Sparks fly as West B&Bs take on rivals in TV reality show
Toni Del Mar is dreading watching TV this week. The B&B owner from Dartington in South Devon is taking centre stage in the Channel 4 series Four in a Bed, which airs every afternoon, starting today.
The programme follows four B&B owners as they stay in each other's establishments then offer frank feedback, and tell each other what they think a night at their B&B is really worth.
Toni, who has only been doing B&B in her home, Appalachian Spring, for a year, decided to give the programme a whirl after receiving an email from its makers.
"When I turned 50 I decided I would do whatever came along, so I sent an email back saying yes, I might be interested," said Toni, who started providing B&B after her son and daughter left home.
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After being accepted on to the programme, she was given minimal advance information and was put up on the first night of filming in a plush hotel, before the action started properly. She went to stay with the other contestants at three very different establishments, in Shropshire, in Porthmadog, North Wales, and in St Austell.
The others then came to stay at her farmhouse, where she rents out three rooms, and she took them morris dancing with the Dartington troupe and for dinner at Riverford Farm Kitchen. The following night they all met at the Seven Stars pub in Totnes for the last night showdown.
It is then, said Toni, that she ended up having to consult a dictionary to settle a dispute with a fellow contestant who queried her description of her accommodation, which she rents out for £40-£50 per person per night, as "luxury".
There were also fireworks when Toni criticised one of the other contestants for spelling mistakes in their leaflets.
And the tension starts from the very first episode, aired at 5pm today, at Windmill Cottage in Shropshire, run by Lorraine Trasatti and her Italian husband Louis, where, so the programme blurb reads, "no-nonsense fellow guest Toni Del Mar is soon irritated by Louis and his incessant commentary".
In a later episode, Toni finds herself leaping to the defence of the contestants from Cornwall, Debbie Williams and Karen Lucas, who run the Duke of Cornwall in St Austell.
"I got on incredibly well with the ones from Cornwall and I think possibly they might not have expected that, because we are very different people, but they were amazing," said Toni. "I've been down and had lunch with them since."
Toni proved more than capable of standing up for herself when she was the host.
"Somebody said my rooms weren't luxurious and I took up a dictionary and explained exactly why that is what they were. Then one of them asked me for fried eggs and I said 'I'm really sorry, I only know how to do poached eggs. I haven't learned to do fried eggs yet, that's next year's project."