Marine biologist and professional diver Monty Halls has turned his back on Bristol’s city life for six months to become a 21st century beachcomber in Applecross Bay on the west coast of Scotland. And his beloved – and slightly mental – scruffy dog Reuben will be his companion.
Monty’s moved into a run-down cattle shed overlooking an isolated beach and with the help of a team of locals, he’s turned it into a “comfortable home”. I was quite surprised though that the majority of the locals seemed to be English, but no matter; I suppose I was just expecting them to be Scottish…
So, as well as the rebuild, in order to fulfill his every need at the croft, Monty bought a boat, some pigs and some chickens – all with the help of these community spirited locals – and he was all set.
I have to admit I did find it wryly amusing when Monty waxed lyrical about the life of Scottish villages and their community spirit, which for Monty included having these folks help him turn the shed into a house.
Beachcomber Cottage – as it was to be called – didn’t have mains services but its new roof did have a couple of skylights for night star gazing and warmth adding during sunny days as well as a lean-to conservatory which offered a spectacular and panoramic view of the mountainous islands of Raasay and Skye.
On the subject of the local ‘helpers’, Monty informed us that, “It’s local tradition to help build each other’s houses” so from that, one might deduce that it was done for no monetary gain, just to keep the tradition of good neighbourliness alive and well, but as it turned out, he did in fact pay them for their help. That being the case, the Yellow Pages might as well be renamed Community Helpers.
It seems to me that this whole ‘labour in exchange for money’ thing isn’t so much community spirit as, well, a job, but perhaps I’m just being pedantic and cynical… or perhaps I’m being more realistic and peeing on the bonfire of romanticism that Monty’s Great Escape is trying to conjure.
Nonetheless, there was without doubt a strong and highly enjoyable element of fuzzy romanticism and idealism to the show, especially as the spring weather Monty encountered early on was “the best anyone can remember.”
So with the croft now livable, pigs and hens in their own quarters and Reuben still being nuttier than squirrel poo most of the time, it was time for Monty to explore the crystal clear sea and its shore.
One of those explorations turned up Gazza – no, not Paul at a remote rehab clinic – a seagull with a broken wing. Hopes were high for Gazza’s recovery and Monty even combed the beach for tasty morsels for his new feathered friend however, despite being hand fed limpets, poor old Gazza died, so it was just Monty and Reuben who were on the croft’s electoral roll again.
Not that they were lonely; man and dog clearly love each other but Rubes, as Monty calls his furry buddy, was infinitely more interested in going off and doing his own thing, despite Monty trying his best to encourage Rubes to at least be in attendance when the cameras were rolling… often in vain.
As the show went on, we got to know Monty better and as a female, I’d have to say he’s a babe. When he did his shirt off routine, I felt the need to go find a can of Diet Coke, especially when he ran sans top up 50 metre high sand dunes and then went for swim, happily announcing, “I haven’t had a shower for three days!”
Huh… maybe you know my son Monty? You share the same interest in avoiding soap it would seem…
But as well as being physically rather lovely, Monty’s got a charmingly positive attitude, a lovely smile and a very interestingly coloured Land Rover!
And he’d be a huge hit at a Scottish pup quiz… he knows tons of relatively pointless but possibly interesting facts about the history of the Highlands. And of course, being a marine biologist, what he doesn’t know about the sea and its contents you could write on the back of a stamp and still have room for the Lord’s Prayer.
Anyway, as the show went on and Monty became firmly ensconced in his Great Escape, locals provided additions to his croft including Soay sheep and crucial advice about planting beetroot, herbs, three varieties of lettuce and spring onions.
They took him fishing too but despite his love of fishing and equal love of eating the catch, Monty certainly seemed to enjoy cooking up massive bacon sarnies on his outside portable camping stove!
And in no time, and not surprisingly, Monty had charmed the lady chef at the award-winning Applecross Inn into demonstrating and cooking up paella with fresh langoustines by softly inviting her to, “Treat me like a blunt instrument”
Oh God… seriously, where IS that can of Diet Coke… and can it be adapted to accommodate batteries??
This was one of the best Sunday night shows I’ve seen in a long time, which ordinarily wouldn’t be saying much given how pants the line-up has been of late, but this was a really great watch.
If I have any criticism of it at all, it’s a tiny one; I think the title is a tad overstated. I mean, Great Escape implies something dramatic, radical, daring, downright dangerous even, but the fact is, the only danger encountered was a splinter in someone’s finger.
Monty’s just on a long holiday… not that I blame him and it certainly won’t stop me tuning in every week. I just wish I was on the Great Escape with him!