Thinking of knocking down your house to make that amazing eco house in your head.. you might think again after this…
Grand Designs series 12, ABC TV, trailer. Photographs © Channel 4
You’ve saved all your money from childhood and married your partner who is probably a vegan, art student called Willow – but really called Clare without an I – or something equally “trendy”. Now Willow wants an art studio as she failed her course or as a recompense for her discovering your weekly nocturnal fumble with your secretary. Your secretary, who has the body and looks of Christina Hendricks would probably be less high maintenance than what Willow has in store for you.
Willow then demands you both move from the ancestral family home you live in nice safe St John’s Wood. St John’s Wood is where you are partner in the local thriving lawyer’s practice and your children’s Montessori kindergarten within walking distance. Willow wants to bring up your two adorable children Aimee, with a double e and Jack, spelt Jacques in the country. In rural Yorkshire…
Willow has the great idea to build a new house there and with all your savings… she argues it will be fun, you can live off the land, have stained glass windows designed and made in Venice, a timber frame direct from Finland’s sapling forests and bricks crafted individually by a workshop for unemployed visually impaired brickmakers in Turkey. And you can design the house yourselves or get that mutual friend of yours Miles – who wanted to be an architect, qualified but was struck off in his first job by the RIBA for misconduct in shady circumstances involving backhanders and councillors – to design it.
Willow is now hysterical adding it would be amaaaaaazing, as you could even get that nice man from the telly to record the proceedings so she can bleat about the triumphs with clips on her “little” project on social media. So Kevin McCloud at Grand Designs (1999-) is duly written to on your recycled paper and he – much to your disappointment – agrees it would make great telly, and your fate is sealed…
You get a sense of foreboding as this monstrous, eco project commences, with the starting date flashing on the screen it is a painful reminder of how long this house bloody took to build. An animated plan of the finished
carbuncle article is shown to the viewers but to you it is like a treasure map as you see just how many more bedrooms, toyrooms and other rooms for pointless reasons you have (do you really need individual rooms for the pets?).
On the bright side, you now know where the second toilet is. But you despondently recall you have to the pay the electricity bill as the solar panels were the wrong shade of black to go with the “ethos” of the building and are now sitting unused in the garage. Kevin McCloud has joined Willow and you from the start, all optimistically wearing T-shirt and shorts as it’s the first – and only – day of summer. McCloud watches and comments on your minor triumphs, as the months progress, such as finally get planning permission months into the project and major catastrophes such as your Italian windows have arrived (yay) and are a couple of inches too short to fit in your Scandinavian timber frame or alternatively worse still haven’t arrived yet.
As the dates flash on and off intermittently on the screen you are reminded – and its rubbed in – how many years your
nightmare dream building took to build. The time is almost always completely different to the Willow’s idea of being cosied up there by Christmas – 4 months away – as her time didn’t account for British weather, applying and waiting for planning permission, and the wrong size of door knobs made by a Parisian door knob creator from Liverpool.
As time progresses Kevin and you are wearing more and more clothes so eventually as McCloud is sporting a sparkly new down jacket, beanie and gloves for the second or third time you – and the viewer – know it’s not going that well in rural Yorkshire. You’ve lost track of time as you’ve either been at your old practice begging for your job back to pay for the house or begging the neighbours to allow them to use a particular shade of brick that Willow – now given up college completely to act as site manager to “save” money – had to check would blend into the environment of this tasteful hamlet before embarking on the project – and before you before ordered and paid for from the Dead Sea craftsmen. Which you did.
Kevin McCloud continues the commentary, with now feigned chirpiness. As he provides masterly advice to you both, we – the viewers – learn new ways of curtailing the obvious in every programme. As things always tend to progress badly, “Well it’s going really shitty now” is usually implied as McCloud dons his hard hat and sympathetic look learnt from Dr Christian Jessen. Then we, the viewers know for sure the project is doomed…
But all is not lost, we return to a project once it ends and is built to see the couple in their new completed home. It’s usually minimalist as they either couldn’t afford furniture after taking out the second loan or they used it as firewood to heat the house. But the children are learning how to shell peas and have an aaaaaaaaaamazing time in the snow so all is well. For some, as for every family like this there are some poor couples looking forlornly at an abandoned building sites from their caravan every morning or men who enthuse about how the wife left them for the builder’s mate Derek. Who was Jason Statham build but without a brain because he bought the house that she built.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂🙂 /10