Home Entertainment ‘I know who all of you are’: the bizarreness of the King’s Repair Shop cameo

‘I know who all of you are’: the bizarreness of the King’s Repair Shop cameo

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‘I know who all of you are’: the bizarreness of the King’s Repair Shop cameo

The Repair Shop is a truly extraordinary television programme; a series so absolutely guaranteed to make me cry, to send a depth charge to every single one of my emotional trigger points, that I find myself having to ration out episodes to fend off medical dehydration. I am not the only one either. The show’s delicate mix of the sentimental and the heartrending has seen it gain extraordinary success since it first aired in 2017.

But success can change you. And so it is with The Repair Shop’s newest episode. To mark the BBC centenary, the episode’s special guest is King Charles, who calls upon the team to fix up a pair of knackered old items from Dumfries House in Scotland, a location where, handily, disadvantaged local youths are taught the value of traditional skills.

Already this makes the episode something of a historical document. It was filmed back when King Charles was merely Prince Charles, and therefore has a breezy informality that may well have been lost in the days following his ascension. And Charles himself is apparently something of a fan of the show; there’s a moment where he greets some of its experts with a chummy “I know who all of you are”. You sense that The Repair Shop is to Charles what cows were to his mother.

But status doesn’t automatically make for a great television episode, and so it is here. Jay Blades, it has to be said, is an absolute natural when it comes to dealing with the royals. Not for him the queasy Alan Titchmarsh style of forelock tugging. Instead, Blades is tactile and disarmingly matey. “Wait a minute, are you on the tools?” he barks, noticing that Charles has hidden a pair of secateurs on his person. From that point on, it’s a procession of arm slaps and shoulder grabs, as Blades leads a slightly bewildered Charles through almost every conversation. It’s as if Prince Charles has been forced into the world of Jay Blades, rather than the other way round. It’s refreshing, to say the least.

The Repair Shop, however, needs a base level of emotion to succeed, and trying to prise any identifiable emotion from a member of the royal family is a painfully fruitless endeavour. The items Charles offers to be repaired – a clock and a vase, possibly damaged because it fell off a window ledge at some point, Charles shrugs – have no sentimental value to him whatsoever. When they are eventually restored to their former glory (beautifully and faithfully, as always), the best he can do is offer a handful of distant platitudes. “How marvellous,” he repeats over and over again, and “Wonderful”, the same way he would if he was being given a tour of a new municipal swimming pool in Peterborough. It’s so rote that at one point I feared Charles would fully disassociate and ask the vase: “So what is it that you do?”

And you sense that The Repair Shop knew this, because it’s smart enough to hide an actual episode of The Repair Shop in with all the royalty. Sandwiched between the Dumfries items, we meet a woman called Nicola. A normal woman, who wants an everyday household object restored: a cast-iron soldier, broken and blackened, that housed a set of fireplace tools. The soldier is significant, Nicola says, because it belonged to her husband, who has recently died of cancer.

Bang. Tears. Instant tears, as Nicola explains that she had wanted to get it repaired to present to her husband as a final gift, but ran out of time. And more tears, too, when she is presented with a gleaming, restored soldier at the end of the episode.

This is what The Repair Show is. That soldier had no monetary worth, no historical value. On paper, it didn’t need to be saved. But it meant everything to Nicola, and so it became invaluable. Compared with this, the King’s expensive ornaments come off as little more than expensive clutter. It doesn’t really matter if they can’t fix it, because he has palaces full of more just like it. But Nicola’s soldier? She wouldn’t part with it for all the money in the world.

There’s a chance that this episode of The Repair Shop will be watched by more people than usual, because of all the royal rubbernecking it promises. But if these people come for Charles, they’ll stay for Nicola. The Repair Shop is a magic formula, and this episode is proof that it really doesn’t need to be messed with.



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