News & Views Kevin McCloud

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from kevin

The editor-at-large for Grand Designs Magazine writes an exclusive column every month.

Our editor-at-large gets in the Christmas spirit with the Grand Designs drinking game and reveals the production of a hybrid elm that's set to redress the loss of this classic English tree

The current TV series of Grand Designs is drawing to a close, so it seems like a good time to talk about the Grand Designs drinking game: it's not too late to take part (playing with a repeat episode could be deemed as cheating) and it's not too early in the series to encourage an alcoholic habit, particularly among our younger viewers. Essentially, the principle of the game is that you have to drink/sip/down a shot whenever something recognisable happens in the story. If, on the other hand, you're teetotal, you could always adapt the rules for a game of strip poker.

Confusingly, there is more than one set of rules out there. The most entertaining version (and the most complicated I've found) are the rules of history graduate and online blogger Carina, in which for example, one key trigger is when the owners end up living in a caravan during the build to save money/because they have run out of money. However, you can get bonus points if they're in the caravan over Christmas/if they're expecting a baby while living in a caravan. Needless to say, you can win by default (or finish the bottle of drink) if the owners are living in a caravan over Christmas with a new baby. Trebles all round. 

Carina's rules get complicated. But then, that's the point; an intimate and thorough knowledge of a labyrinthine set of rules is essential for setting up true competition in a game. If, on the other hand, you just want an excuse to drink with your mates (I can't condone drinking alone except when by myself), then consider adopting the Andrew rules, which are more straightforward. Here is an adapted version... 

Down a shot/take a sip/remove an item of clothing/offer a forfeit if:

  • Kevin uses the phrase 'truly extraordinary'
  • The project is a 'sustainable house' or just 'super-insulated'
  • The glass needs to be specially ordered
  • Kevin uses the word 'bespoke'. Upon this, toast your neighbour,raising your glass and murmuring an approving 'Ahhh... bespoke'
  • A steel frame goes up in three days

Double shots/sips/forfeits apply if:

  • The glazing doesn't fit
  • The project is delayed by the worst weather/summer/winter in years
  • There's a delay of six months or longer

Drain your glass/win outright if:
The wife falls pregnant or suddenly announces she's taking on the role of project manager but has no experience.

I didn't write these, so don't blame me for any inherent sexism or prejudice against the glazing industry. I shan't be playing since I already know the stories. However, I will be using the phrases 'truly extraordinary', 'integrity', 'bespoke' and 'utter triumph' more and more.

Help bring back the English elm

I wrote recently about how our countryside is under threat from an ungoverned and random approach to energy production (GDM, October 2013). At the rate we're going, fracking rigs, wind turbines and solar parks may be our only rural landmarks, especially as there is a pernicious series of threats facing our other great rural landmarks – trees.

A range of bacteriological and fungal diseases – from sudden oak death and ash dieback to new versions of Phytophthora (a strain was responsible for the Irish potato famine) – are rampaging through our woodlands at speeds that suggest enormous losses over the next 10 years.

We still, in many parts of the UK, lament the loss of the English elms that used to tower over the hedgerows like green cumulus cloud explosions. But there is
a new glimmer of hope that we can compensate for this loss.

Work in Italy, Holland and the UK over the past decade has produced a hybrid elm, resistant to Dutch elm disease that is only now available to buy.
The Morfeo Elm (Ulmus 'Morfeo') is being sold from £39.95 per tree (left) by the mail-order nursery Ashridge Trees (01963 359 444; ashridgetrees., although this year's retail stock is already gone. In 2014, it hopes to have 3,000 saplings, and the year after 12-15,000, dependent on how many cuttings can be taken from the limited number in existence. 

I shall plant some and I hope you will, too. Ashridge Trees has kept a small stock of these elms back for free distribution to schools and villages that used to have an especial association with elms. If you feel your community qualifies for one of these vigorous and marvellous trees, then get in touch. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


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