Detectorists, Layered Timeslips, Albion in the Overgrowth, The Unthanks and Secrets Never Told: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 32/52

  • Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-1

    Previously at A Year In The Country I have written about “glimpses of Albion in the overgrowth” – referring to times when mainstream television has explored, expressed and/or reflected a sense of the undercurrents or flipsides of rural, pastoral and folk culture, its layered, sometimes semi-hidden tales and histories (something I have also referred to as a form of “otherly pastoralism” and which has also been known as “wyrd” culture).

    Along which lines is the ending of the first episode of Series 3 of the BBC television program Detectorists.

    In this sequence the two main characters, Andy and Lance, played by series creator Mackenzie Crook alongside Toby Jones, are in a field and just about to stop their metal detecting (which is their hobby) for the day, when one of them picks up a signal on his detector, which leads him to digging up a falconry whistle.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-2

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-3

    When he blows this whistle there is a sense of a chill, unsettled wind running through the air and in the sequence the whistle’s tone acts as a carrier signal back through time.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-4

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-5

    As they begin to leave, via the use of CGI, the field in which they are in and its trees slip back through time to many centuries ago and the edges of the screen start to flicker and vignette, while the colours become subtly muted and sepia-ish.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-6

    A youngish woman in white shroud like garments blows the same falconry whistle that Andy and Lance have just found and looks around to find the returning bird.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-7Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-8Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-9

    Off slightly in the distance from her, and it is not clear if she is watching across time or not, she observes a priest overseeing a ceremony in which a woman is burying a pot of gold coins in the ground – possibly as a form of tribute to the gods and spirits – accompanied by what I assume are her children and family.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-10Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-11Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-12Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-13

    Magpies watch the group and then time slips forward, the seasons change, a couple/young lovers, who via their clothing can be identified as being from centuries later, stroll across the field.

    Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-14Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-15Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-16Detectorists-BBC television series-Series 3-Episode 1-ending-The Unthanks-Magpie-17

    Time moves forward again and a farmer is shown ploughing the field and unearthing the buried coins behind him, which the magpies are drawn to and fly off with.

    Then time once more advances and the images fades back into to the present, with Andy and Lance being shown walking across the field once more, while the viewers now possess the knowledge that, unbeknownst to the detectorists, there is treasure in this field.

    (It is part of folklore that magpies are drawn to shiny objects and decorate their nests with them, although apparently research shows that this is not the case – more details at the “The science vs folklore of Magpies” link below. Also, I’m not sure, particularly in light of this research, whether the magpies flying off with the coins was filmed in the real world and involved an awful lot of patience or if this was also created via CGI – I expect I don’t really want to know, as it might remove some of the magic of this sequence.)

    The ending of the episode is not overtly dark, although there is something quietly unsettling about it, which may in part be due to the magpies lending a slightly ominous presence to proceedings.

    The Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie Crook-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country

    The sequence is artfully done and somewhat entrancing, being enhanced by the English folk group The Unthanks evocative performance of Daved Dodd’s song The Magpie that soundtracks it and which in itself draws its lyrics from the traditional children’s nursery rhyme One For Sorrow:

    One for sorrow,
    Two for joy,
    Three for a girl,
    Four for a boy,
    Five for silver,
    Six for gold,
    Seven for a secret,
    Never to be told.
    Eight for a wish,
    Nine for a kiss,
    Ten for a bird,
    You must not miss.

    The first known recording of this nursery rhyme dates back to John Brand’s Observations on Popular Antiquities in Lincolnshire in 1780, when it was just four lines:

    One for sorrow,
    Two for mirth,
    Three for a funeral
    And four for birth

    The Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie Crook-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-4

    One of the earliest known versions to extend this was published in 1846, with variations, in Michael Aislabie Denham’s Proverbs and Popular Saying of the Seasons:

    One for sorrow,
    Two for mirth
    Three for a funeral,
    Four for birth
    Five for heaven
    Six for hell
    Seven for the devil, his own self

    Which adds something of an almost folk horror like aspect to the rhyme.

    The Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie Crook-Toby Jones-A Year In The Country-2

    Along which lines, the lyrics to Magpie as sung by The Unthanks are as follows:

    One’s for sorrow
    Two’s for joy
    Three’s for a girl and
    Four’s for a boy
    Five’s for silver
    Six for gold
    Seven’s for a secret never told
    Devil devil I defy thee
    Devil devil I defy thee
    Devil devil I defy thee

    Oh the magpie brings us tidings
    Of news both fair and fowl
    She’s more cunning than the raven
    More wise than any owl
    For she brings us news of the harvest
    Of the barley we done called
    And she knows when we’ll go to our graves

    And how we shall be born

    One’s for sorrow
    Two’s for joy
    Three’s for a girl and
    Four’s for a boy
    Five’s for silver
    Six for gold
    Seven’s for a secret never told

    The-Detectorists-BBC-Mackenzie-Crook-Toby-Jones-Johnny-Flynn-A-Year-In-The-Country-1px

    In this episode of Detectorists closing sequence the version of the nursery rhyme from above which has ten “for”s is not completed, rather in the song Magpie it ends on “Seven for a secret, Never to be told”, which in this context, along with the verse where the magpie is attributed with prescience, helps to invoke a sense of a land layered and possibly even haunted by its secrets, treasures and past events.

    Johnny Flynn-Detectorists-single artwork cover

    Which connects to Johnny Flynn’s theme song for the series, which explores not dissimilar themes, alongside a related sense of modern-day seeking and searching (related to which, as I say in the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, Detectorists is in part “a portrait of people just trying to make the most of things while hopefully adding some magic to their lives”):

    Will you search through the lonely earth for me
    Climb through the briar and bramble
    I’ll be your treasure

    I felt the touch of the kings and the breath of the wind
    I knew the call of all the song birds
    They sang all the wrong words
    I’m waiting for you, I’m waiting for you
    (Mmmmmm)
    Will you swim through the briny sea for me
    Roll along the ocean’s floor
    I’ll be your treasure
    I’m with the ghosts of the men who can never sing again
    There’s a place follow me
    Where a love lost at sea
    Is waiting for you
    Is waiting for you
    (The lyrics to Johnny Flynn’s Detectorists.)

    The sequence also sets in motion the ending of this apparently final series of Detectorists, where (and hopefully not to give too much away) Andy and Lance finally seems to find some of what they have been seeking; their treasure both literally and in the form of a more settled sense of belonging and their hopefully rightful places in the world.

    Programme Name: Detectorists series 2 - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Varde (ORION BEN), Louise (LAURA CHECKLEY), Lance (TOBY JONES), Andy (MACKENZIE CROOK), Terry (GERARD HORAN), Hugh (DIVIAN LADWA), Russell (PEARCE QUIGLEY) - (C) Channel X North/Treasure Trove/Lola Entertainment - Photographer: Chris Harris

    Elsewhere:
    Detectorist Season 3, Episode 1 ending featuring The Unthanks
    Johnny Flynn’s Detectorists
    The science vs folklore of magpies

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #146/365: Glimpses of Albion in the overgrowth
    2) Day #274/365: Borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth…
    3) Day #275/365: Borrowings from Albion in the overgrowth (#2)… becometh a fumetti…
    4) Day #316/365: The Detectorists; a gentle roaming in search of the troves left by men who can never sing again
    5) Wanderings #19/52a: The Folk Roots Of Peak Time Comedians From Back When / Wandering The Layers
    6) Chapter 20 Book Images: “Savage Party” and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) – Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth
    7) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 25/52: Requiem Part 1 – Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth and Related Considerations

     

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