Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hard Times for the Poor Old Toffs Didn't Ring True; TV WATCH

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hard Times for the Poor Old Toffs Didn't Ring True; TV WATCH

Article excerpt


Return to Lullingstone Castle BBC2

WELCOME to this tour of my Museum of Curious Names, where we celebrate the oddities of human nomenclature. Follow me through the tradesmen's entrance, where you'll see F Sharp the piano tuner and C Hopcut the butcher, alongside the acupuncturist Alan Hex, whose name would seem even more unusual if he won the Lottery after ticking the box for anonymity ("this week's winner is Mr X").

In that glass case on your left, you can observe the very "n" that was shot out of Roald Dahl's Christian name by a Messerschmitt during the Battle of Britain, while over here is the American actor Timothy Bottoms, who has recently decided to change his highly embarrassing name (from now on, he wishes to be known as Tim Bottoms).

Back-to-Front Corner is currently occupied by E ba gum Trebor (aka Robert Mugabe), while over there is American organist Randy Lynn Bangs, whose name causes radio announcers to corpse whenever her records are played. And finally, allow me to introduce the name of the only surviving WWII kamikaze pilot, Chicken Teriyaki (OK, I lied about that last one, but all the others are true).

Guy Dyke wouldn't quite make it into my Museum of Curious Names, but his diction would certainly earn him a place in my Museum of Fossilised Accents.

Had he been foulmouthed and ludicrously eccentric too, he'd doubtless have been cast as the star of Return to Lullingstone Castle, but he merely talks like the uppercrust toff that he is, so BBC2's cameras are keeping well away from him, for fear of a catastrophic drop in ratings.

Instead, his more roughly-spoken son Tom has been left to front this tedious series in which the frightfully top-drawer but allegedly skint Dyke family struggle to raise enough money to stay in their ancestral Kent home, by opening their castle and grounds to paying visitors.

The star attraction being the World Garden of Plants, a one-acre floral map of the planet whose continents are so oddly proportioned that they reminded me of one of those misshapen affairs designed by medieval cartographers, with Africa the same size as Ireland, and inscriptions in the oceans reading "here be dragons".

"If we don't double visitor numbers next year, the whole estate will be in trouble," Tom told us as the 2005 season drew to a close, while the narrator spoke darkly of "virtual bankruptcy", and wondered "will all their efforts be enough?"

But what followed hardly suggested a family in a pecuniary crisis, what with the parents about to set off on a month's holiday in South Africa, while Tom stayed behind and proved to be about as charismatic as the vegetation he was digging up for the winter.

Accompanied by tepid Stephane Grappellistyle music (a sort of Lukewarm Club de Paris), he slowly mended a greenhouse and pruned a few trees, while the voiceover insisted that "it's really hard work" and warned (in the teeth of the visual evidence) that "the family are exhausted". …

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