TV View: Sword and scissors are highlights of my week
The programmes to watch and the ones you really want to miss
As any self-respecting hairdresser or Braavos assassin knows, you can wreak a heck of a lot of carnage with a simple pair of salon scissors.
Back in the days when I still had a viable interest in "up-top", it was always a fretful business getting the old hair done. "What do you want done?" the stylist would ask, reasonably enough. Which was followed by a stream of consciousness which sounded like a rather long cryptic crossword clue.
"Um, a bit off here, then a kind of cut on at the sides, but not too much, then, ah, take it round to the back and lightly strim. Then swing back and triangulate the fringe, if you know what I mean?" They were usually too nice to say they didn't, and set to work with their scissors as sympathetically as possible.
In Salon Stories, not only did the women who went to Isobell's and Paul's hairdressers know exactly what they had planned for each and every one of the blow-dried hairs on their head, they had the time of their lives in an environment part-confessional, part-social. The sacred bond between client and stylist was at the centre of this charming programme (another True North product) about ordinary people coming together to share their news, get tanked up on tea and have their barnet spruced up.
As the voiceover pointed out, hairdressers have to abide by a kind of unofficial secrets act - what gets spoken about in the chair, stays in the chair.
Isobell's and Paul's salons might be located in opposite ends of the city and the supposed great tribal divide, but nothing reveals our commonality like the easy-going, chatty ambience of the salon. And the chat was priceless.
A discussion about Neal Diamond's recent appearance ended with one woman reflecting: "I was disappointed. He looked like he needed a good wash," before they philosophically ruminated on the ravages of time's arrow.
Hairdressing is clearly a calling, where simply being good with hair won't, ahem, cut it. Paul and Isobell both agreed that an empathy and a general enjoyment of people was as essential as scissor technique. The most touching thing about this programme was just what a pivotal role these establishments played within their respective communities, and what a treasure trove of humanity they played host to.
From 90-year-old "old school gent" Dennis and his "diva" wife Nancy to vivacious pensioner Rosemary, who had the last and best word: "It's OK to be skint, but it's not OK to look skint."
In Game of Thrones, on the other hand, nobody appears to be skint, but most people do look skint. That's what the ravages of continent-spanning war, eating mud and wearing rabbits like Ugg boots will do to your average Westeros warlord or lass.
Its return this week to fill our desperate need for medieval-style rutting and routing was a strangely muted affair, mainly I suppose because it's the "let's set everything up, shall we?" first episode.
The most upsetting thing wasn't Charles Dance laid out with weird pebble eyes, but the bumping off of our own Ciaran Hinds, aka Mance Rayder.
As he nobly perished in the flames rather than kneel before that king from Leeds, I couldn't help thinking that all that heat couldn't be good for his plum rinse.
Arresting performances on the weird and wonderful Fortitude
Feeding, torture, sex - a typical recipe for happiness in your average Viking society. Add prehistoric parasite wasps, polar bears and more improbable twists than a Curly Wurly warehouse, and you've got the Arctic adventure Fortitude.
I've now had a week to digest the events of the final episode of the first series, and I don't think I'm much the wiser as to what exactly is going on.
It started as a Twin Peaks-style small-town drama, lurched into police procedural, hinted briefly at the supernatural before diving headlong into science fiction. And for all its wilful confusion, I enjoyed the ride. Not least because of the best ensemble cast on television in years.
At the heart of that, Richard Dormer as Sheriff Dan Andersen has been brilliant. Leaving aside his accent - which sounded at times like a member of a Swedish 80s heavy metal band and part Terri Hooley - he was at the heart of the whole thing. But I was idly speculating the other day, whether the man who famously played "godfather of punk" in the movie Good Vibrations might have ever confused the man himself with his performance?
As Good Vibrations attests to, Terri blurred the lines of reality in his narrative, all the better to forge myth. So I wouldn't have blamed him if, when watching Fortitude, he didn't think, at least once, "blimey, I don't remember doing a DJ set in Spitzbergen, that must have been some weekend". And you know what? It gladdens my heart .
Never meet your heroes... or the politician you've just slagged off
They say you should never meet your heroes. This was personally born out when I was nine and a Olympic athlete explained in earthy Anglo-Saxon that he didn't want to give me his autograph.
To that list should be added politicians you write about in your column.
The closest I've come to remotely engaging with the current depressing hollow election posturing is being introduced by a mutual friend to prospective UUP candidate Rodney McCune.
Seconds after shaking his hand in a pub (who says they're all Cromwellian sourpusses), it occurred to me that I'd written something unkind about his appearance in a recent Nolan Show. The phrase "pinstriped night-class ceramic" came flooding back, as I mumbled something about "fair game", and he said something about shabby journalism, and we parted company.
Two things sprang to mind immediately, First, I'd kill the "mischievous" mutual friend the next time I saw her. And second, he looked a lot less like a night-class ceramic in real life when he wasn't wearing pin stripe.
Old school alert! I know it's not strictly "on the tellie", but I've been devouring David Lynch's awesomely oddball Twin Peaks on box set. The weird small-town drama was the template for almost ALL modern American shows. Meanwhile on planet Earth, Britain's Got Talent is back. And the early part is always best, isn't it?
Have you seen the 'new Spitting Image'? Me neither, but I did have the misfortune to watch the political puppet pap that was Newzoids. It clearly desperately wants to be likened to the dearly departed Spitting Image. But it wasn't remotely funny, or satirical for that matter. Ed Milliband is a geek you say? Get out of here! No seriously; get out of here.