Life

Nuala McCann: How sweeter the crime show thrill when the backdrop is Belfast

Anna Maxwell Martin, Adrian Dunbar and Natalie Gavin in Line of Duty

THERE is a hole in our weekend where Line of Duty used to be. The Sunday night spot on the sofa with alcohol and Tayto desperately needs filling.

We are sifting about to plug the gap occupied by Detective Chief Inspector Ted Hastings aka the Gaffer and his intrepid crew on the trail of bent coppers.

OMG what are we going to do for fancy acronyms about these parts? We had nearly passed our OU degrees on the subject of short pithy ones – hello, OCG – organised crime gangs. As for police ranks, we now know our DCC from our DCS and if anyone shouts “Farenheit” it would be advisable to duck for cover, it’s a code word for shooting somebody as opposed to an outdated reading of the temperature gauge.

Undoubtedly, actor Adrian Dunbar had his finest hour in that final episode of the last series as Ted Hastings facing the Arctic blast of DCS Patricia Carmichael. Also, best line of the whole five series went to DI Kate Fleming when she spelled it out for the officer from AC3: “Listen Michelle, we’re AC-12. We do this to other units week in, week out. So don’t try telling me how it works. We’re witnesses, not suspects. Now stop making a tit of yourself and pi** off.” That was sweet.

But seriously, for anybody from these parts, there was always an extra dimension. Call it the fifth element – one of my favourite films.

But it’s the backdrop. It’s the streets of home. Hey, Inspector Hastings has just walked out of police headquarters... but really, he’s on the steps of Central Library.

We spent half the time identifying familiar places, fighting each other to name the location first. Dot died beside the bridge on Tate’s Avenue just at the place where I pulled out into the line of an oncoming car, causing the driving-test examiner to slam on the emergency brakes and failing my first driving test in spectacular fashion.

“That was the place,” I whispered on the sofa that night as we watched Dot die.

And no, so traumatised was I by the return to the scene of my failure, that I didn’t notice a dying ‘Dot’ was performing very subtle Morse code with his fingers because he couldn’t whisper his dying words and wanted to let the team know that there was a corrupt gang of four in the police.

I don’t go with the Morse code line. Bulls**t to that. It was just plain daft. But nevertheless, I’m sold on the Belfast backdrop.

There was a spectacular Line of Duty kidnapping scene around the corner by the local shop where, rumour has it, they used to play an ear-piercing siren screech that can only be heard by anyone under the age of 18. It was to stop the teenagers hanging about the corner.

“Can’t you hear it, Mum?” our fella would ask as we passed rumour corner.

“No,” I’d say, in the belief that this was an urban myth, or what is more likely, I’m quite deaf and definitely over 17.

In Line of Duty, the rogue undercover cop’s family lived up the hill past Forestside in one of the bungalows we nearly bought back in the day. You get great views of Belfast by night, all twinkly lights over Napoleon’s Nose. The rogue cop would have liked that.

And was it not rather fitting that the latest baddy was consigned to a dreadful fate? Gill Biggeloe – all glam and battering eyelashes – walked away to a house with an old baggy sofa dumped at the back door. It didn’t quite go with her image. Who could not feel sorry for her?

She had pitched up under an alias in Larne. Apologies to our Larne neighbours – God bless you, Dave Boy – but as a Ballymena woman, I feel I have a right to look down on Larne – just as everyone looks down on us.

The obsession with spotting locations makes series set here all the more tasty. In The Fall, it was warming to see DS Stella Gibson – aka Gillian Anderson – taking her early morning dip in the local pool. Only it was empty when she dived in – must have been a 6am swim.

And so on to the next detective series. There’s nothing like a few bloody whodunnits to lighten the dead weight of a Sunday evening. Columbo, Kojak, the Sweeney, Shetland... it was ever so. But how much sweeter when the streets are not those of San Francisco... they’re the streets of home.

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