The Real Marigold Hotel

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The Real Marigold Hotel

February 27, 2017 - 13:10
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When the BBC sends out its yearly e-mail to all households asking ‘What would you prefer to see us blow your licence fee on this year?’ it’s surprising how many people answer, ‘Put it toward a free holiday for a minor celebrity.’

The Real Marigold Hotel with Amanda Barrie, Paul Nicholas, Bill Oddie, Lionel Blair and Dr Miriam Stoppard

By Tellysgonewrong @Tellysgonewrong

When the BBC sends out its yearly e-mail to all households asking ‘What would you prefer to see us blow your licence fee on this year?’ it’s surprising how many people answer, ‘Put it toward a free holiday for a minor celebrity.’
The BBC, eager to please, say ‘OK’ and immediately book an all expenses trip to India for six has-been celebs for whom work has all but dried up due to their advancing years. While they’re at it, they might as well film the whole experience in the hope of recouping some of the outlay by selling the show to the Indian tourist board as The Real Marigold Hotel. The result is a strange voyeuristic experience in which we find out that getting old is everything we imagined and feared it would be, and so, to an extent is India. The question is; is the aging process made more bearable if your surroundings resemble a particularly pleasant summer’s day near the Norfolk Broads in 1954, with a cost of living to match? The answer, initially at least, appeared to be ‘yes’ as long as you could put up with 1950’s technology and the prospect of shitting your entire body weight out of yourself within a fortnight.
The first culture shock the viewer had to cope with was how old Paul Nicholas had become. It wasn’t until he flashed his cheeky smile that you realised that this was, in fact, 1970’s Jesus Christ Superstar who was, somewhat bizarrely, reincarnated as 1980’s Vince from Just Good Friends. He still had the chirpy cockney-ness of Vince but had lost some of the superstar-ness of Jesus and, as he shuffled from shop to shop asking the various vendors if they sold underpants, you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him. Had he soiled himself? Was he being followed around by that familiar ‘grandad’ smell? None of these in fact, he was simply doing the thing that all blokes who travel without their wives do, blaming her for ‘not packing enough underwear’. The text message that followed soon after confirmed there were some half-dozen pairs in his suitcase but he chose to disregard this and continue to barter for another 8 pairs of ‘Playboy’ briefs for 8 quid the lot.
Meanwhile, the TV crew were busy trying to decide which of the OAP’s they were going to make the most annoying.
Sheila Ferguson was prime suspect as she strode from room to room to see who she would be able to evict in order to get a veranda. Being American gave her a head start in the viewer irritation league and, by the time she had found Bill Oddie and convinced him to swap, she was way ahead in the ‘old woman I’d like to punch’ stakes. Bill himself ambled about in his sandals, habitually whispering for fear of scaring a nearby mistle thrush (or whatever) and with his head permanently angled toward the upper branches of a tree. He didn’t mind giving Sheila his balcony, as long as he didn’t have to speak to her at any point.
The Indian experience was not exactly set up in such a way that tested the resolve of the senior celebs. The series is, ostensibly, to test whether people who lived through 1960’s and 70’s Britain could feasibly exist in the sub-continent without suddenly going, ‘Eurrrgh’ and running away. Paul Nicholas stopped the taxi and made an heroic excursion to a public lavatory within minutes of disembarking the flight and emerged unscathed and mettle fully tested. Other than that, Group Yoga seemed the most dangerous of pursuits so far as Amada Barrie was overcome with vertigo by the third day and had to be taken to hospital where a doctor simply put her head between her knees and told her to swallow. You’d think Miriam Stoppard could have done this but I suppose she has retired and should no more be expected to be a doctor than Rusty Lee would be expected to cook dinner.
But, hang on, Rusty Lee then put an apron on and went into the kitchen to cook dinner.
The actual hotel cook looked a little non-plussed as he was instructed to chop vegetables for Ms Lee but dutifully peeled potato’s and sliced ginger. He had held the post of head chef for the last 40 years and didn’t want to be sacked now.
Poor old Lionel Blair was the least at ease of all as he condemned the place as a shanty town and professed to be missing his wife before he had even unpacked. He was just acclimatising to the whole experience when a local football coach and fellow octogenarian, ambushed by the film crew to provide some comic relief pointed out that Lionel ‘had a fat tummy!’ You know that moment at a dinner party where you say something disparaging about the McCann’s, only to find out that most of the rest of the guests have had children abducted by strangers whilst on holiday? No? Well the 80 year-old Indian football coach does. By the time the evening meal was being served Lionel was explaining that his stomach is distended following treatment for prostate cancer, and revealing that it is causing him much mental and physical distress. “It’s not funny!” he told Dennis Taylor, who wasn’t laughing, simply trying to change the subject. By the next day, Lionel had sought the services of a local homeopathic Doctor who assured him that rubbing Marmite (that’s what it looked like) on his pot belly would lead to a significant reduction in size over the next few weeks. Lionel exclaimed that this miracle worker was going to do something that English doctors had said was impossible – everyone knew that this quack was simply telling him what he wanted to hear but, that evening, by the time Lionel was performing a tap routine for the neighbours, you were sort of praying that the marmite was doing its job.