Grow Your Own at Home with Alan Titchmarsh, Monday 25th April, 8:30pm, ITV
The unfinished version of this programme that I got sent featured a pre-title sequence that proved to be something of a surprise. For some reason, the picture wouldn’t appear on my laptop, so I just had to listen to the audio instead. The dialogue involved Alan addressing his wife, Alison. “I’ve pressed it… It’s gone off… Don’t laugh, it’ll wobble.”
Honestly! You think you know someone. I’d always pictured the redoubtable Mr Titchmarsh as a good, upstanding member of the community, but here he was, apparently spending lockdown broadcasting films of a distinctly adult nature to an unsuspecting world. I like him an awful lot, but I have no desire to see what he gets up to in his raised bed.
Fortunately, it turned out that the only person with a mucky mind was me. This three-part series sees Alan pottering about in his garden, being filmed by his wife, as he gives us all tips on growing our own fruit and vegetables at home. The really big shock is the state of his garden, though. It’s a shocker. There’s rusting supermarket trolleys, discarded white goods, and what looks like a 1983 Ford Fiesta up on bricks.
Not really. Unsurprisingly, it’s a glorious garden outside of their absurdly beautiful Georgian farmhouse. But Alan is at pains to point out that you don’t need acres of immaculately coiffured flowerbeds and lawns to grow a few plants. You don’t even need outdoor space – just a pot on a windowsill will suffice.
I’m looking forward to this. We have a garden that is crying out to have some veg planted in it. The only thing we’ve got is a load of radishes that my daughter is growing in a box in the kitchen. They’re growing exponentially, which is a shame, as none of us eat radishes. I’ve yet to break this to her. Anyway, back in his Hampshire garden, Titchmarsh is readying his bed, adding organic fertiliser, and breaking up and raking the soil. Then it’s time to plant his crop. Radishes. Unbelievable.
The show also catches up with how the rest of the team are doing during lockdown. In Warwickshire, David Domeney is building some new raised beds, using wood delivered from the Garden Centre. In what seems like five minutes, he knocks them up, lines them, fills them, and surrounds them with a gravelled area. That would take me three years. In Yorkshire, Katie Rushworth is creating an edible garden indoors. She, too, is building her own wooden box. Is this a gardening show or a carpentry show? Honestly, I prefer to only feel inadequate about one skill at a time.
Anyway, she’s building a pizza garden. Oh lawks. Somebody should tell her, you can’t grow a pizza. That’s awkward. Ohhhh, she means the herbs. Righto. As you were. She’s also growing a gin and tonic garden. I think I’d like to be locked down in the Rushworth household.
Over in Folkestone, and just a hop and a skip from the Saga offices, Frances Tophill has just moved into a new property, whose small, scrappy garden she is planning to transform into a miniature oasis of calm. Obviously she starts off with loads of woodwork. Sheesh. Then it’s time to plant Vietnamese coriander, ginger and a couple of apple trees. I haven’t even managed a tomato.
There is much to enjoy about this programme. It is filled with practical advice, at a moment when we could all be spending more time in our gardens. It is innovative, all filmed by family members and edited using social distancing protocols. And, most of all, just watching Alan and his friends pottering about in their gardens is the sort of gently soporific and soothing TV that we could all do with every now and again.
Football, Prince William and Our Mental Health, Thursday 28th May, 8:05pm, BBC One
Do you want to know who one of my favourite people in the world is these days? I’m afraid you don’t get to answer, it’s my blog, and if you don’t like it, you can stop reading it. (Please don’t stop reading it, if your blog dips below a certain number of page impressions at Saga they drop you off Folkestone Harbour Arm in a concrete overcoat).
Anyway, one of my favourite people, after George Clooney but before my wife, is Prince William. I just think he’s a thoroughly good egg. A double-yoker, in fact. He oozes empathy, and has managed to maintain the authority of his position whilst also bringing a much-needed informality to the role. He is the 21st Century epitome of the monarchy.
One of the areas he has been the most vocal in is the realm of mental health. For years, a toxic culture pervaded, whereby people, and in particular men, were discouraged from expressing any mental anguish they were going through. The Prince, more than almost anyone else, has campaigned for a greater sense of openness, to start a national conversation about mental health. And one of the ways he does this is through football.
He is a football fan, an Aston Villa supporter. He can regularly be found leading the chants in the Holte End after six pints of Stella and a saveloy. Okay, maybe not. Sometimes, being in a position of privilege means you miss out on being able to take part in some wonderful experiences. At other times, it just means you can’t watch Villa.
Anyway, last year, he made ‘A Royal Team Talk’, which saw him discussing mental health with a bunch of current and former professional footballers. Now, this one-off film follows him over the course of a year, focussing on men’s mental health through the prism of football. Unfortunately, there were only a couple of short clips available to preview, but the film promises to be revealing, candid and important.
William meets players, managers and fans, from grass roots to elite level, to discuss a wide range of mental health issues. Players involved include Joe Hart, who talks about dealing with a very public career decline that has seen him go from England’s first choice goalkeeper to Burnley reserve. Marvin Sordell, a former striker with Watford and Burnley, retired last year, citing his mental health as part of the reason. Tyrone Mings, a defender for England and Aston Villa (keep calm, Wills) discusses the pressure of having to perform week-in, week-out in the public eye. I hope that a few of the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who think it’s fine to go along and scream vile abuse at players watch this and are given pause for thought.
All I have seen of the documentary is the two clips, but they suggest that this will be an insightful and thought-provoking watch. In the first, the Prince discusses why there is still a stigma surrounding mental health, and posits the idea that it came about following the two World Wars of the last century. “No amount of talking… can get a whole generation past the atrocities and the grief and the sadness that a whole nation felt… That made a generation internalise a lot of their problems. But we have to start questioning whether that’s relevant in today’s world… We’ve got to be able to be more open and able to talk about stuff.” Hear, hear.
The second clip follows the Prince as he visits Sands United, a team of bereaved fathers who play football together and, when ready, talk together. He sits down with three of the players and discusses grief and mental health. He is empathetic and eloquent and sensitive, and the dads are commendably open and frank about their feelings. They’re also pretty handy – they won their last game 7-0.
This is an important film – perhaps never more so, with people struggling to cope with the myriad pressures of the pandemic. Talking, openness, and honesty are the way forward. I’m now off to have an honest and open talk with my furious wife to explain why she’s below Prince William in my list of favourite people. Wish me luck.
The best... and the rest
Saturday 23rd May
Harry and Meghan: Two Troubled Years, 9:20pm, Channel 5: A look at the circumstances that led the golden couple to take a step back from public life.
Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats, 9:20pm, BBC Two: The Saturday night arts strand turns to the story of Bog Geldof and the band behind hits including Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays.
Sunday 24th May
Dragon’s Den: Best Ever Pitches, 8:15pm, BBC Two: Joe Lycett presents the best (and worst) pitches from 17 series of the show, presumably including some magnificently merciless eviscerations.
How to Go On Holiday This Summer, 7:15pm, Channel 4: Steph McGovern presents this look at whether it’ll be possible to have any holiday at all this summer. I hear your garden is a lovely spot at this time of year…
Tuesday 26th May
Bake Off: The Professionals, 8pm, Channel 4: Liam Charles and Tom Allen introduce six duos from top hotels, restaurants and small businesses competing to be named the best professional bakers in the land. Tonight’s series opener places an interesting twist on the traditional fare Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
A House Through Time, 9pm, BBC Two: David Olusoga returns with another riveting series following the history of a single, run-of-the-mill house and its inhabitants. This series looks at 10 Guinea Street in Bristol – a seemingly typical address that hides a history of piracy, a foundling baby, and an escaped slave.
Ben Fogle: Return to the Wild, 9pm, Channel 5: The amiable presenter returns to some of the individuals he’s lived with in wild, off-grid homes, to find out what has happened to them since.
Wednesday 27th May
Soul Boy, 7:30pm, BBC One: One-off documentary following Anthony Flavin, a Northern Soul obsessive who has grown up in care. In the run up to his 18th birthday, he’s trying to find a place on Nottingham’s music scene as a pro DJ.
Britain’s Unsung Heroes, 9pm, Channel 4: Documentary celebrating the quiet but vital role provided in recent weeks by an army of refuse collectors, teachers, carers, cleaners, bus drivers and supermarket staff.
Thursday 28th May
Britain’s Brightest Celebrity Family, 8pm, ITV: Anne Hegerty introduces a sleb version of the quiz that sees rival families competing in a quiz. Tonight, Shaun Williamson and Lucy Fallon, plus respective rellies, go head-to-head in an EastEnders-Corrie rivalry, competing for £25,000 for charity.
Britain’s Best Parent, 8:05pm, Channel 4: Anita Rani presents a new series that sees 12 sets of parents, each with markedly different approaches to child-rearing, competing to show that their own method is the best. The ceaseless drive to reduce everything to a competition continues unabated.
The First Team, 9:30pm, BBC One: New comedy from the creators of The Inbetweeners, following the off-the-pitch misadventures of three young football players as they find themselves struggling with their mercurial Italian manager, eccentric American Chairman, resident hard-man and ineffectual coach.