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Living The Dream: GOAN BONKERS

Living The Dream: GOAN BONKERS

By Producer David Goodale
GOAN BONKERS - Synopsis of TV Programme BBC2 Tues. 23 March 2004.8-9pm.

After thirty years of marriage and duty, Ken and Jackie Johnson are ready for a drastic change of scene. Mancunian grandparents in their forties, they’re bored with their jobs as a long distance lorry driver and hospital surgery assistant, so when they hear that a pub they once visited on holiday in Goa is for sale, they seize the opportunity. They set off for India proclaiming, “the plan is to make the plan up when we get there!” Indian officialdom, monsoon rot, broken fridges and gossipy locals await them. And although the resort they live in caters for mainstream British package tourists, life in Goa proves to be a mind-expanding experience.

The story began several years ago, when Ken and Jackie chanced upon the Peacock Pub, an English-style hostelry attached to a small hotel, when they were on a package holiday in Candolim in North Goa. Last year, while browsing on the internet, they were intrigued to see that the lease on the Peacock was up for sale. It was irresistible, and they decided to make it their mission to restore the now rather neglected Peacock to the lively atmosphere of its heyday.

Leaving their three daughters and five grand-children proves to be a wrench, but after so many years of looking after other people, it is Ken and Jackie’s time to enjoy life together. They’re not going to India to make their fortune, but they’re determined to have a good time. They arrive at the beginning of September, when Goa is awash with monsoon rains. The tourists won’t start arriving till the weather improves in October/ November, and will peak over Christmas and the New Year, so Ken and Jackie should have time to make all the improvements they want to see at the Peacock.

They’re expecting the staff they’ve inherited to be ready and waiting to crack on with cleaning and redecorating the pub, but instead they find they’re the ones doing the waiting. It’s infuriating, but the staff – especially their tiny cleaner, Vijay – are so charming, that Ken and Jackie can’t stay peeved for long. And as Tommy, who owns the hotel next door, tells them: you can’t blame staff for being late if they come by public transport…

Ken and Jackie soon plunge into the social scene of British expats who live year-long in Goa, and they hear some gruesome stories of how some have had frightening and violent experiences after setting up businesses there. Undeterred, they press on with the at-times excruciating task of renovating the Peacock (even getting new fridges turns into an epic saga) and keep trying to get themselves properly registered with the authorities. Goa seems to be the spiritual home of the Catch-22, and no-one appears to love paperwork and rubber stamps more than their bank manager.

Although it started so casually, Ken and Jackie really pin their hopes on making a success of the Peacock. And it turns out that their chaotic and delightful new life is the perfect recipe for love.

(London) 24 March 2004
By Alun Palmer

BRITISH culture was once exported at the point of a gun. We rampaged around the world, invading countries so we could introduce them to afternoon tea and bureaucracy.

Now British culture is exported at the point of a beer bottle. Our advance guard sets off for foreign climes in the hope of blazing sun and cheap booze.

Once there, the second wave of bar owners hit the beaches armed with karaoke machines and Watney's Red Barrel.

Goa was once a small fishing province in India. Then it was a Portuguese colony before becoming a hippie paradise. Now it is part of the package holiday trail. Ken and Jackie Johnson, from Manchester, went out for a holiday, got drunk and bought a bar. In Living The Dream, they returned to turn a ramshackle frog-haven into a thriving establishment serving up crisps, singalongs and a taste of home.

"It takes us eight hours to get to Cornwall," mused Ken. "Then it's another two hours from there. That's how I see it." Cornwall has obviously been missing a marketing trick if it can claim to be sited next to India.

Despite his lack of geographical knowledge, Ken managed to find his way back to the bar he had bought.

For a get-away-from-it-all location, Goa seemed to be a lot like home. Crooner Andre sang Sweet Caroline and the punters moaned about everything. And I could swear that there was a packet of Nik Naks behind the bar.

"At the end of the day they are fisher folk and that's who they are," patronised one ex-pat.

This could have degenerated into a clash of cultures. But there was precious little interaction between them.

Surprisingly, Ken and Jackie survived and thrived with good humour and temperance.

Long live the second British Empire.

(London) March 24, 2004
TV Review
By Joe Joseph

(London) March 24, 2004
A castle in the sand

Living The Dream: Goan Bonkers (BBC2).

GOODNESS knows how long it is since TV first got the idea of following (usually gormless) Brits who take it into their heads to live and work abroad - usually with little or no research into what to expect or knowledge of foreign ways.

I admit that some of these programmes, particularly the Living The Dream series, have been entertaining, albeit in a cruel and heartless way.

Off they go, these latter- day colonials, with little money and exaggerated expectations, to somewhere they visited once on holiday, hoping to find a way of earning a living while enjoying the high life.

But a sign that the formula is beginning to run out of steam came with last night's Goan Bonkers - the title a pun that director David Goodale couldn't resist, but one that was not really justified by the frankly unexciting content.

In fact, the odyssey by Mancunians Ken and Jackie Johnson, to own and run an English-style pub in Goa, proved hardly more exciting than any British businessman deciding to go to India to open a small factory for the manufacture of gizmos.

The Johnsons had originally spotted the Peacock pub while on a package holiday in Goa; five months later, they took their life savings of Pounds 14,000, bought the pub's lease for an undisclosed sum, and went to live and work in the former Portuguese colony - leaving their three grownup daughters and five grandchildren behind.

Rather charmingly, it seems that Jackie's chief motive, after 30 years of marriage, was to spend the rest of her life somewhere in the sun where she could have her husband all to herself.

Ken, a lorry driver, consoled himself with the thought that Goa was not so far from Manchester, really - just the few hours it would take him to drive to, say, Cornwall, plus eight hours or so on an aeroplane; Mr Johnson is clearly a stoic. The couple arrived a month before the tourist influx in October, and found the Peacock had sadly deteriorated during the monsoon season.

They made contact with Veejay, the lady cleaner - but the bar staff, all of whom had been promised jobs, failed to appear. 'I'll sack them,' said Ken, who had never employed anyone in his life.

The Peacock, attached to a tourist hotel, lay in a cul-de-sac near the beach, but once visitors started to arrive, Jackie was displeased to discover that they preferred to buy their drinks from a cheap local off-licence, then lounge by the pool, drinking in full view of the often empty Peacock's owners.

SUMMONING a rep from the holiday company, Jackie laid down the law: she wanted a sign posted at the hotel forbidding tourists to consume food or drink that had been bought off the premises.

Not only did she win her point, she also secured a deal for the Peacock to be in charge of keeping the mini-bar in each room topped up, thus leaving no refrigerated space for contraband booze.

It was obvious that Jackie's getup-and-go spirit might just turn the pub into a going concern, if not a howling success - certainly, none of the other expat British pub owners who crowded into the Peacock for the opening night seemed to be making a fortune.

And it was she who shortcircuited the leaden-footed local bureaucracy by flying to London to obtain work visas from the Indian High Commission: without them, she and Ken couldn't even open a business bank account.

It is typical of the people we see in Living The Dream that Ken and Jackie hadn't even realised they would need work permits before setting out for India.

The producers might argue that their programme at least shows others the pitfalls they can fall into.

But if that were true, how is it that there's never any shortage of hopefuls setting off for foreign climes without the foggiest idea of how things work?


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