CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Big designs in Prue Leith’s new life but her garden has a soggy background
Prue’s big garden Ground
Prue Leith, the Lady of Bake Off, has a theory of happiness. “I really believe,” she said, “every 25 years you should have a revolution in your life and do something completely different.”
It worked pretty well for the Michelin-starred restaurateur turned celebrity chef turned TV presenter. Now 81, with her rainbow specs and barn door earrings, Prue is forging a new career as one of the most recognizable faces on TV.
Additionally, after being widowed nearly 20 years ago, she remarried in 2016 to retired fashion designer John Playfair, eight years her junior.
It’s great if you’re bursting with energy like Prue. She says she wants a revolution – well, so do we, but some of us get tired just changing a light bulb.
Not our Prue. Her latest seismic upheaval means selling her Cotswold parsonage for Â£ 10million and moving a few miles down the road, where she demolished an old farmhouse and outbuildings to replace them with a sprawling Modernist Grand Designs house.
Prue’s (More4) large garden plot follows her with John as they prepare to transform their four acres of soggy fields into a landscape of orchards and vegetable gardens
The old place, where she has lived since the 1980s, belongs to a Trollope novel. The new one seems to be a baking gone bad, all lopsided gingerbread and marzipan slabs. Still, Prue designed it, so I guess it’s supposed to look like this.
Prue’s (More4) large garden plot follows her and John as they prepare to transform their four acres of soggy fields into a landscape of orchards and vegetable gardens.
Their problem is that the soil is clayey and the soil drains like a clogged sink. Waterlogged, their fruit trees are simply starting to drown.
Even potted trees do not thrive. A red acer behind the house withers until it becomes a twig with a handful of leaves, like bits of old garlands. The problem turns out to be a string tied around the roots, which must have been there since the sapling was first delivered.
Prue is refreshingly honest about her gardening skills. She’s an enthusiast, not an expert, she admits. Rather than pretending that everything is going well, she tells us about her mistakes and gives us the advice she has gathered from the professionals.
John, who seems to have a knack for doing whatever he wants without ever disagreeing with his wife, adds garden touches that aren’t actually alive – an iron wigwam to hide the sump, a water feature in copper disguised as a tree.
His favorite ground is gravel ground for French boules. It’s a civilized pastime that can be played with a glass of wine in hand – ideal, he says, “for us coffin crooks.”
The couple are a loving couple, whether they cut their hair during lockdown or bicker over how best to gauge an oak tree’s age.
There is very little affection between Theresa and her partner Fraser (Anna Maxwell Martin and Rhashan Stone) in the child murder drama Hollington Drive (ITV).
There is very little affection between Theresa and her partner Fraser (Anna Maxwell Martin and Rhashan Stone) in the child murder drama Hollington Drive (ITV)
The avant-garde bond between the duo makes it seem like they could shatter at any moment like an eggshell under a size 12 boot.
Bitter, rude and selfish, Theresa is an unkind character. Her ten-year-old son Ben is aggressive and deceptive: even his mother thinks he might be capable of murder.
The fact that Maxwell Martin somehow makes us want to see Theresa escape this nightmare is a testament to her being an exceptional actress. Rachael Stirling, as a stuck and disloyal sister, is both a foil and a match for her, and their scenes together are thrilling.
Add Ghosts’ Jim Howick as a disheveled detective and this gripping psychological drama is simply must-see.