Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Great British Bake Off Episode 1 - A Commentary

I can’t get a read on Paul Hollywood.

Ali looks like he’s about to lose all sphinctal control.

Is Glen modelling his look on Hollywood?

Mary Berry is a magnificent woman.

Becca. Put the grapefruit away. Hollywood’s eyes say it all.

Howard is from the future.

Mark is a poor man’s Glen. Making a cake shaped like a lemon sounds difficult, but is it really?

Who is that girl?

Ali, are you kidding with this rose and lychee number? Only works in a martini honey (my signature drink as you will surely know).

Her name is Ruby.

I love a piping bag.

Obviously Mark’s lemon shaped cake plan went to hell.


People are scattering flowers over their cakes. Is this a thing?

Apple and Pecan? In comes the hippy ship.

Oh Howard, we don’t want a seeping filling. Come come.

Of course you are in shock Ali, it’s your default state.

What’s this Sue? Historical context?

She says the courting cake is back: We say it never left.

Do Hollywood and Mary socialise outside the show? I get the impression Mary has better things to do.

Two girls have told me they fancy Toby. Apparently, uselessness is sexy. Thank heavens for that.

Mary likes a good rise and nice thickness.

Am I just descending into smutty innuendo? Maybe.

“It has happened before. Salt rum baba. 2012.” Fucking mare.

I wonder if ‘fucking mare’ is an accepted truncation of ‘fucking nightmare’ or whether I was just being too cool. Best check.

Has Paul been wearing velour the entire episode?

Don’t Google ‘fucking mare’.

Show stopper round? Are they ACTUALLY going to bake Hugh Jackman?

A common misinterpretation of Berkley’s theory there Ruby.

“Still wet inside.” Oh grow up.

Tiny Tempah. Nice one Mel.

Toby isn’t so much baking as self harming. Any more kitchen plasters and he can join the blue man group.

Howard’s bear blows my mind.

Rob to win.

Monday, 22 April 2013


It was things lavatorial that lured me to Sketch, ten years late. I’d heard you could wee in a giant egg which, as regular readers will surely know, has always been an ambition of mine.

First impressions were good. A wonderful Georgian exterior and two resplendent people on the door. The man - bowler hatted. The lady - dark hair and brows, the delicacy of her sylph like frame belied by strength of her cool, blue, appraising gaze. I suspect she writes when she has the time. Which is neither here nor there, that isn’t what we’re here to talk about.

My friends and I had planned this wrong: The Gallery was booked out for people we were not, and we had not reserved a spot in the (by all reports delightful) Lecture Room restaurant. Thus, in being restricted to the ground floor bar, I concede that my experiences are not wholly, or even slightly, representative.

The bar had enough fruit on it to supply all the fondue parties in Thatcherian England. Doubtful Louis Quinze chairs were strewn about the place. A straw pole of the clientele revealed they worked in Oil, or Gas, or possibly both. And it was very loud indeed.



I wasn’t convinced by the DJ at first, but then he seemed to mix (technical term) Michael Jackson and Rhianna which brought the room to shuddering eargasm.

I ordered an Old Fashioned because it seemed appropriate. To his credit, the barman ran the bourbon he was going to use past me, though moved about a lot as he made the drink. I’m not sure why.

Visiting the bathroom was similar to taking a light hallucinogenic. Mirrors, blue lights, nursery rhyme music. There was a water feature that, looking back, might have been a urinal. Also, the stairs were melting.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Confidence Tricks

The set of people that we judge to be confident is in fact made up of two distinct groups; the truly confident and those that can fake it. For all intents and purposes this doesn’t really matter since outwardly those accomplished members of the second group are indistinguishable from those in the first.

Confidence is contextual. A man too shy to maintain dinner conversation may have no problem calming a charging horse. Of course some irritating individuals might be able to do both. Some supremely gifted individuals might be able to do both at the same time, though this is rare, not least because there are very few dinner parties to which horses are invited.

So though one might be able to stumble through something resembling Kreisler’s Rigaudon in front of sixty people, or perform a group dance to Queen in front of six hundred, this does not guarantee that one has the necessary social equipment to perform stand up comedy alone.

Such an act requires…well there’s no other way to say it… balls.* Quite frankly, those spherical totems of bravery often escape me.

The event was a showcase of wonderful comedic talent of which I was not a part, though it became clear that the evening would fair better if someone introduced each half and somehow I found myself about to be that someone. I don't want to overstate it: The crowd was an invited mix of munificent media types with kindness in their hearts and a modicum of alcohol in their veins. The heckling sort they were not. But even so, I had nothing prepared**, and felt that there would be some expectation that whoever stood at the microphone ought to be funny.

Additionally, it must be remembered that what paucities of charm and vocal dexterity I possess are not universally applied. Anyone whose misfortune it has been to receive a voicemail from me, can attest to this. I gabble, I maunder, I veer wildly off topic.***

As I held the microphone to my mouth, all my sweat glands were convinced I was locked in a sauna with a rabid Doberman. My words of welcome were met with tepid applause of the kind afforded to a runner up at a church fete. At which only half the crowd have hands. Could do better. I bailed and devoted the remaining minutes to a paean for the first act. The professionals took over and the crowd was with them.

My recollection of the second half is hazy, but I distinctly remember contrasting Gangnam Style with Coleridge’s Xanadu. I think they liked it, but to be fair, Coleridge always is an absolute hoot. But I do remember people laughing and that feeling warm and fuzzy.

Somewhere, my first dalliance with stand up comedy is recorded. But I’d rather you didn’t see it. So I leave you with Xanadu instead. The proper one obviously.

* You catch my drift no doubt, though I have never fully understood the idiom. I have two such objects suspended from my person and rarely does either instill me with courage.

** This isn't strictly speaking true. I always have an old joke about onions on stand by, but it is so good I keep it in reserve for the direst of circumstances.
***“Well, er, actually, Portugal accounts for almost half of the world’s cork production, so I don’t suppose you are free on Thursday?”

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

On A French Beach

We flew into Nice at the end of the season, but not so late as to bump into a Graham Greene character. Staying at a villa in the hills, we’d all pile into the car and roll between Cannes, Antibes, Cap Ferrat and the rest; eating, drinking and generally having a good time.

There came a day when one of our party wanted to swim in the sea, so we took ourselves off down the coast to find a quiet beach. It was a Saturday and our mission was doomed to failure. In the end, we gave up and defaulted to a busy public stretch with a small handiplage at the end of it full of slings and hoists. I wanted to try them, but it was deemed inappropriate.

We found the remaining postage stamp of beach that had not yet been occupied and sandwiched ourselves between an old French couple, a gaggle of girls tanned to a butterscotch brown and four Australians who, with admirable foresight, had brought an icebox of beer along.

The elderly French lady removed her bikini top and her breasts began an intimate conversation with her ankles. Behind me, the Australians were discussing precum. Their broke from this topic when a girl in their number noticed a tattoo on her neighbour’s forearm and asked what the green script meant.
“Oh, it’s in Thai. It means ‘Hot Chicken, Cold Chicken’.”
The girl, not unreasonably I thought, asked why.
“Oh, because sometimes you get chicken and it’s really really hot, but other times it’s really really…”
Right. I padded off down the beach, waded into the sea and struck out for a buoy in the distance.

The word buoy is difficult one. I remember having a conversation with someone who followed the Olympic sailing (can you imagine?) and said that Ainslie—"Harriott?" I gambled wildly—had got into all sorts of trouble for touching one.
“I should bloody well think so,” I replied, incensed, “I’m astounded he was allowed to compete at all.”
“No. A buoy.”
“Well indeed. It’s a disgrace. Prison was it?”
“No, a buoy.”

We returned home to eat chicken. Hot chicken.

Friday, 17 August 2012

A bit of fluff

The politics blog Conversamus has recently introduced a new section with a more creative brief. They are looking for any cultural comments, observations or reviews, so if you think you have an idea then why not get in touch?

I'm looking after a dog at the moment so I wrote about that.

Friday, 6 July 2012

His words, his Bond.

I suggest Fleming's most significant Bond novels for

Read it here.