I’ve just bought Mary Berry’s new cookbook – the one that accompanies her recent TV series. In practically every photograph, whether she’s handing out a slice of her salmon and asparagus terrine or slicing effortlessly through her flawless maple-glazed gammon with fresh apricot and ginger chutney, she looks to me to be the happiest person alive.
Take the photo of Mary as she guides us through the intricacies of her venison and chestnut pie. As Mary wields her trusty rolling pin she beams like a EuroMillions rollover winner. Preparing pastry has never made me anything other than grumpy, yet for Mary it looks to be the secret of eternal happiness.
Most of my forays into the kitchen involve pricking microwavable plastic, and those that don’t – when I am inspired to follow a simple recipe – involve compound swearing. The only time I ever look as happy as Mary in the kitchen is when I’ve chucked another failed adventure in the bin and attacked the cooking sherry.
But here’s the thing: Mary’s smile inspires. It says to bumbling amateur cooks like me: “Look, I’m having a ball doing this – you’ll enjoy it too.”
Her happy confidence leaps off the page and makes me believe I can not only whip up one of her delicious treats, but thoroughly enjoy myself while I’m at it. I have plans to tackle one of her recipes this week. I will report back on whether it succeeds and whether I am hospitalised from laughing too much.
Right royal panic
One evening last week, in the middle of PM, my newsreading colleague turned to me when the microphones were off and said: “____ ____ is dead.” He used the name of a very senior member of the royal family.
We feared the dreaded time had come, and the BBC’s well-rehearsed plans for this sad moment would swing into action. It would fall to me to tell the nation of a very senior royal death, and then try to steer coverage for several hours. It’s not a job I would relish.
Fifteen minutes later it transpired that the report had come from a fake Twitter account purporting to be that of a rival, well-respected news organisation. Checks were made, and the said royal was confirmed to be in fine fettle. The same cannot be said of my dry-cleaner, who is now declining all future business from me.
Narnia in Northampton
A friend has moved to Northampton and at the weekend I paid a visit. I’d been to Southampton so why not collect the set? I arrived on Saturday evening and left Sunday morning so most of the shops were shut... but what I saw made me want to plan a longer return visit.
Did you know Northampton has a fancy dress store called Narnia Fancy Dress? How big do you think their back shop is?
And there are lots of independent tea and coffee places, including one called Are You Being Served? I fancy that Mrs Slocombe and Mr Humphries are in there, fawning over the customers then bitching behind their backs.
And there’s a mysterious venue called BBC. I put a photo of it on Twitter because I knew no one would believe me. Apparently BBC means “Black Bottom Club: Members Only”. Fancy.
Eddie Mair presents PM Monday to Friday at 5:00pm and iPM on Saturdays at 5:45am on Radio 4