Thursday 14 December 2017

When flying was all charm

aerfort (RTE1) Grimm (watch)

TRAVELLING by air, as if we needed reminding, is not as glamorous or exciting as it used to be. This was both the departure and arrival point of the engaging Aerfort, the first of three films looking at the history of Irish airports.

First up was Cork Airport, built on a windswept hilltop in Ballygarvan between 1959 and 1961 during the worst winters in more than 70 years and over the objections of people in Midleton, who believed they should be the location of Cork's gateway to the world.

But Midleton is 12 miles away from Cork City, which was judged too remote for an airport. It's a view that seems charmingly quaint in these days of low-cost, high-stress travel, when the journey from the airport to your hotel often takes as long as the flight itself.

Charm and quaintness were really the default modes in Aerfort. Tragic episodes in Cork's history -- including the 1968 Tuskar Rock disaster, in which 61 people died when a flight from Cork to London crashed, and last year's Manx Airline crash, which claimed the lives of six -- were recalled, of course, yet even here the emphasis was on intimate recollection.

Mick Healy, an early recruit to the airport's fire service, recalled sounding the alarm bell in 1964 when he spotted puffs of smoke coming from a Piper light aircraft that had just taken off.

The plane banked left for an emergency landing but dropped from the air like a stone, killing the pilot and all three passengers. The latter happened to be the family of the man standing next to Mick.

Elsewhere, the memories were happier. This was an era when thousands of Corkonians would take the bus from the city simply to watch the planes taking off -- although the airport's excellent restaurant and entertainment facilities ensured it became a busy venue for dinner dances and even weddings.

Later, when West Cork's reputation as "Ireland's Riviera" was growing, people came to catch a glimpse of stars such as Paul McCartney, Richard Harris, Fred Astaire and Jayne Mansfield passing through.

Paul Frost, a schoolboy in 1962, became a lifelong aviation nut the moment he saw an elegant Aer Lingus Viscount plane, silver against the sky. "I don't know what it did to me," he said. "I lost all sense." Planes, he said, are like sculptures. "Whichever angle you look at one from, it moves gracefully." Even more pleasing to him, however, were the air hostesses. "They weren't like ordinary people," he enthused. "They were out of this world." Actually, an interview with two ex-hostesses, Mary Geoghegan and Eibhlin Ni Lionaird, who recalled being on first-name terms with many of the passengers flying to work in England in the 1960s, revealed them to be rather more down-to-earth than Paul's flights of schoolboy fantasy. Still glamorous as hell, though.

If you think television already has too many vampires, werewolves and zombies, you might care to look away now. Otherwise, you should thoroughly enjoy Grimm, a new supernatural series with plots loosely based on the old fairytales.

Already a hit in America, it stars the fresh-faced David Giuntoli as Nick Burkhardt, a homicide detective in Portland, Oregon, who starts having creepy visions of people mutating into hideous monsters. An ailing aunt arrives to tell him that she and he are among the last of the Grimms, an ancient race of hunters dedicated to protecting the world from these storybook demons.

Burkhardt finds an unlikely ally in the shifting shape of Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a reformed wolf-like creature -- or blutbad -- who's learned to control his darker impulses, more or less.

The first episode, a reworking of Little Red Riding Hood, was heavier on introductory exposition than story, but it's pleasingly shot in the lurid colours of a horror comic and provided a few genuine jump-out-of-your-seat chills.

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