Monday Supplement: Tony’s Gone to Iceland

Sunday supplement

I know for a fact what I’ll be doing for the next four Saturday nights – missing the start of Match of the Day that’s what – as it’ll be yet another of the BBC4 9 p.m. kick-off dramas. This time it is for “Trapped”, an Icelandic show which started over the weekend with a double episode that already promises more twists and turns than any of the great International offerings that have entertained me over the past couple of years.

A ferry originating in Hirtshals in Denmark, is about to land at Seydisfjordur in Iceland when a local fisherman pulls a beheaded, de-limbed torso from the water. There’s so much going on, especially for the hero, an overworked local police chief, both in his business and private life, my only advice can be to power up BBC I-Player and catch up. I promise you’ll be entranced, not least with the scenery and the weather.

Many years ago, I was entranced by a girl friend who flitted out and very occasionally into my early 6th form life. After calling to say she still had some of my records, I was encouraged to have another crack, but after a single visit to watch me play cricket, it was out again.

I even plucked up the courage sometime after to knock on her door, when her younger brother informed me she’d gone (I think as an au pair) to Iceland, and later news somehow filtered through (Friends Reunited?) that she settled there and had a family.

My next Icelandic moment came when Erik (the Viking) Thorstvedt came to play football for Spurs and moved next door into the house previously inhabited by the Andersons, who took a bit off the end of our rather lengthy garden in Hoddesdon as well as theirs, and built a lavish bungalow for themselves at the bottom.

Roger Anderson was a great mate for many years, and Erik was a nice bloke who used to get us invitations to the box of a fellow Norwegian – “the shipping guy” – at White Hart Lane. Erik played for seven years for Spurs and got 97 Norwegian caps and is a well-known face back there on football TV shows, but he’s nowhere near as famous as his daughter Charlotte, who at 29 is a model, occasional singer and former MTV presenter. I believe she also took time to earn a master’s degree at London School of Economics. Look at the photos!

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Charlotte was two or three when they came to live there, and like with myself, a lot of water has flown under the Thorstvedt bridge. The Icelandic connection came when his friend Gudni Bergsson joined Spurs soon after Erik’s arrival. Gudni had cheek-bones to rival any other gaunt Scandinavian model and the boys in the dressing room, always keen to encourage an outsider, dubbed him “Mask”.

Even now, on Wikepedia, and aged 50 and a practising lawyer back home in Reykjavic, Gudni looks the same. My claim to fame is that during one of his summer holidays back home, I was enticed (ordered probably) to mow his lawn in Broxbourne a time or two. Luckily, it wasn’t as extensive as ours. Lot of good that did me!

Now masks are all the rage, especially at Chelsea, where Diego Costa was so adorned as he continued his recent post-Mourinho revival with another good performance in the rout of Newcastle.

I make him the fifth at least of the Stamford Bridge fraudsters (JT excepted) – how else can you describe this team of reigning champions’ early-season efforts?  – following Matic, Fabregas, Cahill and Azpilicueta, to don the mask. I’m sure if Gudni ever needed one, you’d only notice it because he has such fair Nordic skin.

It’s nice when something like Trapped comes along, because it encourages a little education. The map shows the ferry route – the only one between Denmark and Iceland – passes right across the top of Scotland. Edinburgh to Denmark – as the crow flies – is around 500 miles. The ferry route to the land of the “ssons” is amazingly more like 1150 miles – so much for Erik and Gudni being near-neighbours.

I’m sure my old girlfriend went there for the geezers rather than the geysers and the volcanic hot pools, but having not spoken to her for almost half a century, it would be unfair to make such a presumption.

If like me you (only after Trapped) might be tempted to try to get to Iceland, there are no ferries there from the UK, indeed none at all to Denmark, Norway or Sweden since the route from Harwich to Norway gave up for various reasons last year.

I was at Lingfield rather than Newbury yesterday – I can just imagine the continuing chaos in that building site with a big crowd – but watched almost with dropping jaw as events played out in Berkshire and also at Warwick.

OK, we did get a Mullins odds-on shot to win the opener at Warwick, but L’Ami Serge, directed to the latter track rather than Newbury’s Game Spirit  by Nicky, was beaten at 1-5 in a three-horse race by Violet Dancer, the 2015 Betfair Hurdle winner.

Sometimes the crack stables’ stars attain almost god-like reputations without too much evidence for so being, but here in awful ground the Munir-Souede gelding came with just such high regard despite having beaten a total of five opponents in his two previous chases. Violet Dancer, contrastingly, had won three of four over fences, so it is hard to understand the wide differential in their prices – he started 8-1.

Gary and Jamie Moore also collected in the listed mares’ hurdle, their Flute Bowl beating a Harry Fry favourite on a rubbish day for the young trainer. His Activial (8-13) was miles behind when last of three to Warren Greatrex’s promising stayer Out Sam in the novice chase back at Newbury and Harry has now had five beaten favourites and just one winner over the past fortnight.

Lizzie Kelly has made an appearance or two already in this slot and in yesterday’s big race the 5lb claimer once again showed that big fields and top riding opposition give her not the slightest of worries. Partnering her stepfather Nick Williams’ Agrapart ,a five-year-old by my favourite jumps sire Martaline, she stretched clear of a 22-strong field which housed five Willie Mullins horses, including the favourite Blazer, ridden by Barry Geraghty.

Turning for home, it was clear only four of the line-up had any chance and as soon as Lizzie pressed the button, the novice Agrapart stormed clear to an 11-length victory. The best of Mullins’ troupe, presumably here to sequester a chunk of the 145k on offer in his unlikely attempt to nick our trainers’ title as well as his own, trooped in sixth (earning 2k) while two more were ninth and sixteenth with the remaining pair miles behind when falling late on.

I made an even earlier-than-usual start on my weekly meanderings to be clear in time to go with Harry Taylor to the Emirates for the Sunday midday kick-off of Arsenal – Leicester. It was my belated first visit of the season, and for that I’m indebted to Harry’s son Mark, who couldn’t be there yesterday. I hope I was a worthy deputy. With Arsenal nicking a 95th minute winner, I also hope I might be asked again.

 – Tony Stafford

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