The Real Full Monty on Ice

The Real Full Monty on Ice, ITV, review: surprisingly entertaining and thought-provoking

The real meat, however, comes from hearing the reasons why each person is taking part

By Sarah Hughes, iNews, December 14, 2020 10:30 pm

The Real Full Monty on Ice is the sort of series that sounds ludicrous on paper: a bunch of celebrities come together, dance, bond and strip on live TV in the name of cancer charities. Oh, and this year they’ve got to do all that on a freezing cold ice rink. The reality, however, is the sort of programme that takes you by surprise simply by dint of its heartfelt tenderness.

This year’s collection of celebs are the usual mixed bunch with the men featuring everyone from reality TV stars Chris Hughes and Jake Quickenden (who rather endearingly notes: “You probably know me as that guy who’ll appear in any show”) to sporting icons, Welsh rugby player, Gareth Thomas and former Grand National winning jockey Bob Champion. The women include one-time Page Three goddess Linda Lusardi, Emmerdale actress Hayley Tamaddon and the formidable former presenter of Women’s Hour.

With some proving more adept on ice than others – a number of contestants have taken part in Dancing on Ice, with Quickenden winning it last year – there’s a decent amount of fun to be had wondering if team leaders, Ashley Banjo and Coleen Nolan, will be able to whip them into shape for tomorrow’s socially distanced finale in front of a virtual audience.

The real meat, however, comes from hearing the reasons why each person is taking part. Some, such as Hughes, have talked openly before about their family’s experiences with cancer, others such as his fellow Love Islander Shaughna Phillips are clearly opening up for the first time (Phillips’ father died of cancer when she was a teen). The most emotional moment comes from the otherwise larky Quickenden, who admits that “cancer ripped my family apart” before talking about how his father and younger brother died from it, the latter at only 19.ead More

The night’s best line, however, belongs to Murray, who underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer in 2007: “You don’t battle cancer, or fight it or beat it,” she notes. “You have it and you get on with it.” As someone living with stage IV cancer it is the most important statement made over the course of a surprisingly entertaining and thought-provoking hour. 

The Real Full Monty on Ice, episode 2: triumph over adversity and temperature-related shrinkage

The pandemic nearly nixed this celebratory show. But chilly extremities and possible chafing couldn’t stop the dance

By Michael Hogan, The Telegraph, 15 December 2020 • 10:30pm

The show must go on. Even if that show involves celebrities getting their skates on and their kit off. In an unlikely development, The Real Full Monty on Ice (ITVturned into a heart-warming tale of triumph over adversity –and temperature-related shrinkage. 

The final episode of the annual striptease in aid of cancer awareness was beset by problems, mostly pandemic-related. First, the production’s director, Dancing on Ice’s Dan Whiston, tested positive for Covid-19. He’d been in close contact with choreographer Ashley Banjo, meaning he had to self-isolate too. When the plucky participants took their own routine tests, soap actor Jamie Lomas’s came back positive, so he had to pull out at the 11th hour. 

“Could this year get any worse?” asked Loose Women’s Coleen Nolan, leader of the women’s team. “Could making this programme get any more difficult?” 

Singer Jake Quickenden’s arm was in a sling. Love Island’s Chris Hughes had an anxiety attack. Former glamour model Linda Lusardi had a hissy fit, fearing her unhappy husband would make her drop out. The wheels were well and truly coming off. Would the naked ice-skating extravaganza actually happen?

The semi-famous strippers soldiered on. They attended a bonding retreat somewhere that looked suspiciously like a Center Parcs, where they attempted the Dirty Dancing lift in a lake. Around the campfire that evening, Quickenden explained what had motivated him to take part: the loss of his father and younger brother to cancer. “I feel like I’m missing a piece of my heart,” he said.

Hughes, whose brother was living with testicular cancer, led the males in a self-checking session. Strapping Welsh rugby hero Gareth Thomas got amusingly told off by his elderly mother for failing to take his health seriously enough.

The women attended a burlesque class with body confidence coach Sam Vale. It turned out that Vale and her colleagues were all breast cancer survivors who’d had surgery. Cue lovely scenes of solidarity and camaraderie as everyone shared their experiences and showed their scars.

The stripping skaters were still way behind schedule and starting to panic. But inspired anew, Nolan – who lost her sister Bernie to the disease, while Anne and Linda are currently fighting it – summoned up some Blitz spirit. “We’ll do this,” she vowed defiantly. “We’ll think of all the people we’ll love, and we’ll do it for them.”

Come the day of the big undressing, there still hurdles to overcome. The dance routine had to be rapidly rejigged. While Quickenden was rehearsing his live song, a family snap of his late father and brother appeared on the backdrop. He broke down in tears.

Stage-frightened Hughes had a panic attack but Quickenden gave him an amusingly unconventional pep talk: “You’ve got nothing to worry about, mate. You’ve got the face of an angel and the willy of the Loch Ness monster.”

Quickenden might have played the clown – on the previous night’s episode, the alumnus of The X Factor, I’m a Celebrity and Dancing on Ice said, “I’m probably best known to the public for just doing any show that I can” – but he was rapidly emerging as the breakout star. 

The cathartic, climactic performance was a proper show-stopper. A group routine mixed contemporary wafting and fierce streetdance.

Former Woman’s Hour host Dame Jenni Murray, aged 70 and unable to skate due to two hip replacements, appeared looking magisterial on a sleigh. “I think this is what’s known as being very far from your comfort zone,” she admitted wryly.

Behind showgirl-style feathered fans and soundtracked by The Greatest Showman’s acceptance anthem This Is Me, the women stripped to their bras. The men recreated the classic Full Monty routine in security guard uniforms, getting down to silver posing pouches which looked like something you’d wrap a turkey in. 

Both genders lined up and bared all at once, while the virtual audience went wild. Amid scenes of jubilation, chilly extremities and possible chafing, a caption appeared on-screen: “A check is for life, not just for Christmas. So get checking!”

Yes, this is one of the more random reality franchises on-air. Yes, doing it on ice seemed like a gratuitous twist for the sake of it. But it was also empowering, admirably open-hearted and ended on an uplifting flourish. The show must indeed go on. 

ICE WORK The Real Full Monty on Ice fans rejoice as stars including Shaughna Phillips and Chris Hughes strip naked in show first

Stephanie Soteriou, 15 Dec 2020, The Sun

THE REAL Full Monty On Ice fans rejoiced this evening as the brave stars stripped naked to make show history.

For the first time in the ITV series, the male and female participants exposed their bods in front of an audience together instead of across two separate, gendered performances.  It was a rocky road for the celebrities this time around, with the routine also taking place on ice for the first time ever.

The show aims to raise cancer awareness, encouraging fans to check their bodies regularly and seek medical support if required.

All of the celebs taking part had been impacted by cancer in some way – including Jake Quickenden, whose brother and dad both lost their lives to the disease.  Shaughna Phillips also lost her dad, and Coleen Nolan her sister – with two of her other sisters currently fighting.  Linda Lusardi paid tribute to her best friend, who died from cancer in her 30s, and Chris Hughes’ took part to encourage men to check their testicles for lumps after his brother was diagnosed – and beat – testicular cancer.

All of the celebs were anxious about going buff in front of a crowd, particularly the women who were nervous about joining the men for the grand reveal.  However, the performance, choreographed by Ashley Banjo, went without a hitch – with the lengthy routine reaching its climax as the men stripped to thongs and the ladies to their underwear.  At the very end, the men pulled off the silver pants – going full frontal in front of the crowd, who were watching via video link and projected onto the walls of the rink.  The women, who’d taken off their bras and were covering up with feather fans, then removed the fans so that they were topless.

The entire group looked jubilant at the end of the show – pleased to have made it through.

And fans at home could not hide their excitement that they got through the nerve-wracking performance too – heaping praise on the stars for daring to bare.  Taking to Twitter, one fan wrote: “Well done and massive respect to everyone on #TheRealFullMontyOnIce”.

Another agreed: “How amazing was The Full Monty on Ice? Well done all, a powerful message delivered in such an inspiring way.  “Yet again Ashley Banjo with his finger on the pulse.”

A third wrote: “#TheRealFullMontyOnIce What an incredibly moving show. Well done to everyone involved in raising the cancer conversation please everyone remember to check yourselves”.

Yesterday’s show had viewers in tears as Jake and Coleen broke down while discussing the devastating impact cancer had had on their lives.

The Grand Party Hotel

Pick of the Day, The Radio Times by Jane Rackham

The Grand Party Hotel
8.00pm, BBC1 Thursday 24 September

Documentary new series – Liverpool’s Shankly Hotel is unlike any other. For starters, it has luxury, themed ‘party suites’, sleeping six, 12 or even 24 people (that alone sounds like a nightmare to me). You can celebrate in an Alice in Wonderland room where the furniture hangs from the ceiling, or a jungle one, with zebra print carpets and gold-sprayed animal statues. The Instagram generation absolutely love it.

We check into the hotel on the day new general manager, Lyndon starts work. Suited, booted and perhaps a bit strait laced, meticulous Lyndon doesn’t look like someone who’d appreciate the hotel’s wacky décor, let alone hen party guests being served by butlers in the buff, or ‘smell the nappy’ games at a baby shower event. By the end of his first week, he’s wiped the floor with two bubbly members of staff; guest relations manager Liam and wedding planner Ciara. Seeing the workings of any hotel is fascinating. This is downright extraordinary.

The 10 best TV Shows to watch this week, The i Newspaper by Emily Baker

The Grand Party Hotel
Thursday 24 September, 8pm, BBC One

Liverpool’s Shankly Hotel is best known for its party suites, which each sport a different theme, from Prohibition to the Garden of Eden. This behind-the-scenes docuseries introduces an eccentric range of guests – such as Laura, who has checked in to celebrate her divorce – and hotel employees, including a new general manager brought in to tackle the Shankly’s disappointing reviews.

What’s On TV – Picks of the day

The Grand Party Hotel
BBC1, 8pm Thursday 24 September

Champagne service.. Staff members James and Kemi know how to welcome guests in this four-part series on life at Liverpool’s Shankly Hotel.

TV Choice Magazine – Today’s choice

The Grand Party Hotel
BBC1, 8pm Thursday 24 September

Whether it’s a couple celebrating their golden anniversary or a group of hens partying the night away in one of its huge suites, staff at Liverpool’s Shankly Hotel offer a welcome with a smile.

Total TV Guide

The Grand Party Hotel
BBC1, Thursday 24 September

The Shankly isn’t just a hotel – the Liverpool establishment has a real wow factor that is so blingtastic, it practically requires sunglasses. It boasts themed party suites, such as the luxurious flamingo room, grand apartments with animal statues and others that have giant Roman whirlpool baths. Plus, there are places specially designed for hen and stag dos and wild weekends away. It’s the antithesis of a Travelodge.

‘We create a bucket-list experience as opposed to a vanilla hotel’, says The Shankly’s co-owner Lawrence Kenwright, the mastermind behind the OTT décor.

Filmed before lockdown, cameras follow Lawrence and his staff as they welcome guests, from riotous young groups to elderly couples marking an occasion.

‘When someone walks into their room, I want them to gasp, take a picture and boast about it to their friends,’ continues Lawrence. ‘I want them to say, “Look at me! I’m in this great whirlpool bath with an elephant above my head in this weird, quirky place!”‘

On top of managing all the overnight guests, the hotel’s events spaces are also often fully booked. ‘With all the bedrooms occupied, a packed restaurant and our rooftop venue in use, we can have just under 2,000 people in the hotel’, says Lawrence.

With clients expected a rowdy time, it’s inevitable some will be disappointed, and complaints include paint peeling off a Roman bath, while an events hall ceiling starts leaking hours before the wedding party arrives!

Lawrence says he’s proud of his hotel, which can even provide tacky ‘butlers in the buff’ to serve drinks, is totally different to the five-star experience. ‘We represent normal people. Would you get that in the Dorchester? No! And we don’t want to be the Dorchester. We’re not trying to be. I can’t think of anything worse!’

Alan Titchmarsh image

Grow Your Own at Home with Alan Titchmarsh – Mondays, on ITV1

Grow Your Own at Home with Alan Titchmarsh – Mondays, on ITV1

This was pure, wholesome, soothing television, therapy via plants and very timely, given our circumstances. “Passionate veg growers do it anywhere … Londoner Wendy does it on her roof,” Titchmarsh said, gently tickling his fanbase. Oh, he knows exactly what he’s doing.”
Carol Midgley, The Times

“Lockdown has made us all realise how vital even the smallest patch of outside space can be. This three-part series is about using that space to grow fruit and vegetables. It is aimed at the novice and communicated its message with such enthusiasm and simplicity that even I, a hopeless gardener, was filled with confidence. For beginners, it made everything seem wonderfully straightforward. Alan’s camera operator was “Mrs T”, his wife, and she made a decent job of it. It was a lovely, sunny programme.”
Anita Singh, The Telegraph

“Most factual TV rushed out during lockdown has had an unshakeable air of crisis about it: NHS documentaries; dispatches from Wuhan; even Gregg Wallace’s latest series of Inside the Factory. But this first episode had a calm, comforting feel to it. Titchmarsh has always had a calming on-screen presence, but there was something particularly enjoyable about seeing him standing in his garden, filmed by his wife, shouting instructions and pausing, telling the audience: ‘Mrs T is about to sneeze.’”
Barbara Speed, The i

Paul Merton image

Paul Merton’s Comedy Heroes – announcement coverage

Paul Merton salutes his comic heroes for Channel 5

By Desiree Ibekwe, 7 May 2020, Broadcast Magazine

Paul Merton is sifting through the archives to showcase the careers of Britain’s greatest comedians in a two-hour Channel 5 one-parter.

In Spun Gold TV-produced Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes (1 x 120), the Have I Got News for You stalwart will delve into the motivations of the nation’s famous comedians, past and present.

Merton’s subjects will span from Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy to Victoria Wood and Jo Brand.

“Paul will reunite viewers will some of their favourite comedians and clips, as well as uncovering hidden treasures,” said Spun Gold TV managing director Daniela Neumann.

The special was ordered by factual entertainment commissioner Greg Barnett and will be executive produced by Lee Connolly with Sue Andrew serving as producer. Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes (w/t) will be distributed by All3Media International.

Spun Gold’s most recent C5 programme Celebrity Murder Mystery, in which the likes of Reverend Richard Coles and Angela Rippon seek to solve a fictious crime, consolidated an audience of 1.29m (5.7%) over two parts.


Spun Gold, C5 team for Paul Merton comedy special

By Barry Walsh, 7 May 2020, Realscreen

UK broadcaster Channel 5 has commissioned a one-off special documentary from London-headquartered Spun Gold TV featuring British comedian and television presenter Paul Merton.

In Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes (1 x 120 minutes, w/t), the comedian will highlight the stories and work of England’s greatest comics, ranging from Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, to Victoria Wood and Jo Brand.

“It’s a pleasure to bring some of the best comedians of the past 100 years out of retirement and into your homes for a fantastic fun-filled festival of laughter,” said Merton in a statement.

“Paul will reunite viewers will some of their favourite comedians and clips, as well as uncovering hidden treasures in a programme which will be lots of fun and bring us joy – the perfect commission for these difficult times,” added Daniela Neumann, managing director of Spun Gold TV.

Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes is executive produced by Lee Connolly and produced by Sue Andrew. It was commissioned by C5 factual entertainment commissioning editor Greg Barnett, and is being distributed by All3Media International.

C21 Media

C5 lines up Paul Merton comedy doc

ViacomCBS-owned UK terrestrial Channel 5 has ordered one-off documentary Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes from London-based indie Spun Gold TV.

The 1×120’ doc will see the British comedian explore what motivated the UK’s greatest comics, how and why they became successful and what inspired their best moments and characters.

Using archive footage, Merton examines how comedians and comedy actors from Charlie Chaplin to Victoria Wood used their gift of the gab and sense of humour to break through thanks to sheer hard work and ability.

Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes is produced by Spun Gold TV and executive produced by Lee Connolly, with Sue Andrew on board as producer. All3Media International is handling distribution.

By Mark Layton, Television Business International

Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes

Spun Gold explores comedy history for UK’s C5

UK broadcaster Channel 5 has commissioned a one-off documentary about the history of Britain’s greatest comedians, from local production company, Spun Gold TV.

Distributed by All3Media International, Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes (1 x 120-minutes) follows the titular comedian and Have I Got News for You regular as he explores the motivation’s and successes of some of Britain’s most popular comics.

Delving into archive footage, Merton visits the stories of comedy greats from Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy to Victoria Wood and Jo Brand.

Merton says: “It’s a pleasure to bring some of the best comedians of the past 100 years out of retirement and into your homes for a fantastic fun-filled festival of laughter.”

Daniela Neumann, MD of Spun Gold TV, added: “Paul will reunite viewers will some of their favourite comedians and clips, as well as uncovering hidden treasures in a programme which will be lots of fun and bring us joy – the perfect commission for these difficult times.”

Paul Merton chronicles his Comic Heroes for Channel 5

Staff Reporter, 7 May 2020, Televisual

Channel 5 has commissioned a one-off special doc from Spun Gold TV in which Paul Merton celebrates the history of Britain’s best comedians.

Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes (1×120’w/t) sees the comedian explore what motivated the greatest comics; how and why they became successful and what inspired their best moments and characters.

Delving into archive footage, Merton examines how legendary comedians and comedy actors from Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Tony Hancock through to Victoria Wood and Jo Brand broke through often against huge odds.

Paul Merton says: “It’s a pleasure to bring some of the best comedians of the past 100 years out of retirement and into your homes for a fantastic fun-filled festival of laughter.”

Daniela Neumann, Managing Director of Spun Gold TV adds: “Paul will reunite viewers will some of their favourite comedians and clips, as well as uncovering hidden treasures in a programme which will be lots of fun and bring us joy – the perfect commission for these difficult times.”

Paul Merton’s Comic Heroes is executive produced by Lee Connolly and produced by Sue Andrew. It was commissioned by Greg Barnett. The documentary is being distributed by All3Media International.

Emmy Nomination logo

Spun Gold TV Nominated at 2019 International Emmy Awards

New York, September 19, 2019 – Nominations for the 2019 International Emmy® Awards were announced today by the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. There are 44 Nominees across 11 categories and 21 countries. The full list of Nominees follows this release. Winners will be announced at a black-tie ceremony on November 25, 2019 at the Hilton New York Hotel.

Nominees come from: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom & the United States.

“The diversity, geographic spread and quality of this year’s Nominees is a testament to the increasing wealth of outstanding television being created on a global scale.,” said Bruce L. Paisner, President and CEO of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. “We congratulate the Nominees for their outstanding achievements and look forward to recognizing them at our International Emmy® Gala, in November, in New York.”

Spun Gold have been nominated in the following category and we couldn’t be happier.

Non-Scripted Entertainment
La Voz – Season 2
(The Voice)


The Remix – India
Greymatter Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.

The Real Full Monty: Ladies Night
Spun Gold TV
United Kingdom

You can see the full list of nominations here

Meat the Family: new reality TV show challenges carnivores to eat their ‘pets’

Channel 4 programme will follow meat-eaters as they adopt a farm animal that they must cook unless they go vegetarian

It is one of the most shocking ultimatums delivered on television. Go vegetarian or we kill your pet.

But a new British reality TV show called Meat the Family goes even further. Not only will a family of unrepentant carnivores have to let an animal they have adopted and grown to love go for slaughter if they refuse to stop eating meat – they will be asked to cook and eat it.

With experts saying that we have to eat less meat to stave off climate change, the Channel 4 show challenges four heavy meat-eating families to take home and look after the “animal which ends up most often on their plates”.

Analyst Virginia Mouseler called the show “the most transgressive” of the year at MIPCOM, the world’s biggest entertainment market in Cannes, France.

“It is not sex or drugs anymore. Meat is becoming the next taboo,” the influential founder of The Wit database added.

“The question they are asking is how can you cuddle your dog while you are putting another animal in the oven?”

In the first episodes of Meat the Family, that involves a lamb, a pig, a chicken and a calf.

“They have to treat this animal like a member of the family for three weeks,” Mouseler said.

“Then in the end they have to decide whether they put it in the oven” or whether it goes to an animal sanctuary.

Channel 4 said the three hour-long shows will confront “the reality of an animal’s journey from field to plate.”

They said the show also seriously examines “animal behaviour and intelligence, the farming practices required to meet the demands of hungry consumers … and the environmental impact of the meat industry.”

Daniela Neumann, head of the makers Spun Gold, defended the premise, saying it was taking on “some really timely themes of ethical eating” and well as asking difficult questions.

“Why do we find it acceptable to eat a lamb but we wouldn’t eat our pet dog? Could you go back to meat once you’ve put a name and face to a meal?”

She insisted the series – which will air in the New Year – also contained some “heart-warming moments”.

With interest from buyers brisk, the show is likely to go international quickly.

Meat the Family is one of a wave of new shows that deal with social responsibility.

In Channel 4’s Segregation Experiment, a diverse class of British schoolchildren discover how racist ideas can slip unconsciously into the culture and how unconscious bias can affect people’s lives.

Mouseler said racial prejudice would be tested in a class of 11- and 12-year-old kids “games and activities” as the programme poses the question, “Could we be racist without knowing it?”

You can see the full Guardian article here

Travelling Blind image

New BBC2 doc Travelling Blind explores what it’s like to travel the world without sight

AT the age of four, Amar Latif learned he would be blind by the time he was an adult.

When his sight went, he decided to travel the world and got a ticket to Canada. In 2004, Amar set up his own company that pairs blind tourists with companions to help them explore the globe.

In new BBC2 documentary Travelling Blind, Amar asks comedian and self-confessed nervous traveller Sara Pascoe to accompany him to Turkey.

What unfolds is a funny but poignant exploration in which Amar opens her senses to a different way of travelling.

Amar says:

NEVER travelled before I went blind at the age of 18.

It was a condition called RP, or retinitis pigmentosa, and my parents had been told when I was four I would go blind in my teens.

Everybody around me kept saying, ‘You’re blind now, you can’t leave the house alone’, and I felt claustrophobic. I wanted to study abroad, so I went off to Canada.

Over the next few years I tried to continue travelling but I found no travel company would let me, or I’d struggle to get insurance.

I was told I had to bring a carer. But I didn’t need one, I just needed a sighted companion.

So I set up my own company in 2004 called Traveleyes, which pairs blind people with sighted.

The sighted people get a 50 per cent discount in exchange for being the eyes for blind travellers.

With a sighted partner explaining everything, I end up with such a vivid image of what’s going on.

You also listen to sounds and take in smells and tastes and focus on different senses.

Sight is only one sense — that is easy to forget. I enjoy travelling because I love meeting new people and I take risks.

I go skydiving and I’ve skied down black runs. Sara, on the other hand, is risk averse. We came up with this idea to go away together.

I would help her to interact and be braver, and she could help bring the sights to life by describing them.

She described everything brilliantly, from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to oil wrestling, a sport in which men wear leather trousers, cover themselves in olive oil and throw each other to the ground.

As the journey went on, she relaxed. I think the experience was beneficial to us both. When I lost my sight I thought my world had ended but it’s great that I can still travel and give something back to people who can see.

Sara says

I USUALLY travel for work, so I am organised but not an adventurous traveller.

In fact I feel quite shy when I go away. I don’t explore in any chaotic way. Generally in life I’m a scaredy cat. I don’t like scary films or spicy food, and I don’t want to jump off something high — ever.

So I was worried about travelling with Amar, about travelling with someone I didn’t know, let alone someone who was relying on me for descriptions.

I was worried I wouldn’t have the right language to do it justice and that I’d ruin his holiday. I’m also very clumsy, so ­worried about getting him run over or something. But it was a great experience.

When I first get somewhere, I normally head straight for the hotel and hide. Amar was very open to chatting to people and he pushed me out of my comfort zone. We met many lovely people and I learned that to get a really good experience out of travelling, I have to talk to them more.

Amar knows how to seek out the fun, while my usual method is to avoid it. Most of us are afraid of getting told off, whereas in the bazaar he just put his hands and nose out and touched people’s silk scarves and their dried tea.

He got stuck in, which made for a more fun experience. Everything is interesting to him, things that we would take for granted.

It was good to compromise, too. There were things we did which I thought would be boring. But because of how he processes the world, it forced me to be very “present” and slow, which meant I had some wonderful, completely surprising moments.

Amar is trusting and brings out this warmth in people. It was inspiring. Next time I go away I’ll appreciate the slowness I’ve learned, and push myself to be braver.

I’ll try to find experiences that  aren’t just about “the sights”.



TV review: Paxman on the Queen’s Children

James Jackson

Jeremy Paxman’s droll look at the royal offspring was the most entertaining thing on Channel 5 in years

Paxman on the Queen’s Children
Channel 5

Documentaries about our incumbent royal family tend to fall into one of three camps: the Buck House puff-docs that show us the charitable work our good Windsors do; the scurrilous Channel 4 ones implying how the horrible old firm used to treat inconvenients (“Kanga” Tryon, say, or Diana); and the clip-heavy, mildly gossipy canters through a royal’s love life (most recently, Princess Margaret’s).

The ones in the last group are the most watchable because, let’s be honest, what the great British public — tabloid readers and The Crown viewers alike — get off on when it comes to royalty is the sheer soap opera of it all. Yet, as Paxman on the Queen’s Children is showing, they need a certain presenter — someone who can combine mild disdain and amused incredulity to the point of out-and-out comedy — to make them really fly. Such as, indeed, Jeremy Paxman.

“Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward were conceived and born in the same way as most of us, but let’s be frank . . . they’re different,” began the old inquisitor, wearily and correctly. Later, he listened to a Nolan sister’s 1970s pop ode to Prince Andrew, Andy (By Coleen), declaring with a look of disbelief: “It is absolutely appalling!” With politics off his back, Paxman seems to be having a lot more fun — and at one point even lay back on the sofa with his interviewee to gawp at old photos of Charles with his top off.

Paxo is no longer a sneery republican, though, and his overall point was a sympathetic one: Charles and siblings were paraded for the cameras from birth as a kind of PR experiment, so it wasn’t their fault that their inevitable romantic mistakes became “a blood sport on the front pages”. Of course, analysis of said blood sport provided all the levity here too.

The young royals were stuck in an impossible situation, between toeing the Palace line and having a libido. “Princess Anne too?” Paxman asked, eyebrows shooting up, of the suggestion that Anne “had a lot of fun” as a hot horsey babe. There was also the royally minted anecdote from Charles’s uni pal that the prince — ever the joker — was so unimpressed by his potential brides that he quipped: “Shall I go gay?”

Amid this feast of epigrams and insights, or “randy Andy” and Koo — this really was the most entertaining thing on Channel 5 in some time — was it wrong to start feeling an odd nostalgia for the good old days of naughty love lives and the ridiculous It’s a Royal Knockout (“Fergie’s team just cheated from minute one,” we heard)? Days before the Palace PR machine got that much slicker and the royals that much more vanilla. Philip aside, that is.

Either way, you were left wondering what the “royal foursome” would make of Paxo’s opening assertion that: “Years of interviewing people making their way up the greasy pole of politics has led me to the conclusion that the job of representing the country should be kept out of the hands of those who want the job.”

A Very Modern Grand Hotel

The team behind the hit documentary series Inside Claridges have turned their cameras on London’s Corinthia

Do you get a decently stocked minibar when you book the Royal Penthouse, the finest suite at the Corinthia Hotel, just a step from London’s Trafalgar Square? Don’t be daft.

There’s nothing mini about the full-sized bar that comes as part of the package. It’s stocked with the finest cognac and champagne. Oh, and the suite also has its own wine cellar should you require a specific tipple.

The scale of the place becomes apparent when your personal butler points out the internal lift that whisks you between floors. Yes, floors, plural.

So how much bang do you get for your buck in a place like this? Well, for starters you get four bedrooms, a dining room that seats ten, an office where there are not one but three TV screens on the wall (hotel manager Thomas Kochs suggests guests who stay here like to keep up with the stock markets) and your own private spa.

Every piece in these rooms has been hand made. The dining table is Makassar ebony, the bed frames are walnut, and the expansive bookshelves are leather-lined. Oak parquet floors run throughout, and bouquets of fresh flowers are everywhere.

So, what does it cost to stay in a place like this? Well, this suite will set you back £22,000 a night.

The Corinthia is the latest of the big London hotels to open its doors for the fly-on-the-wall documentary treatment.

Award-winning filmmaker Jane Treays, the woman behind the hugely successful series on Claridges (in which Mr Kochs, then the general manager at that hotel, became the break-out star) who has also made films on the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall, was the obvious choice to direct the two-part production.

This is an extraordinary programme, delivering not just the gawk factor, but offering an insight into London’s hotel wars, where the big high-end establishments compete to attract the monied guests coming to the capital in their droves.

‘I wanted to explore how a hotel like the Corinthia, which doesn’t have the years of tradition of somewhere like Claridges or The Ritz, can compete,’ says Jane. ‘It’s a modern hotel – and this is a modern dilemma about how to be relevant in a fast-changing industry.’

The Corinthia, open for just seven years (the premises used to belong to the Ministry of Defence), does compete, certainly on the celebrity guest front. One who arrives during filming is former US President Bill Clinton who, true to form, makes the housekeeping staff swoon a little.

President Clinton doesn’t allow the cameras to have a peek into his suite, but The Voice judge does. The Corinthia is’s home when he’s in London (this time he is booked in for ten weeks) but he’s picky about which suite he prefers.

The Royal Penthouse is (mercifully for his accountant, perhaps) ‘too big for me’, he explains. ‘If Beyoncé was here, she’d be in the Royal Penthouse.’ His favourite is the Musician’s Penthouse, which has a grand piano.

The actor Cuba Gooding Jr is another long-term guest. He’s been staying at the Corinthia during a stint on stage in the West End, and admits to conflicted feelings about hotels.

He tells the story of when his mum and dad split up, he had to flit from hotel to hotel, and made a vow to himself that when he was a grown-up, he would never ever stay in another hotel. ‘And I’m back in these damn hotels,’ he grins. ‘But they are so much nicer.’

While the famous faces give this documentary the glamour factor, it’s the staff who give it its heart. There are 500 people employed in the hotel, from 54 countries.

‘What struck me was the pride they take in their work,’ says Jane. ‘In the UK we can be sniffy about the service industry. That baffles them.’

It is extraordinarily touching to hear how Yvette, who came to the UK from Bulgaria, regards her work. Her first job in this country was as a strawberry picker, then she started as a room attendant at the Corinthia, and has since been promoted to first floor supervisor.

Yvette is a documentary-maker’s delight, complaining that her smart grey uniform makes her look like her grandmother, and explaining that she regards the rooms she is in charge of as her daughters. When a guest leaves a room in a state she thinks of it in terms of her ‘little one being a teenager’.

Among the local staff is Kevin, a lawyer who takes three afternoons off work each week to play the piano for guests enjoying afternoon tea. Actually, afternoon tea is one of the most pressing issues at the hotel.

While the cameras are furiously filming as new resident chef Tom Kerridge settles in – another big signing, aimed at attracting the celebrity clientele – they are also in evidence at the meetings held to discuss the new afternoon tea menu.

Afternoon teas, it seems, are another battleground in the London hotel wars, with the big establishments vying for that particular market. Cue an overhaul here, with some very, very protracted meetings about sandwiches.

Jane laughs. ‘I asked what there was to discuss about sandwiches, and was told ‘a lot’. There’s the softness of the bread, the ratio of filling to bread, how traditional the filling needs to be.

‘I think it shows the extraordinary attention to detail that goes into running a hotel like this,’ she says. ‘Nothing is left to chance.’

Even the tea selection borders on the obscene. Guests can choose from 26 varieties, the leaves are weighed out on antique scales and the teacups… well, they’re gold-plated. Naturally.

Source: Mail Online