Be On Television
Long before George Clarke was presenting Restoration Man and Amazing Spaces, he was just starting out on television and presented the programme Property Dreams which aired on Channel 5 in 2004 and starred my family in one episode. I was very young at the time, 12 to be precise, but I do remember the experience of featuring on this bonkers programme – the filming of which took a lot of time but was funny in equal measures.
I can’t remember exactly how it came about that we became part of this Channel 5 series; I think my Mum answered some sort of advertisement in the paper and we were chosen out of lots of applicants. Anyway, the premise of the show was to focus on the homeowner’s property in the UK and map out the ways in which it could be improved – for us, my Mum wanted an extension, so George, as an architect, planned with her the ways in which this could be best done. On top of this, however, my Mum and Dad had to ‘pretend’ that we wanted to buy a second home in France, which meant that we ended up having the Talkback television team come join us on our summer holiday in the Dordogne for a few days. It was, as I said, bonkers.
It was a weird programme because unlike shows such as Grand Designs, which I love, this programme had no real direction, no resolution, because the extension that was talked about never happened (well it did, but not for many years) and we were never going to buy a house in France anyway. So, effectively, it was just a camera crew following us around France house-hunting for most of the 60 minutes.
I remember one occasion in the Dordogne vividly. We spent a couple of nights with some family friends and the husband was a raging alcoholic. Big red nose, hicupping, the works. He was called Richard and he was brilliant, such a clever man and hilarious to talk to but could not master the art of not looking directly into the camera when he was interviewed by the Talkback team. They told him it wasn’t natural over and over again, but it was no use. He refilled his glass with glistening red wine, proceeded to hold his huge St Bernard, Ella, by the collar so tightly that when she decided to wander off to the other side of the room, he didn’t let go and went with her. Straight off of his chair and onto the kitchen floor. We were all crying with laughter.
The madness didn’t end there. One of the producers of the show had a false leg, and there was an occasion when he wanted to film my sister and I jumping into the swimming pool for the opening clip of the show. Due to the fact that he only had one leg, trying to keep his balance and stay under water whilst filming was impossible, so he had his assistant jump into the water with him and effectively kneel on his shoulders to keep him in the right position. This wouldn’t have been quite so funny, if the producer hadn’t left his prosthetic leg, trainer and t-shirt propped up next to my Mum who was watching.
I’m not sure what we learnt from appearing in this television show. My mum was slagged off in the TV review pages of the paper which was funny, and when we watched the show we quickly learnt the art of editing and just how much tactical cutting and pasting goes on. To the degree that they quite literally cut bits of what you previously said, and stuck it in the middle of a sentence making you end up saying something totally different to what you actually said. My Mum also learnt that she was never going to go to Toni & Guy for a haircut again.