TV: The contents are only contraband if the driver has no intention of drinking it all himself - a loophole which leads to some positively heroic claims of personal consumption at Dover docks

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
The last time Cutting Edge (Channel 4, 9pm) depicted criminal activity it turned out that it wasn't criminal activity at all - but a "reconstruction" staged with the permission of the notional victim. So, as you watched "Terry and June" negotiate customs with a van-load of Continental booze they intended - in defiance of the law - to sell on at a profit, it occurred to you that the scene could easily be just as bogus. Perhaps Customs had given their permission, Terry and June were being played by out-of-work actors and the air of tension in the cab was purely synthetic. For the moment the safest working assumption with this particular strand is that it cannot be trusted as far as you can throw a Channel Four commissioning editor. Then again, those involved might not have felt the need for any protective subterfuge at all - because smuggling booze is usually viewed as the most democratic and venial of crimes, one practised, some time or other, by millions of returning tourists, who sweat their way through the green channel with an extra bottle of Bailey's hidden in the dirty socks.

Customs officers do not share this view, citing the pounds 950m which they estimate is lost to the Revenue as a result of people in overloaded mini- vans. The contents are only contraband if the driver has no intention of drinking it all himself - an amorphous loophole which leads to some positively heroic claims of personal consumption at Dover docks. If you are unlucky the officer involved will call your bluff and confiscate the lot. But the profits to be made from a successful run are such that few are discouraged. Apart from that one murky sequence of a crime in commission, Nicki Stockley's film covered the subject from two safer angles - fond recollection in the case of the group of Barnsley miners who had escalated a day-trip jolly into a full-scale smuggling operation, and perfect legality in the case of Dave West, an ex-Romford barrow boy who supplies the bootleggers from a vast warehouse outside Calais. West apparently takes the view that the pursuit of duty-free liquor is the inalienable right of all true-born Britons: "we wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the endurance of the British public with their desire to get a bit of cheap booze" he said emotionally, recalling the early days of struggle.

But he was left standing in the lovable rogue stakes by Dave Garner, an ex-miner only recently released from prison for his part in organising a large group of beer-runners. The prevailing tone here was one of uncritical affection - Stockley's account, strong on male-bonding and farcical evasions, would have served perfectly well as the pitch for a comedy drama in which three unemployed friends team up to defeat the system and put food in their children's mouths (working title - Lager Galore!. Recalling the heyday of their operation the three friends talked wistfully: "It were like a game," said one, "just like a working holiday". Even the prison sentence had had its feelgood moments, with Dave describing a surge of blokish love that overwhelmed him one New Year's Eve, an epiphany which he talked of as if it alone had been worth the conviction. This theme of heart-warming mischief didn't quite add up - not least because the team had finally graduated to supplying a group of professional East End criminals and because it occurred to you that the profits from 15 men working round-the-clock shifts must have gone somewhere. But when they eventually make the movie I am sure they can script their way round those little niggles.

Late Arrivals (BBC2, 9pm), Amanda Richardson's film about four women readying themselves for belated childbirth, also included some promising dramatic types. There was a brittly excited newspaper magazine editor (made a touch more Ab Fab here than she probably is in real life) and Mary, an oil executive who approached the forthcoming birth as a challenge to her multi-tasking abilities - the baby, she announced, would have a "very high priority" but the rest of her life would continue "around that priority". This made it sound like a roundabout to me; a floral roundabout maybe, an object of pride and solicitude - but still an accessory to the journey rather than a destination in itself.

Comments