Did we like it?
A quaint little voyage around some of the country’s more dilapidated architectural curios, only tarnished by a slight sense of aimlessness.
What was good about it?
• Griff Rhys Jones’s unbounded enthusiasm. If his words were little lion cubs joyfully jousting at play in a nature reserve, they would have the fitful energy to leap clear over the confining fences and make their escape.
• The villages in which the three properties in need of renovation were situated – Farringdon, Tollesbury and Compton – were the kind of beautiful peaceful hamlets that the Daily Mail features in articles concocted to stoke up hatred for anyone not from these shores (or more accurately, anyone not from these shores who comes from Eastern Europe, Asia or Africa) by exclaiming that these halcyon visions of Englishness will be ruined should our borders be breached by immigrants.
• The first property featured, Massey’s Folly in Farringdon, had an intriguing history of how a domineering reverend loaded down with money spent his last 40 years in the parish constructing a huge four-storey edifice that loomed over the rest of the village like something out of a Kafka novel. But the only problem was, he didn’t have a purpose for it. After his death, it was used variously as a school and offices before becoming disused except for a room that is today used as a nursery.
• The bickering of Ptomely Dean and Marianne Suhr, the pair who act as cultural Loyd Grossmans as they peer and poke their way through the decrepit properties. Quite often their arguments, which included the original use of the granary in Tollesbury, will start off as well-reasoned intellectual joust before descending into a tortuous duel of one upmanship.
• As Ptolemy and Marianne probed Massey’s Folly with the intrusive negligence of a soon-to-be-struck-off-surgeon they stumbled into the room where a flock of pigeons had made their nest. And their nest was the sort of soiled hovel you would expect to find if every one of the profanities expelled from Gordon Ramsay’s mouth became a band of vagrants and slept under a bridge. There was a funnel of pigeon excrement so thick Paul Danan has enquired about buying it as his career’s new home.
• The robotic cheering of the class of schoolchildren from the 40s who were celebrating (or rather had been ordered to celebrate at gunpoint) the news that a boat from Tollesbury hadn’t, after all, sunk off the coast of the USA.
• The three buildings evoked memories of childhood holidays of places parents take their kids on the second-to-last day of the vacation after being impaled on a spear of guilt for indulging their offspring by taking them to the beach every day where they filled their faces with candy floss. You could almost hear the dull slap of bored young feet on the floors of the historical edifices.
• Ptolemy’s polemic on his distress that Watts Gallery, which houses a number of stunning paintings by George Watts, has been allowed to fall into disrepair because of a lack of funding.
• The beard of the retiring curator of the Watts Gallery, a thick fog-like morass of fur from which you half-suspected to emerge a crew of zombie sailors left to drown on the waves, and who have now returned for their revenge.
What was bad about it?
• Sometimes the script did try and invest the obvious with a sense of exclamatory revelation. “The south east is the most heavily populated part of Britain,” gushed Griff.
• The rather pointless interlude of coastal erosion in East Anglia; this is something that has been covered in more profound detail on a dedicated documentary rather than an ice cream break in Restoration Village.
• The granary in Tollesbury seems to have been tossed in as a makeweight as it was little more than a derelict shack on a mudflat. Sure, the valiant campaigners fought their corner and even brought out that last desperate plea for votes as a class of primary schoolchildren played a game in it. Even though it’s the cheapest by far at £255,000 (compared to the £1.9m of Massey’s Folly and £10m for Watts Gallery), it seems unlikely to have much chance of salvation.
• No matter how hard you searched in any of the picturesque villages, there was no regional accent to be found as if they’d been hunted to extinction like the wolf. Meanwhile, Ptomely went in search of “cream tea” in a delicate Tollesbury café.