Saturday, April 22, 2017

Birds Chirping and Other Stories

Those of us in our late innings of life are allowed compensations here and there. One such is closed captions granted us with diminished hearing. It doesn’t seem so long ago when hearing-impaired folks had to settle for foreign films with subtitles. Now we all get to read our favorite English language TV shows on screen.

I have conducted a scientific survey which reveals that most movies start off either with birds chirping or horns honking depending on whether set in the country or city. A sub-set of these openings are gulls screeching or shots firing.

If the scene is set in Brooklyn we might get boids choiping particularly on Turd Avenue and Turdy-Turd St. We’re in for 90 minutes of crooked cops, back alleys, a topless dancers going to night school for a law degree and a car chase destroying a dozen fruit stands and pushcarts. Is that a chirp or a garbage truck backing up?

However nothing compares to the sunny bucolic village riddled with crime and no one does it as well as the Brits. Their supply of detective stories is inexhaustible. Tough-gentle, scruffy-clean cut, oversized-frail, alcoholic-teetotalers, clergymen, classicists, hard or soft-boiled. 

One show with minimal graphic violence or at least shown off-screen, is Midsomer Mysteries. It has been running for eleven seasons which is a long time for birds to be chirping, set as it is, in the Cotswold hamlets of England where it never rains.

People with fully functioning ears may not know that a chirping bird is often sufficient to set off a mild-mannered septuagenarian on a killer rampage. Who knew what evil lurked behind those bake sales and cricket matches. Maybe it was the white suits that drove Fitzroy Fitzmorris to plot the demise of the former leftenant of the 3rd Fusiliers and local headmaster.

For the first 40 minutes every one of the eleven suspects interviewed tells whooping lies. As the truth is grudgingly revealed it becomes clear, from the couch, who the murderer is…..only to be dashed as his body turns up bludgeoned with a fire iron.

Suddenly each face changes, birds stop chirping and crows start cawing accompanied by organ music. Chief Detective Inspector Barnaby overhears a conversation at the pub and has an epiphany. Everyone is to gather in the library. He methodically eliminates the culprits one by one until……..yes, we say, he didn’t fool me for a minute. It is, of course, the retired benign viscount whose cunning chess moves are played, in human scale, out on the village green. The inspector then returns to take tea with his perfect wife and birds can be heard chirping once more.

The formula, set in Albion stone, is reaffirmed. Order has been restored. Truth will out. The gardens are untrammeled. Song can be heard from the pub. On the lawn of the manor house a croquet ball has been hit squarely through a portal. We shall, for reasons unknown, sleep well tonight.

Deprived are those without captioning. They have to do their sleuthing without benefit of bird calls. Chirp. Chirp. 

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