In my very earliest post on this blog, just two months ago, I promised you that I wasn’t interested in the ways of celebrity. Despite the subject of today’s post, I swear this is still true. Yes, this is a reality show about a 90s boy band star – Abz Love of 5ive fame – and his girlfriend Vicky Fallon but there’s more to this little series than meets the eye.
It’s an odd subject – seemingly a classic Alan Partridge pitch. Take a former boy band megastar, now bankrupt and looking for something more worthwhile than endless soul-crushing reunion tours with his aging peers (“Scream for me Butlins Weston-super-Mare!”). Farming and living on the land seems to be a private passion for them both and they’re enormously excited about getting a mortgage for a tiny small-holding in rural Carmarthenshire. Off they go to Lammas, a pioneering eco village that seems to be populated by chilled-out hippies but is actually a hive of industry where self-reliance, hard work and diverse ways to make money is key. Abz declares it to be “so sick man!”. Hoppi and the team offer Abz and Vicky some practical skills and a ton of useful advice. They don’t sugar-coat it at all. Lesser mortals (me included) would be put off immediately – deprivation, hard work, long hours, no money and it rains all the time? Stuff that! – but Abz and Vicky are inspired. They’re both very happy-go-lucky, trusting in the will of the universe that good times will come again. Naive? Without a doubt, but properly determined to persevere which is exatly the right attitude.
It’s easy to dismiss their efforts and the programme as a point-and-laugh exercise – watch these two idiots fail out in the cold and wet in Wales haha! – but to their eternal credit they held out for the BBC Natural History department when they could have very easily sold the idea to ex-celeb studded Channel 5 or Sky for much more money. They wanted a respected broadcaster with a team of experts behind them because they wanted to do it properly. When they say they want out of the rat race and to live a more simple life in nature it seems they really mean it. He really is serious about his subject (Abz knows a lot about keeping fish – chickens and livestock must be similar, just less wet) and despite his court jester style in front of the camera, I think this passion and desire for success really comes across. Vicky seems slightly more sensible (she’s the one on the phone to the bank about the mortgage while Abz taps out a staccato version of the classical hold music on the window pane) but still 100% into their new life.
The pair are hugely likeable and friendly and understand the importance of getting to know their new neighbours (“Where are your fields? I’ll need to know which direction to shout for help in”). As well as uprooting their little family (two humans, a chicken and swarm of tiny dogs) and changing the way they live drastically they have to make some tough choices. They’re trading in the fancy Range Rover for a more suitable Landrover Defender. The Louis Vutton luggage and Rolex watch is useless on a farm – these get sold to raise money to drain a water-logged field. (The Brit award has a new lease of life as a doorstop). They adore their two horses, and I imagine they bought in to the countryside lifestyle when they got them like a lot of people do, but Lammas expert Hoppi says horses are useless to small-holdings. They cost a fortune, don’t bring in any income and have churned-up an already boggy field which could be supporting sheep or being planted for vegetables. Abz says “I used to like Hoppi – I think that was her evil twin”.
Strangely we leave the pair in the midst of their decision-making. The series only has three episodes so we barely see them get going. I want to know more, and I’d be delighted if the BBC2 did a follow-up show with them. Here’s to Abz and Vicky, starting out on the road to the Good Life.