Sunday, 17 January 2010


I've just watched another episode of BBC1's Wallander, which is a detective series set in Ystad in the very south of Sweden. It's based on or inspired by the books of Henning Mankell. This is not the original series of Swedish-language films with subtitles produced a few years back and recently shown again on TV that star Krister Henrikson as Inspector Kurt Wallander, but the English-language series created specifically for television starring Kenneth Branagh. The style of the two versions is rather different. The Henrikson series portrays a Sweden full of dark undercurrents, secrets, difficult relationships, and emotional lockdown; and the language is crisp even when murmured. The Branagh series is less inhibited emotionally, the characters are easier to relate to, and the storyline is easier to comprehend; but personally I find the anglicised pronunciation irritating. Both series use the rolling Skane countryside, the woods, and the coast, very effectively as an atmospheric backdrop.

On balance I prefer the Henrikson series for 'authenticity', but the Branagh series is still very enjoyable. Branagh manages to create a more likeable character, who reminds me of John Thaw in Inspector Morse, very empathetic towards women, but without Morse's ponderousness.

Wallander (either series) strikes a chord with me. Mum's family came from Sweden, and my family tree is littered with Carlsons and Wallbergs going back to 1791.

In 1973, when in Southampton, I began a Swedish O-level course. It was run by a Swedish lady from Hultsfred called Monika. Her husband was a professor at the University. They had two boys, and in the winter of 1973/74 welcomed me into their home. I learned all about Swedish life in wintertime. Quite magical. I've never forgotten. I wonder where Monika and John are now? And the boys must be in their forties with families of their own. The course folded in 1974 from lack of students, and I threw out my course work in 2005, but I still have my grammar book. Monika was a good teacher. I learned a good vocabulary (though she insisted on not telling us what the swear words were), and I paid attention to pronouncing the language properly, including the way it rises and falls as you speak. I must have forgotten most of it by now, but it wouldn't take too much effort to get it back.

I've always wanted to visit Sweden. Once I've bought the new car, I think I'll take myself off to Sweden by road and just drive around a bit, and see what I find. A 'back to my roots' experience, going where I please.

Talking of cars, I notice that Wallander drives a Volvo XC70. Yes, it'll have to be a Volvo. Fate is pushing me towards them.


  1. Yes, but plod on the Isle of Wight drive XC70s as well - you can get the Volvo policing experience closer to home :)~

  2. Well, that just about makes us cousins, Rob's father was from Norway.

    It was interesting to read about what you said about the different styles of TV series. Rob also has Swedish cousins and the ones I met seemed very stilted and formal and Sooooo polite. It is amazing how social behaviour changes from country to country. When I was teaching, a lot of the more advanced books for business English had very interesting articles about social and physical behaviour as you move around the world

    We used to watched the long running German Police TV series over here: Inspector Derrick. It's about as exciting as watching a tap drip. The best bit was that it was obviously filmed in the homes of wealthy people so we got to see some beautiful interiors.

    P.S. The Scandinavian countries are very expensive. We’ve never been able to afford a trip there and I’d love to go and meet all of those aunts, uncles and cousins with funny names.

    You do write interesting posts.

  3. @Jess:
    I think you said you drove an XC70 yourself, and that it did well in the snow. I'm thinking that an XC60 could do even better! I'm in a quandary with colour, though. Volvo have a light metallic blue, which might be OK, but presently I'm favouring their metallic bronze. What colour's yours, Jess?

    Well, Monika was sincere and serious, but outgoing, and not at all stilted and over-polite. And the people I met at the Southampton Anglo-Scandinavian Society meetings at the University in 1973 seemed pretty lively too. In fact if anything I was the careful and formal one. Nowadays I'm a little less stiff, and I'm sure I could make anybody I met in Sweden thaw out if I got them talking!

    Thank you for saying I write interesting posts.


  4. Perhaps I terrorised my in-laws!

  5. Its the greyish light blue shade they do, can't recall whats called, something like iced Antarctic ISTR.

    Make sure your chosen colour sits OK with the plastic bodywork on the bumpers etc, which are quite prominent, at least on the XC70. Some colour combs look horrid.


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