Missing the link – out of the loop

Very occasionally, owing to the exigencies of fate, you can travel blissfully unaware of something that has been going on for years. I am not talking about a spouse’s affair or a tumour silently gorging itself on some part of your body, or the fact that an inter-stellar domino effect of galactic implosions will be catastrophic for Earth a billion years from now. A bit more small scale than that. Nevertheless, given that I have an interest in cinema and slightly more than an occasional interest in television, what has transpired as an unfathomable blot on my mental landscape, a lacuna in the ebb and flow of my tentative grip on culture, has turned in a curious way to my advantage. Like finding a donkey’s years old winning lottery ticket in that pair of trousers I forgot I bought and left in France for the next visit, only to find them two years later.

How can it have happened that I would miss something so riveting and better than anything else I’ve seen for years? Not only miss it but miss the hype? Can it be that my travelling between countries has been a passage of neat sidesteps so that every time there has been an eruption of popular debate and a deluge of critical acclaim, I have just happened to be occupied elsewhere, my head fixed on my navel, or in the clouds or in someone else’s business. Who knows?

Yet here I am, years after its inaugural run, buying the first four series, with another one to waiting. This is, in itself, a first. Going on the recommendation of my younger son, confirmed by the opinion of one of my oldest friends, an internationally lauded writer of children’s fiction and a sardonic critic of most things popular, I just went out and bought eighty quid’s worth of TV episodes. It could have been exactly the kind of aberration that catches us out now and then in life, the kind for which you never truly forgive yourself. But it wasn’t.

It was made in cine-heaven by angels with dirty mouths. It transfixes me each night as I limit myself somehow to two episodes an evening. I dream dramas in Baltimore street patois. Like a junkie from the series (there are plenty of them) I flop about, stare distractedly, scratch and mumble my way through the day, until I allow myself to switch on the DVD player.

Oh bliss! Two and two thirds series to go. Over thirty episodes at around 45 minutes a time. And another thirteen episodes in series five which I will buy on the way back to Ghana.

I am high on The Wire.

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