Friday 24 November 2017

Gardening show that didn't grow on me

How to Create a Garden RTé1
Ó Tholg go Tolg TG4
The Shankill Butchers BBC1

John Boland

Knowing absolutely nothing about horticulture but willing to give anything a try, I decided to follow the tips being offered on RTé1's new lifestyle series, How to Create a Garden, which is hosted by Peter Dowdall and Kitty Scully.

Kitty, who began by blathering on about the joys of organic vegetables, seemed a bit too hippy-dippy for my liking, so I chose instead to heed the advice of sensible Peter, whose stated mission was to "take the mystery out of gardening" by showing how easy it was. "Gardening is very, very simple," Peter assured me. "You put something in the ground and it grows."

That sounded just the thing for me, especially when I was assured that the programme's "step-by-step guide" was applicable to any garden, no matter how big or small.

Still, I was somewhat alarmed to discover that the plots of ground the series' producers had allocated to Peter and Kitty were in a spacious area belonging to the Fota island desmesne and even more alarmed that the first thing Peter did was to hire a large rotovator, complete with tractor, to churn up the soil.

My modestly-sized Dun Laoghaire garden, alas, would not be accessible to Peter's rotovator, never mind his tractor. Indeed, I would have to demolish my back wall, saw down a tree and rip up a large bush to facilitate its entry.

That seemed neither economically feasible nor aesthetically desirable, so I waited for Peter's next tip, which was to build a rabbit-proof fence around my entire garden.

Now I don't know about Fota but rabbits are such a rare breed in my neck of the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown borough that I've never seen one there, and so Peter's painstaking efforts were irrelevant to my concerns.

Unfortunately, the programme was almost over by now and hadn't fulfilled its promise to teach me something that I might find remotely useful, so I decided to abandon my fleeting interest in horticulture.

I learned nothing useful, either, from the first instalment of RTé1's other new lifestyle series, Roomers, beyond a reminder that one should keep interior designers, not just at arm's length, but probably outside the door. Three of them featured here, all of them competing to create a winning room and none of them shy about their artistic flair.

"It's going to be amazing," Joe assured the Galway family whose kitchen-dining space he was re-imagining. "It looks great, doesn't it?" he raved when he had finished.

That wouldn't have been my word for it, but the family told him it was wonderful.

Meanwhile, Anne Marie was rethinking Avril's living room. Avril wanted it to "reflect" her personality and Anne Marie duly came up with a painting that suggested Jackson Pollock in one of his drunker moments.

"Oh, my God, it's amazing!" yelped Alice, who described Anne Marie as "flamboyant and out there but all wrapped up in this wonderful artistic package".

Anne Marie then showed Alice a hideous window blind. "Isn't it fabulous?" she marvelled.

Fabulous wouldn't have been my word, either, and certainly not for this silly, vacuous programme.

TG4's new travel series, Ó Tholg go Tolg -- which translates as 'From Couch to Couch' -- was a lot more engaging. The idea here is that two young Irish women, Aine and Maeve, crash on people's couches as they journey around Europe, and the first instalment found them in Germany, where they began by staying in a Berlin suburb with 21-year-old Miriam and her parents.

Maeve, who was assigned camera duties, didn't get much of a look-in, but Aine was a spirited and interested traveller and Miriam was both a charming guide and a thoughtful commentator on her country's troublesome history.

"It's hard to say I'm proud to be German," she concluded at a Jewish memorial. The duo's second stop was Dresden, where they stayed with a transsexual city planner. She was interesting, too, both about her sexual past and the city in which she lives. All in all, a winning start to an offbeat series.

In The Shankill Butchers (BBC1), Stephen Nolan presented a bleakly riveting account of a group of psychopaths whom he deemed "the worst serial killers in British history".

This chronicle of their ghastly activities in the Belfast of the 1970s didn't make for easy viewing, but it was nonetheless compelling, not least in the observations of Baroness May Blood and in the testimony of retired CID chief Jimmy Nesbitt, who denied that the authorities had ever colluded in letting the murderers escape justice for so long.

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