It was local MP Gavin Barwell who declared to the world in his maiden speech to the House of Commons that Croydon “has an image problem”.
Yet for all the damage done to the town’s image by the “Croydon facelift“, the ugly concrete architecture, and even the riots last August, nothing, surely, can be as damaging to the image of the borough as this week’s editions of the Channel 4 television programme Come Dine With Me?
Inside Croydon‘s regular reader may recall that back in June, we published the producers’ appeal for willing volunteers to participate in the programme. They made all the right noises about the programme that involves hosting a dinner party, showing off your culinary skills, and all for a £1,000 prize.
Truth is, though, the programme long ago gave up any pretensions to being a cookery show, and the Croydon contestants on first examination appear to be the usual assembly of misfits, snobs and desperate wannabes who seem prepared to abandon any pretence at dignity to grab their moment in the Reality TV spotlight.
Take tonight’s episode as an example. It was hosted by Keith Preddie, whose claim to fame was that he once met someone famous. He appeared incapable of saying anything – even grace – without punctuating it with “Shamon”, a sort of Michael Jackson tourette’s for which he really needs to get treatment.
Preddie seemed to think that tomato ketchup is a bona fide cooking ingredient at a dinner party for grown ups, his starter was Berni Inn-style prawn cocktail (in 2011, seriously), and the disasters that were his two other courses he confessed to having never cooked before – probably because this looked to be the first dinner party he’d ever hosted.
You come to that conclusion when you learn that in his invite, Preddie had asked his guests to bring with them a pair of slippers each, so that they would not dirty his living room carpet. #thatissocroydon
In some respects, Keith’s meal (“I wouldn’t feed that to a dog”, one of his guests complained, with due cause) resembled the face of his hero, Michael Jackson: a bit of a botch job that all fell apart long before the end.
Maybe it’s the producers’ fault, so desperate to get people willing to inflict themselves to this form of ritual humiliation that they now will sign up anyone, regardless of how little cooking experience they might have. Tonight’s episode was No 126 in series 22: they might be running out of gullible saps to agree to let four strangers into their home just so that they, or the voiceover artist (who is always the star of the show) can be cruelly insulting about them.
The other contestants this week include Robert Preston (not to be confused with the BBC’s economics editor) a 35-year-old man who still plays on a skateboard; Suzie Phillips, a woman who lives alone with 10 cats (she otherwise seems perfectly pleasant and normal; but the formulaic programme is so predictable, you can see that the cats will be an issue in Tuesday’s episode); and Vanessa D’Souza, a trainee solicitor who is clearly a pseud, so ought to be easily found out.
The fifth contestant is the 4ft 11in Sarah Marie Palmer. She is what television producers describe as “gold dust”, because every time she opens her mouth, another nugget drops out. And not necessarily in a good way.
It is not just what she does not know. She is impolite to a fault and rude at every turn. Offered a cocktail upon arrival, her first response is not to say “Thank you”, but to gracelessly demand: “What’s innit? Is it alcohol?”
Was Sarah Marie the sort of person the producers were hoping for when they trawled Croydon for willing
victimsvolunteers? Probably, if this gem from tonight’s episode is anything to go by, said after she’d read Keith’s menu (remember, the one that started with prawn cocktail): “I fink it’s quite a sofisticated menu because I fink it’s always sofisticated when there’s words in it I don’t understand.”
Keith’s “sofisticated” menu, by the way, scored 22 out of 40. Can Croydon’s reputation ever recover from such exposure? The council wallahs behind the ill-considered city status bid must be hoping no one is watching this evidence of their town’s unsuitability.
Inside Croydon: brought to you free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
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