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Land of Green Ginger (1973)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Sally, who is now based in London, returns to her hometown of Hull for the weekend. Her boyfriend Mike returns to Hull on a fishing trawler.

On the train from King's Cross, Sally Brown meets Reynolds, a journalist who is writing an article on Hull and the surrounding region. Reynolds has worked in many places, and envies people who know where home is. They discuss the Land of Green Ginger, a Hull street that shares its name with a magic city. Sally is politely wary of his romantic impressions of the city, defensively quotes negative stereotypes and comments that she knows quite enough about the city and the sea.

Mike's trawler docks and unloads in Hull. Sally gets a taxi from Hull's Paragon Station to Bransholme, a council estate to which her mother has been relocated following the demolition of their old family home and other houses in the Hessle Road area, the old centre of the fishing community. The taxi driver finds the new estates bleak, despite planners' intentions. Sally finds her mother's flat, high in a tower block. Sally's father is working in the Persian Gulf. Sally tells her mother that she has been offered a job abroad for eighteen months; her mother thinks people must move where the work is.

Sally walks up Hessle Road, which, despite being slightly run-down, is busy and friendly: she immediately bumps into someone she knows. This is Mike's mother, Mrs Thurlow, who hasn't seen Sally's mother since she moved to Bransholme, and doesn't want to move to a big estate because she would miss being able to walk around and speak to people. Mike arrives, on his way to a rugby league match in Castleford. Alone, Sally walks around the bulldozed ruins of her old home. She sees local resident 'Uncle' Jack, but he tearfully avoids her.

Mike takes Sally to Pickering Park to watch his brother playing football. Sally and Mike explore areas they visited while younger, including a rock garden and a maritime museum. Mike grumbles at spending his limited free time from the fishing trawlers looking at fish and boats. Sally describes Uncle Jack's behaviour. Mike remembers seeing Jack earlier on. Jack, a trawler skipper, was docking and seemed drunk and emotional. Mike implies that crying is not unusual for trawler men.

Mike takes Sally to Hessle Foreshore to see where the Humber Bridge will be built: it is planned for 1976. According to the local media, the bridge should bring prosperity to the area. Sally talks about her job offer, and asks whether Mike will give up his dangerous, lonely job for a shore job. Mike wants to avoid a serious conversation and relax because he is going to Iceland the next day. They get a taxi to the Alexandra Hotel, a pub on Hessle Road, and see The Watersons performing at the Blue Bell pub.

Walking round Hull's Old Town, Mike and Sally see a statue of King Billy, the founder of Hull. Sally suggests, and they both dismiss, looking for Land of Green Ginger. Sally asks about old friends but, as she did not know that one of them died on a trawler, Mike suggests she should come home more often. Telling Mike that she does not want to take the overseas job, Sally says that she wants to move back to Hull. However, settling down is unlikely because Mike refuses to take a shore job. Looking round at redundant old docks and the lack of jobs, Mike suggests settling for what he's got. After his next trip he will be skipper, taking the place of Jack, who has been discarded for not catching enough fish. Sally sees this as typical of the rat race, but Mike believes London must be the same.

Sally wonders why people shouldn't get decent jobs and live decent lives where they want; Mike thinks people don't know any better. Later, preparing to leave, Mike asks Mrs Thurlow where the Land of Green Ginger is, but she does not know. On the train back to London, Reynolds asks Sally whether she found the Land of Green Ginger. Sally replies that they didn't look hard enough.