Last Night's TV: The Duke at 90/BBC1
Tourism & the Truth: Stacey Dooley Investigates Kenya/BBC3
Help! My House Is Falling Down/Channel 4
Friday 10 June 2011
Exactly why the Duke of Edinburgh agreed to give any interviews marking his 90th birthday is something of a mystery. He certainly doesn't seem to like doing them. Last week it was Alan Titchmarsh being given the cold shoulder on ITV ("How long is a piece of string?" he responded to one well-meaning bit of inquisition). Now it's Fiona Bruce in the line of fire. "I didn't want to do this," he warned, before she could even get a few words in.
The BBC seems just as confused by the situation. Much of The Duke at 90 is spent pondering the "longest-serving consort's" one-time role as the most media-friendly of royals, like a spurned girlfriend recalling her beau's former glories. It was he that initiated Royal Family, the 1969 documentary, which, for the first time, showed the Queen in her home environment. Both she and her mother were reluctant at first. Even David Attenborough, then BBC controller, had his reservations. The monarchy, he said, relies on mystique to retain its power. Philip begged to differ: "We don't belong to a secret society, you know! Better they know than speculate!"
Speculation seems to bemuse rather than bother him. Bruce gave him ample opportunity to bemoan the press's supposed intrusion, but he wouldn't. Journalists are, he reasoned, "professional intruders – it's natural." Yet faced with some of her most straightforward questions, he played hard to get. How do you think of yourself now? "I don't!" Does your award scheme make you proud? "There's no reason to be proud!" What was it like to be an outsider joining the British monarchy? "I wasn't!" Perhaps he wasn't playing hard to get after all. Quite possibly the old boy really does see things that way.
To her credit, Bruce got her little scoops. The Duke advocates "voluntary family limitation" to solve overpopulation. He claimed to be losing his memory – but as soon as the words "slitty eyed" are mentioned, recalled exactly, and rather angrily, the journalist who broke that particular story: ("Mr Hamilton of The Times. If it hadn't been for him..."). Finally, if Philip could vote, he definitely wouldn't go green. He looked quite horrified at the suggestion. "No, no! It's the difference between being concerned and being a bunny-hugger, isn't it?"
I wonder what Stacey Dooley does when she's not saving the world? She only seems to be rolled out a couple of times a year, to go to Cambodia and interview sex-workers, or visit the DRC and rescue child soldiers. When she does make her annual appearance – as she did on last night's Tourism and the Truth: Stacey Dooley Investigates Kenya – she's rather lovely, all dropped consonants and overflowing red hair.
The consonants are part of the Dooley shtick: girl-next-door does global crisis. It sounds annoying, but it's not, largely because Dooley herself is so winning. When she finds herself welling up in interviews, there's not a trace of forced emotions. She's smart, and honest and, if last night was anything to go by, she's outgrown the slightly tiresome yoof factor, too. Perhaps it's time to see more of her?
Kenya, we learned, receives 200,000 British visitors a year. A boom in all-inclusive holidays has meant that it's perfectly possibly to hole up in a luxury resort, eating and drinking as much as you like, for less than £80 a night. And I think that includes flights. Unsurprising, then, that someone's losing out somewhere. The workers at the hotel that Dooley visits are reticent when it comes to revealing their wage. Suffice to say, they're not getting much above the £3-a-day minimum. Elsewhere, the situation was worse. Dooley met Henry, the security guard at another resort, who lost his job after complaining about his £1.50-a-day wage.
And so she was dispatched to try and improve their lot. She met managers and hoteliers, even the Minister for Tourism. Lots of promises extracted, and – if the end credits are to be believed – at least a little action taken. As ever, she was optimistic of Big Changes Ahead. I hope she's right.
Help! My House Is Falling Down is jolly depressing. It's not so much the misery of the houses' inhabitants; in this case, Charlotte and Jamie, who bought their collapsing home because they didn't want a faceless new-build. It's the fact that the purchases are allowed to go ahead. Don't surveyors check things like this? Isn't someone there to stop you handing over £250,000 for a building whose fourth wall is sinking?
Jamie had been under the impression that he could sort out the house himself. A professional shop fitter, he's well versed in DIY. Apparently, he's less well versed in spotting that the walls of his would-be home are covered in toxic mould. That wasn't their only problem. A flat roof over the dining room meant that the floor was permanently littered with buckets, the back wall was separating from the main house, and the entire top floor sloped downwards. For each incident, Sarah Beeny stormed in looking grave. She told them how much it would cost to fix, prodded them to say it was more than they'd got, and – just as they were spiralling into mental breakdown – offered some cheap alternative. In all, Jamie and Charlotte forked out £30,000. So now they've got a nice house, and a lot of debt. Joy!
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