Letter to John Peel of Loose Neds Home Truths

from 'E-Griff'

 This is a letter I wrote to John Peel. What you need to know is that John Peel's brother Alan is TV producer who has made (and presents) some TV programmes about 'House in …' He is less fluent on-screen than his brother, rather wooden and gruff. John Peel did his own programme about people moving and hosted it in front of his own house (in East Anglia or somewhere)

Dear John,

I am a very keen fan of your programme. Recently I pieced together the elements of a little mystery in which you are involved. Please let me explain as it is driving me crazy:-

While 'surfing' channels on my satellite TV some time ago, I stumbled across a programme called 'House in France'. The theme of this little gem is doing up a house (in France). There is this bloke (says he is a TV producer, a bit gruff), his wife Mary (seems a nice woman but a bit reserved and never given much screen time). The main support is some bloke called something like 'Barry' or 'Ken' who lives in an abandoned bread oven in the grounds of the gruff bloke's house (in France). He is not a builder, but spends a lot of time bashing walls, measuring and sawing old bits of wood - then suddenly in the next scene it is all magically finished - you never see him actually do it! Supporting the 'team' (as I call them), is a younger women called Sacha, whose unaccountable purpose is not only to drink wine but also to lurch onto the screen at some point in the programme, tell us three useful phrases in French, roll her eyes and look smug. The phrases include 'I wish my daughter to have private tuition' but other phrases are far less useful.

As I eagerly watched successive programmes I noticed with dismay some insidious tensions developing. In later programmes, Mary became very reticent, except for one outburst where she startlingly disagreed with the gruff bloke about the colour of the paint for the downstairs cattle barn comblings (or stumblings or something). Also, for some reason, we stopped seeing the house - it was never finished as far as we know. They filled in big chunks of programme time with film of a barge on the canal, market shopping and of cooking. At the end of each programme, the gruff bloke and Mary, along with Ken (or Barry) and Sacha would hold up some wine glasses, clink them together and say, infuriatingly "cheers!" in a smug tone (something no cultured person would ever do). The first real crack in the façade showed when Barry (or Ken) was sidelined with no explanation when the gruff bloke employed some local workmen instead. Ken may have been lurking in his bread oven and I saw him on one occasion slugging wine on the terrace with Mary. At the same time, Sacha began to enjoy an enhanced role, accompanying the gruff bloke to meet the mayor, with his wife Mary trailing behind looking grim. I began to believe that there was more to this than met the eye.

The questions began to tumble into my mind - first, the marital state of Barry (or Ken). I seem to recall in one programme that it was mentioned that he had a wife somewhere, and his own house nearby. Why did he not stay at this house rather than the bread oven, and why was the gruff bloke so insistent that Ken (or Barry) had his own houseand a wife?. What was he trying to tell us and why did we never see her?

My head was buzzing with unanswered questions - I searched for reruns of the programme, recorded them, and looked for clues. At times I was temptingly close to a solution, only for my hopes to be dashed by some on-screen action by one of the characters which contradicted my carefully constructed house of cards (now there's an idea…) . But then I had a breakthrough - while surfing for previously unknown episodes of the 'House in France' (one website hinted at a secret 'outtakes' video containing explicit scenes which would have been invaluable to my investigations), I stumbled across another programme, tantalisingly called 'House in Spain'. 'Could there be any connection?' I tuned in expectantly, and I was not disappointed! There was the gruff bloke, in Spain this time (bare, no grass). I shouted with joy, then sat down and watched in fascination. There were numerous Englishmen up to their knees in concrete and old barns. These I classified as Ken (or Barry) substitutes (KoBS's). And there was Sacha again! Unbelievable and fantastic!- lurching onto the screen and giving us three useful phrases in Spanish (something like 'my donkey is nibbling your plums'). BUT - there was no Mary, and no actual Barry (or Ken). Where had Mary gone? What had happened to Barry (or Ken)? I was absolutely fascinated! I watched several of these programmes but became increasingly bored, missing the fascinating interplay between all four of characters of 'House in France'. Then I noticed that Sacha and the gruff bloke never met on screen! After a brief flirtation with a new theory (Sacha was the gruff bloke in drag) I remembered we had seen them together in the 'House in France'. This aberration made me realise that my mind was playing tricks on me, and I became listless and depressed, unable to concentrate - I thought I had lost my will to investigate!.  So I forgot about 'House in ..' and began to live my life anew - I got really involved in wondering why Bob Vila had split from Norm in 'This Old House' and why Dean in the 'Log Cabin' (so good they made it twice) had had at least two 'wives' (JoAnne who now has her own show and Robin who hasn't) - was there a connection?

Then something amazing happened which really focussed my attention on my theories again and rejuvenated my interest in the motley crew of the 'House in France'. (And John, this is where you come in). While idly surfing through satellite channels (I have a lot of spare time) I found a programme (I've forgotten the name) about a house in England!  This was mostly about people moving house, but imagine my surprise when I saw an old house (obviously being done up) and a familiar figure appearing from the doorway. I rubbed my eyes in joyous disbelief - I was sure it was the gruff bloke back yet again! But John, John - it turned out to be YOU!

I ran downstairs and told my wife, I was beside myself! I was delirious with the joy of discovery. Then the doubts set in. What sinister plot was behind all this, was I the only one to spot it? Were there hordes of students across the country taking time out from Nicholas Parsons, Dale Winton and Countdown (and that's a whole new story I have discovered - but another time, perhaps). Do they all follow the 'Houses in…' series, watching the gruff bloke and his look-alike (you John, you!), watching Ken (or Barry) and his substitutes, wondering where Mary has gone and why Sacha has not gone - and further - why is Sacha not on your programme, John? She should be giving helpful translations of different accents, for instance Liverpool (my jigger's full of dead moggies, etc).

 I have narrowed my possible conclusions down to three, using keen intelligence and a talent for deduction. I want your opinion on which is most likely, because I have a sneaking suspicion that you have inside knowledge - there is some connection here which I haven't yet put my finger in - but believe me John - I will, I will!

The options and my analysis are as follows:-

Option 1. The gruff bloke has run off to Spain with Sacha.

This is quite likely - its an old, old story, two people thrown together in the white heat of programme making and post-production processing etc…..

Option 2. Mary threw the gruff bloke out and a) employed her own builders or b) ran off with Ken (or Barry).

The first part of this option is likely - Mary seems a sensible and capable person who could well employ her own builders - and why does she need a bald bloke in shorts? But b) is rather unlikely - after all, Mary is a sophisticated woman, and Ken (or Barry), without putting to finer point on it, is a bit rough (in the wrong kind of way) - and why should Mary need another bloke in shorts?

Option 3. Sacha (ambitious and jealous of Mary's pre-eminent spot) got together with Ken (or Barry) (disgruntled due to sidelining and lack of draughtproofing in his bread oven) and got him to blackmail the gruff bloke (for painting comblings in a downstairs cattle barn without the necessary permit from the Mairie) into letting her have top spot in the new programme and getting rid of Mary, while he (Ken or Barry) lurked in the background as an eminence gris. (or eminencia grisia)

I do admit that this last option is unlikely due to Occam's Razor which states that stupid solutions are usually just that.

Perhaps you, John, have some other suggestions - or maybe one of your listeners or acquaintances in the high-flying media showbiz world has? We need to know. The only other explanation is that there is no plot and no rationale behind anything to do with these programmes. Of course, that would plainly be ridiculous! And it would make the last two years of my life and my investigative talents totally worthless.

My regards to your long-suffering wife Shirley (or Norma).



 P.S. Why do we never see Shirley on your 'House in England' Show? Have you a 'Sacha-equivalent' tucked away somewhere, and does Norma (or Shirley) have a Ken or Barry -equivalent? I shall pursue this one next (after the Bob Vila thing).

P.P.S. I have created a cartoon character named after myself who appears, in animated form, on my website. I am seriously considering an animated computer game containing the characters from 'House in France' (re-named for privacy of course and in the style of  'South Park' - where I think Sacha already exists!). For many of us like-minded people this would be a fascinating and engrossing pastime. John, if you were to give me some inside information (no let's be blunt - some 'dirt'), I'd cut you in on the profits - no need for the BBC to know (although we could sell them the rights to a TV Quiz game based on it, or a humorous Radio 4 midday half hour show with all the plots and intrigues - I see Andy Hamilton as the gruff bloke and that other bloke from the Fast Show (Petersen) as Ken (or Barry), Jo Brand as Sacha and Judy Dench as Mary).  Do let me know.

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