Thursday, 11 August 2011

Sarah Beeny's Village SOS: It's all about the fougasse

Sarah Beeny, freshly poached - as in stolen, not boiled in a pan on a hob - from Channel 4, is a bit of a low-key tv legend in a trendy jacket, all told.

She presided over - that is to say, "turned up a bit" - in Village SOS, a BBC One six-part programme following lottery-funded community projects designed to help our "ailing rural villages".

The first project in question was the restoration of a water mill in Talgarth, Brecon.

Also included in the scheme was a new access path, a cafe serving coffee and fougasse bread, and carried out amid much talk about "community" and "heritage".

And suggesting that village life still plays by conventional gender roles, the men sorted out the mill and the heavy work, with their beards and their furrowed brows, while the women planned the cafe, sitting around large oak tables drinking red wine and talking about the bread they wanted to make and sell.

Because, as Sarah Beeny pointed out: "For anyone wanting artisan bread in Talgarth, they have to travel five miles to a neighbouring town."

Gosh, life in Britain's rural villages really is hard.

And unlike in her previous programme Property Ladder, Sarah Beeny dispensed hardly any sage advice in a rueful manner, nor asked any cautiously-put questions about the participants' glaring renovation errors.

Instead, she seemed to be enjoying the break: just appearing to rock up in her utility-chic jacket or her hard hat now and then, coming in to chat to the locals, offering a bit of support, and basically having a bit of a jolly good time.

Even the "reality check" bit - when the project appears to be falling behind schedule 40 minutes into the hour-long programme to inject a bit of "jeopardy" into proceedings - couldn't hinder the chirpiness of the thing, as it was back to the jaunty jazz music within seconds.

It's feel-good telly, and that's all fair enough, really - and everyone loved that bread, too.

"We can take on anything now," said one triumphant woman, after she'd mastered the cappuccino machine.

With all the talk about community engagement and the enthusiasm of people giving up their time to work together in a picturesque village to help boost tourism, it's hard not to be taken in.

As Beeny herself said: "This is going to be a roaring success."

Send her into Tottenham - let's get her sorting out that.

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