Big Fat Gypsy Weddings gives us another eye-opener

Thank the Lord – and locum doctors in A&E – for eyes. For without eyes there would be no television. Nothing to see it with, see. Without eyes, man would’ve been happy with radio.

The night before and the big day – Delores goes from palm tree to blushing bride
The night before and the big day – Delores goes from palm tree to blushing bride

Thank the Lord – and locum doctors in A&E – for eyes. For without eyes there would be no television. Nothing to see it with, see. Without eyes, man would’ve been happy with radio.

I only diverge thus because it was upon this precise night 12 months ago that I came within a gnat’s cornea of losing an eye.

Well, you don’t forget a Valentine’s night in hospital, do you?

It’s a long story, so I’ll snip it short-ish. Eager man opens Valentine’s card; corner of Valentine’s card goes in eye of eager man; eager man, now screaming with pain, spends most romantic night of year in A&E.

So, 12 months on, I was grateful to be able to watch anything on the box. But, just in case, I wore the safety goggles!

Not that I wanted reminding of anything vaguely romantic on February 14, but I got it – kind of – in the shape of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

Well it was romantic in the sense that for one girl, after dressing up like a tree, she got married at the end of it.

Romantic! That’s what I told the wife as the programme started and we instantly choked on our M&S Valentine’s meal-for-two. As I tried to take in what I was seeing, another eye accident looked certain when my peepers popped properly out of their sockets.

Brash, brassy and twice as gaudy, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings is television telling us that a community decorates itself on the outside with Christmas lights, then sets a competition to see whose bulbs shine brightest.

Past series have enjoyed incredible success – in spite, in some quarters, of claims that they hold travellers up as figures of ridicule – and it’s a programme that certainly makes for compulsive viewing.

But with a new series, it was difficult to see where the programme could go next.

Like how the X Factor got dumb and dumber, BFGW could only give more of the same, only get bolder and brasher. Tellingly, this series opener set out its stall with posters going up around London bearing the words “Bigger, Fatter, Gypsier”.

And the programme lived up to its billing. On the day of her Holy Communion, a four-year-old girl kept Jesus waiting because of vanity and getting her nails right.

There was a beauty contest to find a gypsy superstar, which one female contestant prepared for by frying herself on a sunbed.

She said: “I might get cancer, but I will still look good – know what I mean?” Er, no, not really. But in a way, yes as well.

The roles of female traveller stereotypes were never in sharper focus than when a young girl was shown dressed to her nines, cleaning her Wendy house with a bottle of Mr Clean.

Cinderellas with J-cloths by day and princesses dressed as fruit bowls by night, their lives seem predictably mapped out.

As was the programme. So yes, there was big, there was fat, there were gypsies, and in the end there was a wedding. But it did seem to be somewhat overshadowed by a lady called Delores dressed as a palm tree and a bridesmaid who looked like a pineapple.

To be honest, I’ve seen more romantic moments in a fruit and veg shop. And the wedding cake? Made of polystyrene, it was.

Delores summed it up best with the words: “Everything is so . . . unreal.” And I don’t think she was just talking about the cake.

Ben Bentley

Watch Big Fat Gypsy Weddings on 4od

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