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They're taking the piste

THOUGH Big Brother shows have grabbed the recent headlines, I have to confess that, in our household, we're more into Schadenfreude Television.

Our particular favourites are those shows in which otherwise sane people decide their life won't be complete without a house or even a career overseas, usually in a remote part of France, and allow the cameras to record their discomfort as the dream falls apart.

Last year, with not a word of French between them, Nippy and Nigel, from deepest Hampshire, took the plunge and bought a property on top of a mountain in the Ardeche, seduced by the wonderful views into ignoring the non-existent plumbing and electricity.

With Nigel fleeing a broken marriage, and Nippy desperate for release from a sub-post office, maybe their ill prepared desperation was inevitable, but how we smirked as the cost soared into remortgage territory. Nigel compensated by buying a Citroen 2CV and chatting up the bank manager, and Nippy discovered that, on her first visit, his wife hated the place.

This year it has been No Going Back where folk, usually with young children, unaccountably sell everything and take a gamble on wine or olive oil production, or trout fishing in Brittany. Only a minority had done their homework and succeeded, although you had the feeling none of them was more than a high wind or a wet summer away from disaster.

However, the couple who took over an Alpine chalet, hoping for easy money and five hours of skiing a day, made for "hide behind the sofa" viewing.

With no catering experience, they attempted creme brulee for 14, and you could only marvel at their naivete.

Time, then, to revel in the boring predictability of our profession.

However, apparently a new series is currently in production, along the same lines. It involves a couple of teachers who decide to relocate to the distant land of McCronia. They don't know much about the place, although the estate agent who sold the idea to them did take them to the top of a nearby hill, from which they had to admit that, although the details were hazy, the overall vista looked promising.

As the series progresses we see them toil, realising they have not been properly able to size the job, and can't find anyone who has worked out a successful solution. The final episode closes with them sharing a drink in the fading light, looking back to the drab security of their former existence and wondering if they have indeed made the right move.

Couldn't happen here - could it?

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