. Red lorry yellow lorry red lorry yellow lorry yed lolly relllow rorry…sorry – a completely gratuitous, slightly sadistic, mention for this week’s From A-B
(Red Lorry Yellow Lorry) brought to you by television’s most gratuitously sadistic director, Nicholas Barker.

Speaking of sadistic, the week’s highlight is Football Crazy, a fine football documentary set in Millwall, the home of Milldean FC, from the Premier Division of the London/Kent Border League – “Mill as in Millwall. Dean as in Dean Martin.”

One player explains how he’s put on stone and a half since he started playing for Milldean. “And that is beer, you know what I mean? That is, like lager.”

A (fairly thuggish) player complains, “If you support Millwall, you get tarnished as a thug. And that’s well out of order.”

Behind the banter, though, the film’s funeral soundtrack (by Morse man, Barrington Pheloung), impeccable editing, and stunning Scorsese-esque slow-motion tracking shots, hint at the film’s finale, a tragic incident involving their centre-forward.

“He’s old enough to know what he wuz doin’,” explains the team’s manager, with a shrug. “He shouldn’t ‘ave hit the ref. End of.”

Genuinely poetic.

From the misery of Millwall to The Lullaby of Bromley (Heaven, Hell And Suburbia), an exploration of our desire to flee the city for the cosy conformity of the suburbs. Jonathan Glancey trashes the stained-glass semis and Tudor timbering with the relish of Nicholas Barker, while smug surbanites commend Bromley’s sense of community, “the Trivial Pursuits evenings and annual barbecue”.

Judging from Encounters, Transylvania makes Millwall, or even Bromley, look like nirvana. Some fine folk-dancing apart, life as a Trannie is relentlessly awful, particularly in Copsa Mica, home of Ceausescu’s favourite carbon black factories and lead smelter.

“We live in this sooty world,” says one (sooty) old peasant woman. “We spend a fortune on washing powder.”

When the factories are closed down, “the nightmare of unemployment is added to the threat of pollution and disease”. Just in case they ever cheer up, conflicts between the Romanian and Hungarian cultures make Transylvania an “ethnic cauldron” of Bosnian potential.

The Punjab Road Runners – three mini-cab drivers from Bradford who drive three transit vans over to Pakistan to sell them – wouldn’t fancy it much either, judging from their experiences in Holland, Germany, Rumania, Turkey, and Iran.

“Just totally different to Yorkshire,” explains the amazed narrator/mini-cab driver.

Fully stocked up on boiled sweets and “a load of curry from Bradford that our wives had made”, they set off full of hope, but quickly revert to type – mad, xenophobic taxi-driver type.

The narrating cabbie treats us to the full benefit of his wisdom, slagging off the Germans, Rumanians, Turks and Iranians in turn, not to mention the roads, the views, the hot weather, the cold weather, and “completely bloody lunatic” drivers of all nationalities.

Network First looks at “a new breed of New York gangsters”, a bunch of individuals with names like Fat Tony Salerno and Joey Dracula – almost as terrifying as the thought of being a passenger stuck in the back seat of the Punjab roadrunner’s taxi.

FBI man Artie Ruffles describes how one Gambino Family crew “were murdering three or four people a week. I mean, they would get depressed if they had nobody to kill.”

Their butchery was horribly methodical: shoot you in the head with a silencer; wrap a towel round your head to staunch the blood; stab you in the heart to stop the blood pumping; hang you up in the shower for 40 minutes and cut the veins in the side of your neck. “Then they’d put you in a tarpaulin, put you into bags and boxes, and then would dump you in the Brooklyn trash dump.”

End of, as they say in Millwall.


Champions – Football Crazy: Mon, 9pm-10pm, C4
Heaven, Hell And Suburbia – The Lullaby Of Bromley: Thu, 8pm-8.30pm, C4
Encounters – Transylvania: Sun, 7pm-8pm, C4
The Punjab Road Runners: Sat, 7pm-8pm, C4
Network First – Death In The Family: Tue, 10.40pm-11.40pm, ITV
From A-B: Tales of Modern Motoring: Fri, 9.30pm-10.15pm, BBC2