Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Family swap Shiplake for Essex... and love it

A FAMILY swapped their five-bedroom detached house in Shiplake for a two-bedroom terrace in Essex when

A FAMILY swapped their five-bedroom detached house in Shiplake for a two-bedroom terrace in Essex when they took part in a reality TV show.

Christian and Marta Alexandrou and their 12-year-old daughter Izzie appeared on an episode of the BBC’s Home Away From Home on Monday.

The programme, which was filmed in August, saw them exchange homes for a weekend with 29-year-old jewellery maker Emilie Claibourne, from Colchester.

They spent two days sampling the town’s attractions while Miss Claibourne and a friend stayed at their house in Bolney Road and took a tour of Shiplake and Henley.

Each had to eat at a restaurant recommended by the other and take part in an arranged activity.

They then had to score their experience, giving marks for the quality of their accommodation, the character of the area and their activities, out of 30.

Izzie, a pupil at Gillotts School in Henley, asked her mother to put the family forward for the show.

Mrs Alexandrou, who works at Pinewood Studios in Iver, said: “Izzie was really excited so I said we could go for it as I didn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm. I didn’t really think anyone would write back so I was shocked when they replied.

“We had to send lots of photos of the house and tell them all about ourselves.

“We had several conversations with them online but they didn’t actually meet us until they came to film.

“At first they weren’t sure whether Izzie should appear as they’d never had a child on the show before but in the end they decided it was okay.”

Mr Alexandrou, who is a baker at Patisserie Franco-Belge in Duke Street, Henley, said: “I had my doubts about it initially.

“The producers explained it wasn’t like Come Dine With Me or other reality shows — there’s a slight competitive element but it’s very gentle because it’s for a daytime audience.”

A film crew shot the family relaxing at home and enjoying their hobbies. Izzie was shown playing piano while her mother performed yoga exercises and her father tended the garden.

The family then packed and drove to Miss Claibourne’s house.

Although it was smaller than their home, it had been decorated with refurbished vintage furniture and each room had a different theme such as old-fashioned trains and buses.

The family spent the Sunday walking around Colchester before trying their hand at “kite buggying” at Clacton-on-Sea.

Meanwhile, Miss Claibourne and a friend took part in a bell-ringing session at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Shiplake, led by tower captain Cyril Crouch.

They also went shopping in Henley before rowing along the Thames in a dragon boat with a crew from Henley Dragon Boat Club.

Finally, the pair had dinner at the Cau restaurant in Hart Street.

The Essex pair called the Shiplake house, which was built by Mr Alexandrou’s late father Costas in 1977, “amazing” and rated it 8 out of 10.

They awarded their activities 9 out of 10 and the area 8 out of 10, saying they loved Henley’s thriving independent shops but would have preferred a livelier nightlife. The Alexandrous gave their hosts a total of 24. They never met in person but exchanged thank-you cards and Miss Claibourne sent Izzie a hand-made necklace.

Mr Alexandrou said: “The filming was surprisingly tough — there were a lot of retakes involved, particularly when shooting outside.

“People would stop and stare at the camera or there’d be background noise from an ambulance so we’d have to say something again from the start.

“I was a bit apprehensive about the activities because I really don’t like heights but the BBC asked if we had any phobias and arranged something suitable.

“Emilie’s house was a lot smaller than ours but she had done it up really well and Izzie loved the themed rooms.

“I think the girls’ marks for us were pretty fair as they were two young women and they probably would have liked something a bit quirkier.

“We originally said they should have dinner at Danesfield House in Medmenham but we were told the BBC’s budget couldn’t stretch to that.”

Mrs Alexandrou said: “I wasn’t particularly worried about having strangers in the house because the camera crew was there the whole time. We didn’t bother hiding any valuables but before they arrived I was cleaning the house like mad as I didn’t want it looking dirty!”

The family were sent a DVD of their episode a few days before it was broadcast and watched it together last weekend.

Izzie said: “It’s really weird seeing yourself on television, especially because they film everything so a lot of stuff gets cut out.”

Mr Alexandrou said: “We came home absolutely exhausted but it was good fun and I’d do it again.

“It was worth it to see the finished episode and we’ve all had positive comments — people keep coming up to me in the bakery and talking about it.”

After watching the show, the family changed the name of their home from Mykonos House to simply Mykonos after their vistors said it sounded like a bed and breakfast.

Mr Alexandrou, whose father ran the Eros Greek restaurant in Duke Street, now occupied by Ladbrokes, said: “It fits with the other properties in this street as none of them has ‘house’ in their name.

“We’d been thinking of changing it for some time but that prompted us to get it done!”

More News:

POLL: Have your say