The Handbook
The Handbook

It was Andy Warhol that said: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” In my case, the phrase should be: “You’ll provide mild entertainment for daytime TV viewers for around 45 minutes”. It’s not quite as catchy though.

While most people in lockdown baked sourdough, finished puzzles and tried their hand at gardening, I drank a bottle of wine and applied to be on a TV programme.

At the time I was quarantining at my brother’s house in Margate and, when my few weeks of isolation were over, I fully embraced the outdoor life. Cold sea swims in the morning, walks along the beach, saying hello to strangers in the street (… you get odd looks if you do that in London). I started to think that maybe this new outdoorsy life was for me. And that’s when I took the obvious next step: to apply for a reality TV show…

And so I stumbled across the BBC’s “Wanted: A Simple Life”. A programme that sees people (mainly couples and families) relocate from the city to the countryside. You test out the location, accommodation and social life before the potential big move. It ticked all the boxes.

Living with reckless abandon

At the time I had fairly recently come out of a relationship, and the application process involved filling out a Q&A, which I have directly quoted here:

Name of partner: “Recently broke up, thanks for asking.”

Occupation of partner: “Stop rubbing salt in the wound.”

Are you and your partner equally keen on a move? If not, who isn’t and why? “Again, very much on my own here. Thanks again for highlighting my single status. Whoever made these forms should be fired. But yes, me, myself and I are thrilled with the decision.”

And so it went on…

A few days later, I received a friendly call from a person at the BBC, saying they wanted to put me forward for an episode. He also laughed and mentioned that he was the one that had created the form… I apologised. Profusely.

I gradually made my way through various Zoom calls, and eventually the BBC decided that I shouldn’t do it alone. I started mentally scrolling through all the fabulous friends I could take. In the end we went with their suggestion: my mum.

I called my mum with the good news to which she replied: “Oh God, oh God, oh God. I don’t think I can do it. I hear social media trolls are horrendous these days.” I reminded her that while her career as an international influencer was sure to take off, I didn’t think anyone would actually notice our fledging TV appearance.

I started mentally scrolling through all the fabulous friends I could take on the trip. In the end we went with their suggestion: my mum.

Mum and I then made our way to the Isle of Skye in a hire car. This might sound easy and stress-free, but you've never experienced my driving.

Naturally, we got the parts

And so filming started. It was all socially distanced and the crew took great pains to ensure our safety throughout the whole process. The premise of my episode being that while all my friends are settling down and having children, I’m alone and single and don’t want to be the last person propping up the bar in London.

I will now be divulging a few spoilers but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t matter… because you’re not going to watch it anyway are you? Plus, I actually haven’t seen the episode, so they may have cut me out and instead followed the glorious adventures of my mother.

The filming started off by documenting my London life during the time of coronavirus, which involved, well, very little. So we had to embellish my hobbies to include: writing a novel on my balcony (which I inexplicably chose to write with one of those four-colour clicky pens), visiting a local florist I have never been to before in my life, and wearing a high-vis jacket and helmet to cycle and see my friends on a street corner. Safe to say, I’m sure my true personality as a deeply cool, well-dressed, high-flying city slicker shone through.

Mum and I then made our way to the Isle of Skye in a hire car. This might sound easy and stress-free, but you’ve never experienced my driving. Even with the automatic that I specifically requested, we nearly crashed several times. But we made it to the island in one piece, even though mum had three near heart attacks.

Living off the land (sort of)

Once on Skye we fully embrace island life and all the things that I would be doing there on a daily basis, such as foraging for mushrooms and seafood. This was actually a real highlight and our wonderful ghillie was the passionate Mitch and his dog (also named) Ghillie. (Ghillie, by the way, is Gaelic for a fishing and hunting guide).

Ghillie-ing is Mitch’s full-time job. He hosts fishing adventures, wild walks, family trips and stalking expeditions, working with the land in a respectful and knowledgable way. He taught us how to live side by side with nature – mainly by eating dug-up cockles and freshly foraged mushrooms, seasoned with pepper dulse (the truffle of the sea, this final flourish was totally addictive). Check him out on www.SkyeGhillie.com. There was also a fabulous hail storm right in the middle of filming which I found thoroughly invigorating. Meanwhile mum sheltered under an umbrella and mackintosh, wondering why I hadn’t chosen to relocate to the Caribbean.

Blending in with the locals

Next up we met more islanders. The delightfully friendly Katie Tunn, an ocean advocate and artist (her works are available to see here), who has also had her own five minutes of fame on Channel 4’s “Eden: Paradise Lost”. She has hurled herself into island life, trying to learn Gaelic, setting up a studio, campaigning for the environment and fully embracing the wild terrain of the island. After a ten-minute conversation with her, I genuinely pictured a friendship blossoming and the idea that I might know someone on Skye started to sway me into staying.

We also visited the local gin distillery The Isle Of Skye Distillers, which produces the herbal flavours of Misty Isle gin. It was set up by two brothers, Thomas and Alistair Wilson, at their home and has expanded into a successful business. After having a go at producing our own batch (highly unsuccessfully…), my mum was given her own section of the episode for a private tasting (see? Pretty sure I’ve been cut from the programme). Meanwhile, I busied myself by purchasing a few bottles of the local gin, plus a bottle of Talisker, the island’s whisky.

The house hunt begins

We had a look at a few houses in Portree within my price range. Portree is the dinky harbour town that is the ‘capital’ of Skye. The Cuillin Hills Hotel here has stunning views of the boats and the surrounding sea, as well as the most delicious langoustine soaked in butter, almost as good as Mitch’s cockle and mushroom stir fry.

It turns out renting isn’t really an option on the island because everyone makes their money from Airbnbs, which is incidentally how we found a place to stay on arrival. My mum and I relaxed in a cute converted croft called Seasound at the north end of the island in the tiny windy village of Brogaig. The full vista windows allowed us to enjoy the wild and wet panoramic from the comfort of the fireside.

Seasound Air BnB
Seasound Air BnB
Our neighbours
Cuillin Hills Hotel
Cuillin Hills Hotel
Langoustine at Cuillin Hills Hotel

To Skye or not to Skye?

Obviously, I couldn’t possibly tell you whether I moved to Skye or not (I think I’ve actually probably signed something where you’re not allowed to disclose that kind of stuff before it airs). You’ll have to see the result in tomorrow’s episode at 11am. It’s sure to be a thrilling adventure (rated 5 stars by The Handbook).

The series is presented by the joyous Chris Bavin (you might have seen him on the recent show Celebrity Best Home Cook with Mary Berry, Claudia Winkleman and Angela Hartnett, chef patron of Murano in Mayfair). I told him that I would be willing to step in as a co-presenter anytime he needs one. I’m still yet to receive his reply. Maybe it’s in the post. The mail does take ages these days.

What the show doesn’t tell you is that I started the trip with a bottle of wine in hand and single, I now find myself with a bottle of wine in hand and embarking on an actual relationship. I just hope none of his family watch daytime TV…

Wanted: A Simple Life is streaming on BBC iPlayer (episode 3, the Isle of Skye edition, goes live on Wednesday 3 February at 11am). 


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