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May The Best House Win


Throughout my life, there have been a range of things that I have determinedly said I would never do.  Apparently, so I am told by my friend Adrian, I pooh poohed video recorders as being unnecessary and somewhat more reasonably swore I would never get a mobile phone – although in my own defence, they were, back then, the size of your average roller skate.

One thing that I had always been sure would never change, would be the thought of me endorsing any form of “people program”, made by any number of production companies to fill the viewing schedules of any number of modern day channels.

Be it “Big Brother” or “I’m a Celebrity…” my contempt could not be more profound.

So, imagine my surprise, when one day I received a call from Louise, my PA, when on holiday in Damascus, telling me that she’d received a call from those good people at ITV 1 programme “May the Best House Win”.

Now, forgive my ignorance, but having been gainfully employed these last 30 odd years I’ve become somewhat detached from the daytime television schedules.

Louise explained that this highly prestigious program had been in touch, with the invitation for me to pit my house in competition against three other Lancashire coastal houses, all the time being filmed for the hour long program.

“It’ll be fun” she assured me, “you’ll enjoy it” she encouraged.  Pish posh, I thought.  Then the whammy – “It’ll be good exposure for your design talents, especially in view of your impending book.” And with that I was hooked.

Architecture, you see, has long been a passion and I am currently in the process of creating a modernist masterpiece in the rural wilds of Mallorca.  Wisely or unwisely this enterprise has become something of an all consuming passion and I am now approximately halfway through chronicling this ill advised enterprise, in book form, under the title “the Building Obsession”.

“How bad could it be?” I reasoned.  A couple of days visiting three other peoples houses, peering in cupboards and investigating glory holes? So, cometh the day I was collected at the improbably early hour of 7.30am and whisked off to my first assignment.

An hour later and in the middle of nowhere I was unceremoniously abandoned outside a particularly striking late Victorian barn.

There was a man with a camera and another with a microphone asking me for my views.  “Well, it’s far too early in the morning to be pontificating about other people’s pits or palaces, I should be in bed”.

That, in microcosm, set the tone for the following two days.  A whirlwind tour was undertaken, where I was introduced to three lady house holders of various ages, all of whom had been prevailed upon for one reason or another – like me – to open up their doors to the prurient probings of complete strangers.

There was an octogenarian lady from Southport who lived in a gothic monstrosity vaguely resembling the Adams family pile, a mobile hairdresser and doyen of the local amateur dramatics association – enough said – who lived in a small, rather bland eighties dwelling that could most charitably be described as bijou and a charming pregnant lady in her twenties, outside whose interesting – but somewhat garishly decorated barn – I now found myself.

Now let’s be honest, two days of being unreservedly polite to a group of new acquaintances, who one wouldn’t normally choose to be in the company of is a big enough strain but then hosting them, finally, as they reek revenge on ones own humble abode, is not a particularly edifying prospect.

Still, 48 hours isn’t a big chunk of ones life and it’s true that you do quickly forget that a few strange men with cameras and microphones are actually recording what you say and do.

At one point, I was being driven between venues by the director, to whom I said I was surprised “That there were no apparent freaks amongst our four competitors”.  No sooner had the words left my lips, than the horror of the situation suddenly dawned upon me.  “It’s me isn’t it” I exclaimed! “I’m the fall guy that in the final edit I am bound to be made to look like a complete clown.”

“No, no no” he rather unconvincingly reassured me and with that great theatrical platitude, said “you’ll break a leg”.

That was back in July and 7 months later when the programme was actually screened; I’d begun to forget some of my more pronounced proclamations, such as “It’s a dog’s dinner”, “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy” and “this place is a dump”.  Let’s be honest, over two days we are all prone to say lots of silly things, me more than most, so condensing them down to a one hour program was going to be a bit of a challenge.

We all huddled round the family goggle box one Wednesday afternoon – when I say gathered round I was actually behind the sofa but you get the gist – and sixty minutes later it was all over.  “How was it for you darling” is the usual lovey TV enquiry.  Well, I’ll let you be the judge with the edited highlights – link coming soon.

Did the best house win? Well, suffice to say I’m a £1000 richer.

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