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Outdoor disasters

09 September 2016


”YOU are nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth,” is the old saying. Garden Nightmares (ITV, Tuesday of last week) implied something more sinister than that. Witness after witness was summoned to recall disasters of varying seriousness which had overtaken them in their beloved gardens. It was a chilling reminder that we live in an unpredictable creation.

A delightful family of badgers, welcomed with milk and kindness, proceeded to take over the whole garden, tunnelling under the patio until the paving collapsed. The owners, no longer charmed, could not dispose of them because they are a protected species.

Then there was the garden suddenly dominated by a towering mound of household waste next door, and mass invasion by poi­­sonous caterpillars, alien slugs, rats, and foxes.

One gardener who had laid new turf on his front plot awoke the next morning to find it had disappeared. CCTV caught the miscreants: two women with trol­leys who loaded the lot and dis­appeared. They are now in prison. Worst of all, I suppose, because it is both natural and inescapable, was the coastal erosion that had reduced sub­stantial gardens on the Yorkshire coast to tiny plots, soon to disappear completely.

The winner of last year’s Bake Off was Nadiya Hussain, popularly dubbed “the baker in the hijab.” There was something about her personality which was universally attractive, and one guessed that television executives would have noted it. Sure enough, this week saw the second of two autobio­graphical travelogues, The Chron­icles of Nadiya (BBC1, Wednesday of last week).

The previous week, she had visited the village in Bangladesh where her parents once lived; and, last week, she explored the scene in the country as a whole. This involved mainly cooking, sharing recipes with everybody, and talking to people about their hopes and ambitions.

”What do you want to be when you grow up?” she asked a schoolboy. There was no hesitation in his answer: “A cricketer.” Wise lad. Cricket in Bangladesh, as in India, is a route to fame and for­tune.

In everything, the personality of Ms Hussain simply shone through. She was never reduced to talking for the sake of it. If ever a natural TV star has been born before our eyes, it is this engaging British Muslim woman.

Lost Sitcoms: Till Death Us Do Part (BBC4, Thursday of last week) was one of a number of ancient BBC comedy scripts re-presented to mark 60 years of BBC sitcoms. This one, newly cast and produced from the original Johnny Speight script, was certainly funny, if utterly at odds with contemporary social values, and probably totally baffling to anybody under 50.

The Alf Garnett character, faithfully recreated by Simon Day, was repulsive, but sometimes touch­­ing in his private little world of prejudice, anger, and frustration.

The original programmes ran for 28 years, attracted the largest audience for comedy since the war, and, on one memorable night, provoked the largest number of complaints ever recorded by the BBC: more than 30,000.

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