Last night my wife and I flicked the TV on, and were fortunate enough to catch the local news which covers Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands. If I once thought the regional news on S4C or BBC Wales was parochial, I now stand corrected as to what that word actually means.
First we had the arrival of somebody, possibly the local mayor, from Moscow. The cameramen stood patiently on the apron at Yuzhno airport in lashing rain whilst the celebrity climbed down the steps and made his way over to the gaggle of lesser dignitories who were there to greet him. A short speech was delivered as the luggage was unloaded from the plane behind him, and he went on his way.
A full five minutes of the news was devoted to a handful of Korean students studying on one of the Kuril Islands which looked no larger than a supermarket car park. The coverage included interviews with the students, footage of them buying stuff in a grocery store and the subsequent broken conversation with the bleached-haired shopkeeper, and pictures of their school, which looked like a cricket pavilion and was of about the same size.
Sadly I missed the five minutes covering some school orchestra or something, as I went to run a bath.
Then we had the sports news, which consisted in its entirety of highlights of an exciting football match between Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and some team from one of the other Russian provinces. The match was played in shin-high grass in a park. They didn’t quite have jumpers for goals, but they weren’t far off. There were no stands, and the spectators numbered about 12, including the mayor who had flown in to such great fanfare earlier. Everyone was looking a bit wet, and it was blowing a gale. The match itself resembled high-school football, with many miss-kicks, hefty clearances, and howling misses on open goals. There was no formation to speak of, and everyone was chasing the ball much the same way as a swarm of bees chases something. Extra entertainment was provided for the viewer by the camera zooming to an electrical fire burning gently in the cabling at the bottom of one of the rusting floodlight towers. Yuzhno won the game and were rewarded with lashings of ginger beer, whereas the visiting team had to eat the tongue sandwiches prepared by the goalie’s mum.
Moving away from the sports, we had the story of a dead bloke who’d been found in the basement of a house in Yuzhno. Neighbours had noticed a rather pungent stench and had called the militia who, having failed to extract the bribe necessary for him to be deemed alive, pronounced the man dead, picked him up, and plonked him on a stretcher. All of this was watched by the neighbours and passing traffic, and recorded faithfully by our brave cameraman who brought the footage to our TV screens.
Then we had the round up of traffic accidents in Yuzhno. We watched with rapt attention as the stories of minor shunts in the streets of Yuzhno were extensively covered, including footage of the cars and interviews with the drivers. Close-ups of the damage, sometimes little more than a dent, were also included. As extra entertainment, we were shown footage of passers by stood looking at the accidents, and an old man who had had his wing mirror clipped gesturing wildly at the driver responsible.
Next, also traffic related but obviously worthy of its own report, we had the story of a small lorry which got stuck when crossing a makeshift bridge over a ditch, the ditch in question being about a metre wide and six inches deep. An interview with the driver was of particular benefit to the viewers.
Lastly, we were treated to a “no commentary” round up of the days events, presumably for those who were unable to take in the whole lot at once.