Aristocracy gone awry - revised

I just watched the most amazing tv show. It was called The F***ing Fulfords.

Here's what the Observer had to say:

"Strangely compelling documentary about a frankly hopeless aristocratic family, who when not spending their days searching for increasingly inept ways to save their crumbling pile, appear to do little but bet on the horses and swear at each other."

How can that not be great?

Yes, I had high hopes for this one, and the show fulfilled my every dream. People who know me well know that I can be a bit obsessive in my fascination with the truly awkward, freakish, or merely odd. (Perhaps this explains why the odd and somewhat freakish seem drawn to seeks like and all.) I tell you, this film captured the brazen absurdity of humanity better than anything I've seen in ages. Guffaws of shocked glee were bellering within the first two minutes and didn't stop until the credits rolled. I hate that these things fascinate me, but there you have it.

Basically, the 22nd Earl of Fulford is this bushy-eyebrowed aristocratic eccentric. Not just bushy-browed, but that surreal black bushy-browed with silver hair that you only find in England. He and his wife and his lazy, unruly children live in this manor house that could just as easily be a 19th century tip. The roof is falling off, the wallpaper is peeling, they let their dogs lick the dishes in the dishwasher and haven't dusted in ages. Every inch of the house and their belongings has been broken/damaged/destroyed, but it's all just sitting there. The kids use the ballroom for rollerblading and wrestling. Even the six year old helps earn the f***ing title. They need to find a million £'s immediately to repair the place, or it's going to be condemned. You know this is going to be good when rather than getting oh, say, A JOB, the Earl buys a metal detector to look for gold coins dropped by his relatives through the years.

Initially they seem a little eccentric but likeable enough, but then they start saying totally ridiculous things that stun and offend, explaining why no one will help them and they can't get real jobs.

Here are just a few of the objectionable things they said....

Explaining his joys in parenting: "I like my children to have the same prejudices as I do. When he was younger (one of his sons) went out for pizza with a friend from Exeter, and when he came home I asked him, "How was your day?" He said, "AWFUL, Daddy. There were Germans at the pizza parlor." And I said, "Oh, that's terrible." And he said, "But there was some good news, too. One of them was disabled."

He agrees to give some unsuspecting tourists who are curious about the house a tour for £8 a head. (This is not much less than what we paid for Woburn Abbey, and it has a restaurant and a gift shop instead of cracks in the wall.) He's thinking this might be a new industry for him and a fast, easy way to save his home. His explanation: "I guess that makes me similar to a whore, but I'm sure I'll give my customers the same feeling...and I'll have them begging me for more. We'll be rolling in it in no time!"

The tour quickly proves to be more than the guests bargained for. They didn't film the guests' reactions, probably because shock and horror don't play well on the screen.

Describing some of the remaining carvings in the wood moulding of the entry hall: "Over there is someone who looks like a Negro, you can tell by the thick lips, and here is an Italian if the nose is any indication. I'd rather be a Negro." Note to readers...ignorant comments about thick lips and noses are especially ridiculous coming from this guy, who has both of these features in abundance.

Regarding a family painting of an Earl who was executed for treason: "You'll notice his wife weeping on his grave. Naked. I wonder if my wife will weep naked on my grave? I hope so."

Those people must have fled for their lives.

His wife seemed likeable and reasonable, but you know there's something wrong there because she's married to this freak. And when she gets angry with her lazy children for watching too much tv she tells them to, "Play a f***ing board game!" and throws the tv in the lake. Not so stable after all, I fear.

They never did get the money they needed, but they're still trying. And next week the cheeky cleaning ladies from BBC America will be ridding the house of poo-covered books and dead rats. I think we've found the new British media whores.

I think the closest thing I've seen to this is the classic documentary Grey Gardens about Jacalyn Kennedy's crazy aunt on the Bouvier side. The aunt and her second cousin live in squalor in a tumble down estate in Long Island and they have too many cats and dance with scarves. (This is a must-see if you have access to a good documentary library, by the way.)

While the people in The F***ing Fulfords have no redeeming value, I must admit I enjoyed watching them for an hour. If nothing else, I can be relieved that no one I know is like this, and that I was raised by nice, common people who taught how to be a relatively kind and decent human being.


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