Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Carry On Camping

'Holiday Showdown' was back for a new series tonight, and much like the participants of 'Wife Swap', who always seem surprised when the programme-makers pair them up with a couple whose values they don't entirely share, ITV1 have successfully managed to find another batch of families blindly willing to describe their idea of holiday hell to the camera, only to then look shocked when they get it. But it's a tribute to the arrogance of the average Briton that the producers are still able to find enough people who fully expect to be able to convert a bunch of polar opposites to their way of thinking over the course of a three day camping trip in north Wales.

Tonight's show featured the Cox family from Gloucestershire, near neighbours of Prince Charles, and dedicated lovers of luxury. Dad Dennis is an expert on Renaissance art, Mum Isabel makes Camilla Parker-Bowles look common, and the kids are public school educated. Their idea of a nightmare holiday would be roughing it under canvas, and being deprived of a wine cooler.

So who on earth might they be matched up with on 'Holiday Showdown'..? Hmmm... it's a tough one...

Well blow me down and quelle surprise, it's the Townsends from Solihull, who like to share a toothbrush, don't wash, and think 'Carry on Camping' looks a bit decadent.

I didn't see that one coming.

The Townsend family are lovers of Shell Island, presumably because they spend their lives in the suits of the same name, so it was first stop north Wales, and the biggest campsite in Europe. Under these circumstances, it's important to make a good first impression, and both sides clearly did so, with Tracy Townsend confidently declaring "I think Dennis is up for a laugh". Dennis's response of "Bollocks" suggested that perhaps he disagreed, while his wife summed up their companions with a magnanimous "They shit in the trees".

I think she's getting the Townsends confused with monkeys there.

On second thoughts, maybe she has a point.

But the families were soon getting on famously, with the Townsends explaining that they limit themselves to one toilet roll per week (between the four of them), and use the communal toothbrush to clean the canines of their dog, Kaiser. So called because he has a spike on his helmet (probably). They set about frying a bit of bacon anyway, leading Tracy to ask Dennis if he'd ever cooked outside before. She was naturally surprised to find they had more in common than she'd thought, when he replied "Yes, in Maine I cooked lobster".

But all good things must come to an end, and sure enough the families soon left Wales for the delights of Florence (the city, not the Magic Roundabout character). Dennis attempted to give a lecture on the city's cultural highlights to the sound of Tracy blowing her nose in the background, and the group toured Florence's art galleries and museums, stopping only for Craig to squeeze his wife's blackheads and comment on the amount of pus he'd removed.

The culture clearly had a profound effect on the Townsends. Having studied Michelangelo's 'David' first hand, Tracy paused for reflection, before announcing to the group "When you've seen one willy, you've seen 'em all". And as if to prove it, Craig then lowered his trousers. All of which is enough to give anyone a healthy appetite, so it was off to one of Florence's top restaurants, where Tracy declared "we don't eat fish", and promptly called out for a pizza.

All in all it was the kind of holiday you go on holiday to get over. And what have the two families learnt from the experience? Well I'm not entirely sure - they were too busy swearing at each other and storming off at the end to find out.

But I'm sure they'll keep in touch.