Why aren't Nick and Margaret running the country? I'd just like to put that out there. Never mind all these young Old Etonians currently minding the shop, their partnership is an astonishing balance of disbelief mixed with compassion on his part - "I would prefer to eat my own leg than do this" - along with her no-nonsense, doesn't-miss-a-trick common sense.
Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer
Last night these two were off to conduct an experiment. It was an interesting point well made - that as the state pension age seems set to rise, more than half of today's current 50-year-olds will have to work into their seventies,
Nick was horrified, defending people's right to a dignified old age supported by the state, while Margaret thought it was no bad thing that people work on longer than previously anticipated. They were smart, assertive people, both making good points. So the stage was perfectly set for the grand experiment - Margaret and Nick charting the progress of a group of retirees making their way back into the work place.
The examples were varied and interesting, both in workplaces - from building sites to chocolate factories - as well as attitudes and reactions.
Nick was horrified by the building site - "like a Russian gulag"
Some of the pitfalls were obvious. Poor Sheila, a retired nurse back in a clinic, just could not get to grips with the computer that has become the backbone of the clinic's work in her time away. And she proved too soft a touch with the patients too, talking to them about alcohol consumption - "try to cut down, but you can have a bit more at the weekend" - can I have Sheila as my nurse, please?
Meanwhile, the chaps were finding it heavy-going on the building site, having to deal with health and safety issues - "never in my day" etc. - as well as shorter deadlines and new tools. As Nick remarked on his visit, "I thought I was in a Russian gulag." My favourite was actually Gary, the dubious site manager, a character straight out of a mockumentary, although his compassion also eventually came to the fore.
The most satisfying episode was watching Ruth deal with her silver service duties, much to the surprise of the ageist restaurant manager. She couldn't quite get the movements right, so she carried on practising at home. And when Nick and Margaret came to dine, Nick remarked on her social skills...
"She's got that wonderful charm that people of her age have."
Margaret was quick to point out, "Well, not everyone has it."
The show was lightly done, with the inevitable jaunty BBC factual entertainment soundtrack, but it was also revelatory. I'd have thought going back to work would be about stimulation, sociability and purpose. But it was clear that actually, it was also about having a bit of extra cash for the sweeter things in life, trips to see the grandchildren, a cigarette and a drink, and that working at this stage in their lives wasn't something they really relished, but could become a necessity in the near future, and something governments will have to factor in.
Sheila and the Chocolate Factory
This made the programme an important as well as entertaining one, despite the fact that our two star presenters were possibly the best case of all for people coming into their prime later in life than reality shows would have us think.
And talking of finding your element, who could argue with Sheila's delight when she finally escaped the chocolate-and-ginger debacle (her spillage costing her costing her nearly a day's wages) and the smile on her face when she was put on strawberry creams?