Friday, 15 September 2017

Hollywood and friends

It's feeling like autumn. The nights are drawing in, the conkers and leaves are tumbling, yet the weather still has to warm up for summer...

Televisually, September means we are back with old friends. Hapless Pete and pals on Cold Feet. The increasingly psychopathic but much wronged Doctor Foster. Fondly bickering Phil and Kirstie on Location Location Location, though sadly this series won't be featuring the episode filmed in our part of York sometime in May. Disparaging Jeremy and his Oxbridge nobs on University Challenge. Clever Victoria on Only Connect, which also featured Oxbridge nob and University Challenge winner (til her team was disqualified) Gail Trimble.

And The Great British Bake-Off. I was going to stay loyal to the BBC, I really was, like Mary, Mel and Sue before me. But the BBC has become a hideous Tory propaganda machine and is so biased (pro-Brexit, anti-Labour) in its news reporting that frankly it doesn't deserve my loyalty. Plus I actually like Channel 4. Because Last Leg. Because Jon Snow. Because Frasier. Because of my beautiful subtitles gracing its Countdown screens all those years ago.

And the news is so stressful right now that it's unbearable. I just want to look at cake instead. And biscuits and bread and sticky toffee caramel. And, new presenters aside, the show is so reassuringly familiar and cosy. The rest of it has been transferred in its entirety. The music. The bad puns laced with innuendo. The marquee with torrential rain streaming down its window panes. The tea cups and bunting. The malfunctioning ovens. The cakes hovering over bins. The mysterious proving drawers. The crazy contestants, although they seem a little Liverpool heavy this year, maybe as an homage to Paul, the only surviving face from the original series. He's just the same too, with his fierce eyes, dismissive comments and occasional bear-like handshake reaching across the work surfaces.

Admittedly, the ad breaks and heavy sponsorship are as irritating as I feared, but at least the content of the programme hasn't been cut short to accommodate them. And I'm having to get used to it being on a Tuesday, with Jo Brand's Extra Slice on a Thursday, rather than the Wednesday and Friday slots they held on the BBC. Routine is important to me. But Sandi Toksvig is very cuddly, and I quite like Noel Fielding's dreamlike musing, even if he doesn't seem to be that interested in the food. Prue Leith is scary though. She's much more of a force to be reckoned with than Mary Berry. She's about twice the height of Mary for starters. And you won't be crying on her shoulder (you wouldn't reach that far!) or getting any sympathy or gentle advice if you mess up.

I am part of a small team working on a baking book at the moment. It's to raise money for the school (so it can still afford to buy things like books, and, er, staff) and putting it together has been a lot of fun. It's going to feature lots of delicious everyday recipes, submitted by parents, teachers and local cafes. Mostly things that you should be able to bake with kids, as opposed to the impossible challenges you see on Bake Off. So more this:

Than this:

The book will come complete with professional colour photos, hopefully no typos (since it's my job to find them) and a decent level of wit. Please buy a copy when it's published, hopefully sometime when we are officially - rather than only weatherwise - in autumn.

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