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Phil & Suzie Meadows
Turn Back Time: The Family
Three brave families live through five eras — from the 1900s to the 1970s — for Turn Back Time: The Family. In the first episode, they’re placed in three houses to reflect the social classes of Edwardian times. Here, they tell TV Choice about suffering all sorts of hardships for the five-part series, which is presented by Susanna Reid and historian Juliet Gardiner.
The working class house
The Meadows family
Parents Phil, 50, and Suzie, 50, and their children Saskia, 17, and Genevieve, 15.
What’s it like living in the working class house?
Phil Meadows: It’s hell — it really is! It’s a bit like a cave with a back door. The existence in here is about fire and food. There have been a few health and safety things, but other than that we’ve lived it. We’ve had to move those kettles from the fireplace to make our tea. We’ve done everything, but there’s no kitchen. All we’ve got is a living room, bedroom and a yard.
Suzie Meadows: We have two mattresses on the floor, and two in a bed.
What’s your house like in real life?
Suzie Meadows: It’s a yellow lodge house, three bedrooms, quite cottagey — near Ascot.
Phil Meadows: With hot running water!
Have you been given an outside loo?
Phil Meadows: Yes, it’s called a Thunder Bucket! Basically, you’ve got two big galvanised drums, with holes in them, and then there’s a wooden cover. Thankfully, they’ve not asked me to empty it. I wanted to leave after the first 36 hours, because it was absolute hell.
What made the initial experience so bad?
Phil Meadows: The problem was, we were being fed what they [our ancestors] were fed. In modern life, we take in around 2,000 calories a day. Now, they [the Edwardian working class] ate pretty rubbish food — a couple of vegetables, a little sausage — and that was about 600 calories. Then they’d fill up on bread and beef dripping. But I can’t eat that. Unless I’m starving to death, I’m not going to eat that. So what happened in the first 36 hours was that my system just went haywire. You’ll see it on camera — I lost it!
Suzie Meadows: But we've all had our moments.
The middle class house
The Golding family
Parents Ian, 39, and Naomi, 39, and their children Ciara, eight, Caitie, seven, and Jack, four.
Why did you apply for the show?
Naomi Golding: I don’t know — it’s nothing I’ve ever done before. I’ve never thought, ‘Oh I’d like to be on TV,’ but I think it appealed because of the living history part of it. And I have good memories as a child of doing similar things. You know, pretending to go back in time. So I thought, ‘What a fantastic experience.’
What was it like walking into the middle class house for the first time?
Naomi Golding: I loved it. I thought it was going to be like living in a museum. We’d seen so many museums mocked up to look like this. So I loved it.
Ian Golding: The house is so genuine, and it really is amazing. You just want to touch everything and open everything to see what’s here. And almost as soon as they close the front door, this is your house. You’ve obviously got a few questions, like how does this work?
What’s it like cooking in here?
Ian Golding: Don’t ask me, I’m not allowed to do any. In real life, I cook dinner at home around twice a week.
Naomi Golding: It has been hard doing everything. You feel like you’re a glorified servant. But having said that, it’s quite nice to have a defined role. In my real life, I’m working and doing the cleaning — I do the school run. So for me, it’s been a really simple life.
Ian Golding: We do feel so much more relaxed.
In real life, Ian, you’re a management consultant, but here you’re living as a clerk for the local council. What’s the wage like?
Ian Golding: It’s 57 shillings a week. But almost all of that is already accounted for in terms of clothing and food and everything else. The rent for this house is eight shillings a week, and when you take all of our outgoings away, I’ve only got two shillings a week left.
The upper class house
The Taylor family
Parents Michael, 39, and Adele, 38, with their children Megan, 15, Joseph, 13, Lily, nine, and Alice, five.
You’ve lived through all five eras for the series, but which did you find the most difficult?
Adele Taylor: I think the first. We nearly walked out on the Edwardian era, because it was so incredibly hard. Just because we’re not really people who do airs and graces. It was a complete bombshell that we ended up in that house because there was nothing in our family tree that we knew about that would have ever placed us there.
What made it so tough?
Adele Taylor: I find it very difficult to simply sit still — I just don’t do it. And I just didn’t feel there was any ally in there. The maids wouldn’t make any eye contact with me. Also, as a woman, I had no say in what went on, and the nanny was really scary.
How did your first day unfold?
Adele Taylor: Within the first few hours Michael had been sent off and it wasn’t my job to question where he went. Then the nanny arrived and upset Lily by correcting her. The nanny had said, ‘Hello, Lily,’ and Lily had said, ‘Hello,’ and the nanny said, ‘No, it’s hello Nanny.’ Well, immediately, Lily had a wobble, because this woman, who was dressed in black and looked very austere, was telling her off.