McCloud rides in to the ren­o­va­tion res­cue

Can David and Leonie turn ‘ a Mex­i­can prison’ into a beau­ti­ful Ro­man villa?

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

Grand De­signs Abroad 6.05pm, ABC1

KEVIN McCloud is not your gar­den­va­ri­ety bit of television pre­sen­ter fluff. While other prop­erty show hosts lounge about in fash­ion­able clob­ber and rarely up tools and dig in, the af­fa­ble McCloud, a Bri­tish light­ing and furniture de­signer, fre­quently lends a hand as he tracks the jour­neys of cou­ples un­der­tak­ing the project of a life­time: their dream home, and al­ways one con­ceived on a grand ( some would say over­am­bi­tious) scale.

Grand De­signs Abroad is the orig­i­nal Grand De­signs show ‘‘ on hol­i­days’’: an ad­junct to the par­ent se­ries, it fo­cuses on Brits who have set their sights be­yond the downs and dales of Blighty.

McCloud rides the roller- coaster with them, hang­ing about like a dis­ap­prov­ing bank man­ager ob­sessed with bud­gets and over­spends.

He is par­tic­u­larly dis­parag­ing tonight about the pal­try £ 16,000 ($ 34,000) artists David and Leonie have bud­geted to con­vert an old olive mill into a home and hol­i­day let­tings in the Ital­ian re­gion of Puglia.

McCloud points out there aren’t too many parts of Italy the Brits haven’t dis­cov­ered, but Puglia, with its abun­dant olive groves, sin­gu­lar ar­chi­tec­ture and sense of wild­ness, ‘‘ feels like Italy 500 years ago’’ and is yet to be in­vaded by sec­ond home­buy­ing hordes.

David and Leonie are not Italy vir­gins. They have com­pleted a farm­house restora­tion in Tus­cany and em­braced Ital­ian lifestyle, wine, olives and all. Our host ap­proves of their vi­sion but can’t be­lieve this creative cou­ple plan to do all the work them­selves, in­clud­ing build­ing 18 arches us­ing an­ti­quated Ro­man meth­ods. It is a huge task, as the mill and its out­build­ings are derelict, and Leonie also plans a vast gar­den. Then there’s the mat­ter of Ital­ian bu­reau­cracy and its Kafkaesque rules and red tape. Plan­ning per­mis­sions in this neck of Puglia, for ex­am­ple, are con­sid­ered only one year in 10.

Luck­ily for David and Leonie, it’s that mag­i­cal year, but then they find out the dead­line has been brought for­ward by two months.

So it’s a race against the clock, a sit­u­a­tion McCloud al­ways rel­ishes.

David’s brother and Leonie’s son fly in from Bri­tain to lend a hand, then David de­vel­ops an al­lergy to some­thing in the gar­den and comes out in welts. McCloud rolls up his sleeves and gets stuck into the stonework, too. Ev­ery­one is sun­burned and ex­hausted.

Will the grand dream be re­alised? Can David and Leonie turn what our no- non­sense host de­scribes, at one early stage, as ‘‘ a Mex­i­can prison’’, into a beau­ti­ful Ro­man villa with a colon­naded wing of gue­strooms for clients on paint­ing hol­i­days?

We must hope so, as Leonie has taken the first sea­son’s de­posits, whipped up the cush­ion cov­ers, cho­sen the bath­room tiles and planned her menus.

Susan Kuro­sawa

Hands- on host: Kevin McCloud doesn’t mind up­ping tools to help

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