The Great British Bake Off – episode 4

Great British Bake Off

Yikes, caramel week.   Beautifully intricate sugar work, salted caramel and chocolate pots, tooth-destroying nut brittle and millionaire’s shortbread. Or third degree burns and a trip to A&E.

Tonight’s blog is brought to you courtesy of the most delicious pink fizz evah


Why I am not sponsored by at least one drinks company remains a mystery.  Help me out, someone.

So, baking.  “The tricky thing about caramel is….pretty much everything,” said Julia.  We hear ya.  The signature challenge was to make 18 identical millionaire’s shortbreads.  Three distinctive layers: shortbread, gooey caramel, and a thin layer of chocolate.    Doubtless some idiot would flavour their offering with bloody cardamom.

All the bakers set to work with their shortbreads and as per usual stared anxiously at their ovens, as if wishing were all it would take to make them perfect. But shortbread is a breeze compared with caramel, which requires the sugar to reach a precise temperature* (Yan chose not to bother with such fripperies, despite being a molecular scientist) and also tends to crystallize the second you turn your back.  There were salted peanut varieties, lime and chilli chocolate varieties, one based on jaffa cakes (YES), one using bay leaves (NO) and one containing rum (WINNER).  Paul swigged from the bottle like a tramp in a park.

Noel was pretty certain he’d uncovered Banksy. Although Yan denied it.

Steven’s orange and macademia efforts looked sensationally good, natch, but Paul didn’t like the flavours or the textures; Prue adored them. “I don’t really like sweet things.”  You don’t say.

Architect Tom had fucked up big style.  Prue put on her Primary school headmistress face and told him: “The textures are all wrong, the flavours aren’t good and you didn’t finish the task.”  Tom slunk off to detention.

Technical challenge time: Stroop Waffles (my mate Sam can’t get through a morning without at least one of these.  How he isn’t the size of a bungalow astounds me.  He knows his food though, so check out his blog here)

stroop waffles

Prue darling, as with puff pastry, this is the kind of thing you BUY, not make.  Still, she was keen to share her stroop expertise. “You have to go low and slow.”  Advice to live by, I think we can all agree.

The tedious history lesson returned – I thought we’d got rid of this tripe, Channel 4? – and then everyone had to present their stroops (not a euphemism).  Prue had abandoned her Primary school headmistress persona and was now behaving like a university vice chancellor who had just been told tuition fees were to be abolished. “Very grainy.  Dry.  Yes grainy again.  Very, very grainy.  Can none of you get caramel right?” The bakers all looked as though they would be joining Tom in detention.

Finally,  the showstopper.  One tier cake, three layers, spun sugar, caramel everything.  “There’s obviously a danger it will be too sweet,” warned Prue, who by this stage had abandoned all pretence of niceness and had gone full on Miss Trunchbull.    Meanwhile James shared his technique for making a particularly delicious cake.  “I dip my nuts.”  I’m sure you do darling.  But perhaps not before the watershed, even if this is on Channel 4.  The temperature in the tent must have been hotter than the sun as everyone had a puce face – even Noel.

I joke about them, but my goodness, I don’t believe Bake Off has ever had such a universally talented bunch of competitors.  Everything looked fabulous. There is boundless talent to spare with this bunch, even from those who were having a complete ‘mare, particularly Stacey. “It’s not as big an erection as I’d hoped.” We’ve all been there, Stace.

Prue, who has a full on crush on Liam (who knows it, and flirts with her), adored his cake.  Stacey was told her icing was too thin.  “It looks slightly slimy.”  Cheers, Prue.  Julia’s effort “ticked all the boxes”.  Yan’s was pronounced “fantastic” by Paul,  but the “sponge is a little bit tough” corrected Prue, who was unstoppable in her disdain. Steven’s red velvet concoction looked great but was judged to be “stodgy”, Tom’s cake was “basic, gluey, under-baked.”   He looked as though he had been called out of detention only to be handed his blazer by his parents and told he would be going to a new school next term.  Kate’s toffee apple bonfire thingy however was “masterful”.   She won Star Baker.

Tom was indeed sent home.  “He really did make a mess of it,” Prue threw after him as he dumped his homework in the bin and defiantly drew a penis on the blackboard.

Prue’s not someone you’d want making a speech at your wedding, is she?

*For a soft pliable caramel suitable for making fudge or praline, you want a boiling point of 112-115 degrees C. For a firmer caramel (good for making sweets), 116-120 degrees C. For nougat and toffee, 132-143 degrees C, and for the real deal, tooth-cracking toffee, 132-143 degrees C.  Although I daresay Paul knows differently.



The Great British Bake Off – episode three

Great British Bake Off

Bread week. Who would rise to the occasion and prove to be the best?  Yes, yes I went there. Oh please yourselves.

I hate bread week.  It gives Paul the opportunity to whang on about yeast and kneading and gluten when everyone knows Warburton’s medium sliced white (blue waxed paper variety) is better than any bread you can make at home anyway.

Proceedings kicked off with Sandi making a shockingly bad attempt at a Yorkshire accent – Hovis bread I assume, haha yes very funny how hilarious – and the signature challenge was to bake teacakes.  Paul and Prue spoke sternly to camera about proving, and how the large amount of butter in the dough would necessitate more time to prove than normal.  There was a lot of this stuff but I tuned out and rootled around in the fridge for some wine.

Back to Bake Off.  “James is always trying new things,” Noel informed us.  Is he? What, like 10 denier tights with an open toed sandal?  A three-way with the neighbours? No, turned out it was baking different types of dough. Borrrrrrr-ing.

Liam hadn’t got a clue what he was doing but that was no barrier to putting Paul in his place.   “I’m making stout and ginger and cinnamon teacakes,” he announced.  Oh really.  And what would be the texture of his offering? wondered Paul.  Liam, who clearly hadn’t the faintest idea, was nonetheless resolute in his response.  They would be be “tea cake texture.” “Which is …?” pressed Paul.  “Very nice.”  Ha!  Go Liam.  Julia talked about her unusual technique for kneading as she pummeled her dough viciously.  “I keep saying I LOVE YOU DOUGH!” Julia is mad. Who cares about teacakes anyway? They’re full of dried fruits, which as any fule no are the rabbit droppings of Satan.  Still, everyone tried their best and looked, as always, extremely worried.

James’ were pronounced “perfect”.  Liam’s were pronounced raw, and looked downcast, poor love.  Flo was told she needed more dried fruits in hers.  NO SHE DIDN’T.   Prue chowed down at Stacey’s station.  “It looks like a teacake, it tastes like a teacake…” And what?  Walks like a teacake?  Talks like a teacake? Alas, Prue had ground to a halt in her judgement and instead chewed thoughtfully, like a peaceful sheep in a field.

The technical challenge.  A cottage loaf.  Everyone had to make their dough by hand, no mixers, the swines.   Some of the contestants knew how to make a cottage loaf, a few looked panic-stricken.

cottage loaf

Paul explained to Prue the technique.

cottage loaf


Everyone started pulling their doughs (not a euphemism) and wittering on about gluten.  Side note here: Noel is turning out to be an excellent, funny and empathetic host. Well played, Channel 4.  Most contestants seemed to know that you’re supposed to stick your finger up to the second knuckle into the finished dough (again, not a euphemism).   No-one had any idea how long their loaves should take to bake, and by the end all the the contestants were sat on the floor, staring despairingly into their ovens.  “You’ve got five minutes left!” shouted Noel.  Everyone looked aghast.  “Mine is raw!”  “I’m not taking mine out until the last second.” “SERIOUSLY?”

Stacey had baked a superb cottage loaf.  Flo’s needed another 20 minutes in the oven.  “It’s not my fault.  It’s got a mind of its own.”  Liam’s didn’t have enough crust.  James’ loaf had collapsed completely and looked like a pale cowpat.  Prue admired Julia’s “rounded bottom”.  Steven’s effort, again, looked damned good.  Paul was unimpressed by Kate’s effort. “You should have stuck your finger in it,” he advised.  Most people would have responded by sticking their finger up Paul’s nose, but Kate chose instead to look downcast.

The Showstopper.  A colourful bread “structure” using three natural colourings.  Jesus, what the hell is one of those? “I’m going to SMASH this,” declared Liam.    Due to a tragic fluke of inattention, I thought I heard someone say they were making semen bread, but my daughter said no, and perhaps I should stop at one glass of wine.   There were mixed reactions on Twitter to the whole colourful structure shizz (I’m with @AndyGilder):


Liam’s looked like My Little Pony poos, but Noel was on hand to comfort him. “I couldn’t boil an egg at your age,” (19).  Yan confided that she had never made a dragon out of bread before, and Flo looked unhappy: “Mine’s a disgrace. I’m going home.”

Judging.  Yan’s dragon was pronounced too small and there was too much garlic.  Liam’s flavours were “fantastic” but his dough was under-proved.  Prue didn’t like any of James’ flavours but loved everything else.   Stacey’s bread was great but her flavours were “wrong”.  Steven’s effort looked “amazing” and tasted “delicately amazing.”  This bloke is going to win.  “Superb,” said Prue.

Flo’s appalling effort was a sort of octopus and treasure chest.  “It’s Tom Jones,” she told Paul and Prue.  Look I know he’s getting on and has had some pretty bad plastic surgery, but really.  That was harsh.  “No, no…. it’s Davy Jones…. Locker,” she corrected herself.  Either way, Prue wasn’t having any of it.  “Not your best effort.”

There was a pink rose that looked like a badly burnt penis from Tom, and a snail from Julia that looked like a cartoon circumcision.

Bake Off

Let’s just look at that again.

Bake Off

Paul, Prue, and all the contestants tried and failed to hide their giggles.

Who would be Star Baker? Blimey, it was Julia, bread knob notwithstanding.  “I didn’t expect that,” she breathed excitedly.  You and me both, Jules.  And it was goodbye to Flo, which was sad because she was absolutely great.  “I met some lovely people but I’m glad to get back to normal life,” she said, holding back the tears.

Next week, no idea.  I missed it because I was still laughing at the dough dicks.






Strictly Come Dancing – the launch!

Strictly Come Dancing

I love Strictly. The camaraderie, the fun, the sheer joyousness of it all is truly life affirming.  And, of course, the opportunity to poke fun at those who can’t dance.

Thankfully Len Goodman has been put out the pasture and is currently boring the 127 viewers who bother to tune in with a televisual crime against humanity named Len Goodman’s Partners in Rhyme.   But hey, don’t take my word for it:

Len Goodman

Tough crowd.

Anyway, who do we want to win? Not Simon bloody Rimmer, presenter of Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, a banter-filled bag of bollocks.  The Rev?  He might win it, what with his direct line to the big man upstairs. The teeny tiny one from that group that didn’t win X Factor?  Or the gobby one with the great voice who did win it and came back as a guest judge yelling “OKAY DOT COM!” in Louis’s face?

Ooh and there’s a new judge! Shirley Ballas!

Alan Patridge

The show kicked off with Anton singing (why God, why?) but mercifully only for one line, in case everyone changed channels.

“What does it take to lift that glitter ball?” queried Tess.  A forklift truck? Two blokes and a wheelbarrow? Shirl supplied the answer: “A love of dance and a great work ethic.” Oh.

First up, Gemma Atkinson. Nope, not a clue.  Oh, Hollyoaks, appaz.  Debbie McGee! She deserves to win, if only for having been married to Paul Daniels.  I’m pretty certain she had her own ballet company (failed) at one point so I assume she knows her way around a dance floor.  Some woman called Chizzy from Holby boasted that she could do the splits, and then Ruth Langsford, another woman who deserves to win on the basis of being married to the Neanderthal Eamonn Holmes.  What would he say about her competing on Strictly, wondered Tess.  “He’d say I think I’m a lot better at dancing than I actually am.”  So that’s nice.

Gemma bagged Aljaž, Debbie landed Giovanni, Chizzy looked thrilled to get Pasha and Ruth’s hopes of making her husband “horribly jealous” crumbled when she got Anton.

The three new professional dancers were introduced – they were all absolutely stunning – to the caterwauling of  Dave Arch as he mangled Beyonce’s Single Ladies. Swings and roundabouts, folks.

Ashton hoped for a small dancer, and got Janette.  “You’re adorable together,” patronised Tess, looking at them fondly as a mother might at her daughter’s Sylvanian Family figures.

sylvanian family

Rev Richard Coles got one of the new pros, a chap called Davood (Eastenders, don’t watch it, soz) looked delighted to be paired with the statuesque Nadia, Simon Rimmer found himself with Karen and declared he would bring “nice food” to rehearsals.  Since  the sveltve Karen probably hasn’t eaten solid food since 2009, I doubt she will care, but she smiled bravely at the prospect nonetheless.

On came Shania Twain, who lip synched to a terrible ditty entitled “Life’s About To Get Good”, moving only one arm feebly throughout.  Perhaps the vast quantity of botox on her face had leaked to her legs.   She was followed by the fabulous Joanne Clifton and Ore Oduba, who gave us their sensational jive and immediately intimidated every contestant.

There was a tribute to the late Sir Bruce Forysth, beginning with a montage of his Strictly appearances, and ending with a beautiful ballroom routine to “Fly Me To The Moon”.    Tess filled up with tears and Claudia helped her out when she got too choked to speak.  It was all rather lovely.

Charlotte of breakfast telly fame (I don’t watch the ITV version because I can’t stand Piers Morgan) got Brendan, Mollie King got AJ which looks to be a very promising pairing, and the peerless Susan Calman was matched with Kevin, and cried with delight.  “I feel like I’ve won the Lottery!” she sobbed.  Alexandra Burke was put with Gorka Marquez.  “I’m so nervous I’m SWEATING!” she squeaked, clutching Tess damply.

Rita Ora, wearing a pair of baggy silk trackie pants designed to make her look as chunky as possible, warbled “Let’s Be Lonely Together” whilst some unlikely street dancing took place behind her.  The whole thing resembled a fantastically cheap H&M commercial, but she looked pretty pleased with herself, so what would I know?

Finally, “Holby City’s Joe McFadden!” (two Holby City people? Are they paid very badly?) was matched with Katya Jones, Johnny Peacock “you’re a fast runner, but are you a quick thinker?” got Oti Mabuse, lucky chap, and Brian Conley “He’s got funny bones but can he move them?” (well yes, obvs Tess, you’ve just watched him walk towards you, who writes these scripts for God’s sake?)  paired up with of the newbies, Amy.

Group dance, hurrah! The pros were wonderful, the celebs were pretty awful, but every single one of them was grinning in a I-can’t-believe-my-luck-I’m-on-Strictly kinda fashion.  On one brief showing, Chizzy has some moves, Debbie knows her stuff, the Rev will be great comic value and Charlotte has all the animation and rhythm of a rock.

So, that’s it, the Strictly Class of 2017.    Bring it on.







The Great British Bake Off – episode two

The Great British Bake Off

“The old Bake Off can’t come to the phone right now.  Why?  Oh, ’cause it’s dead!”  But the new Bake Off is alive folks, so your writer got the rosé out of the fridge and fired up her Mac, ready to see if Noel and Sandy had managed to relax into their new roles.

Yes, as it turned out.  This week’s theme was biscuits.  There would be three biscuit-based challenges, all of them hideously difficult.  First up, the signature challenge: 24 sandwich biscuits, equally sized, equally coloured.  Paul took on the role of Confucius, the better to explain his requirements: ““If you combine a hard biscuit with a soft interior, it’ll go all over your lap.”  He sounded as though he was ordered a very specific kind of exotic dancer.

Quite a few recipes sounded vile – bloody cardamom, for GOD’S SAKE – but Tom’s coffee and amaretto doo-dahs appealed, and Sophie was making biscuits with lemoncino, Graham Norton/Chris was using whisky, Flo was using gin.  Hey gang, Bezza’s left the building, there’s no point ladelling the booze into everything now.   Rulers were produced, thicknesses measured, suddenly we were watching a woman sand a table, then we were back to biscuits.   Everyone peered worriedly into their ovens. “I want them more golden,” wailed someone (bear with me, I still haven’t learned who’s who) and there was a lot of very professional looking icing going on.

Prue, dressed in acid yellow and bright blue, told Sophie her biscuits were “beautifully tart”.   Tom’s biscuits were “a triumph”.  See, I know what’s good people, stick with me.

The technical challenge.  Fortune cookies, some almond, some orange. Inexplicably, nobody raced off to the nearest Chinese restaurant, but instead poured over the skimpy recipe and tried to work out what they had to bake.  “You can’t put all of them into the oven at the same time,” Paul informed Prue.  “And the killer thing is, the snap.”   It is? Perhaps Paul is secretly a fan of Legally Blonde.

Legally Blonde

What would they write for the fortunes? “A goateed smuggo will tell you he’s not getting any lemon.”  Not everyone could get the folding stuff right, fretting over their batter which had to be shaped over the bottom of a glass (look, you have to watch it, it’s impossible to describe).  Chris’s efforts looked like cornish pasties made for a family of Borrowers.  The stress levels were palpable.  Flo and Liam were close to tears.

The judging was painful.  Prue gagged and then spat out the feeble wodge that was  Chris’s underdone wad.  “Raw batter’s not much fun.”  Thanks, Prue.  The fortunes, however, were witty. “I’ve made a right mess of this” and “You will get bored writing fortunes” and “Today you will mostly poo candyfloss”.    Sophie came second, Yan came first.  Hurrah for Yan and, er, science!

Finally, the showstopper challenge which was hideously complicated.  A biscuit board game.  “You must be able to play your board game, and eat your board game,” Noel informed the competitors.


Remember those rainy days of your childhood, playing the classic game of Drain Pipes and Ladders? No, me neither.   Kate was making what looked like “Jumanji” but was called “Jungle” so she couldn’t be sued by Tristar.   Flo was making “Pick My Bones”,  which sounded like something played at a 1950s swingers party, and Julia was making something called ” A British Baking Game” so she couldn’t be sued by Bezza, Love Productions or Channel 4.   Alas, nobody was making Mousetrap, which to be fair is understandable, if disappointing


Chris explained the rules to his Great British Sail Off game, while Prue and Paul’s faces assumed the stoic expressions of a couple who have arrived at a Christmas party, only to be cornered by Uncle Colin who believes they should have turned off two miles before the A634 and taken the fourth left onto B276 which would have shaved at least four minutes off their journey.

The ads.  I vote the latest Admiral Car Insurance one the worst in history.  Look at us!  A WOMAN admiral!  A stupid man! This is bound to win us a whole bunch of Cannes Lions!

The bakers had produced the most amazing inventions; Prue loved anything that was iced in acidic lemon, the better to match the eye-watering hue of her jacket.  However she didn’t love much else.  The Jumanji board game “looks like a swamp” and “eating it is not going to be a huge pleasure.”   Stacey got the full pursed lips treatment and looked distraught.  But Steven nailed it with his 100 element board; he is my favourite to win (which is the kiss of death if my track record for I’m A Celebrity is anything to go by).   It was outstanding, and he won Star Baker for the second week.


(Photo courtesy of the Great British Bake Off)

Poor Chris went back to his day job of being Graham Norton’s double in his younger years (it’s a niche market).  Flo told us “I’ve let meself down terrible…. but you’re not gerring rid of me.”  Good.  Flo is fabulous.

Next week, bread.

The Great British Bake Off – Channel 4 Launch

Great British Bake Off

Ever since Channel 4 spunked £75 million on Love Production’s Great British Bake Off, there have been dark mutterings about how ad breaks would ruin the programme, and nobody but Mel and Sue could possibly present it.  And how would we cope without Bezza’s crinkly-eyed look of delight as she declared “The lemon is really coming through”?

On tonight’s showing, we’ll all cope just fine, actually.  There was some unfunny business with a hot air balloon at the start, but otherwise it was business as usual, kicking off with Cake Week, where everyone was baking, er, cakes.    The signature challenge was a “fruity cake”.  Some bloke called James produced a bunch (is it a bunch?) of rhubarb.  “That looks like proper rhubarb out of a garden,” said Prue to James. What else would it look like, for God’s sake? Flamingo legs out of a hanging basket?  Up your game, Prue.  St Mary of Berry would never have uttered something so obvious.

There were so many contestants at this stage it’s hard to keep up.  One memorable candidate for the Bake Off crown however was Yan, a biomedical scientist and footballer who had to write “turn the oven on” on her hand as a reminder.  AND THEN DIDN’T.  This bodes ill for biomedical science, folks.

There was a Scouse nana, who Paul loved, obvs, another Scouser (ditto), a dipshit with a spreadsheet called Chris who looked like Graham Norton’s younger brother, and er, lots of others.   One chap’s cake wasn’t fully baked.  A girl scampered around asking to borrow a small sieve.  Cut to the ads, which were uniformly terrible as they tried to make baking-related jokes, apart from PG Tips who got it wrong entirely and gave us a spoof of MasterChef.  Sack your agency, tea people.

Tasting.  “Bit boring.” “Not light as air.”  “The shine on the toffee is perfect.”  A Hollywood Handshake.  “It looks a bit rustic…. but nothing that a lot of custard wouldn’t help.” I like Prue!  I thought she’d be her usual acid drop self but no, she was sympathetic and smiling.  Another Hollywood Handshake.  This was all going too well.

Technical challenge: 12 chocolate mini rolls.  As always, I wonder what is the point of this round when you could nip down to the nearest Londis, blow a couple of quid, dump the wrappers in the bin, shimmy up to the gingham altar and announce “try finding fault with THESE puppies then, Hollywood!”  All the bakers looked puzzled about the inclusion of peppermint essence, as well they might.

Everyone sweated over their mini rolls, some of them looking fabulous, some of them looking like something unfortunate you might tread in on the pavement.  Noel and Sandi stood together, TV’s oddest couple, stars of an unlikely Disney film when a velociraptor makes friends with a pigeon.

The rolls were laid out to be judged.  Paul fingered them unhappily.  Prue was equally unimpressed. “For me,” she declared sadly, “there’s too much peppermint.” THERE SHOULDN’T BE ANY PEPPERMINT IN THE FIRST PLACE PRUE.

The show-stopper.  An illusion cake.  Yep, who wants a cake to look like a cake?  Sophie boasted that her champagne bottle cake looked so like a champagne bottle that when she made one for a friend’s birthday and took it to the party venue she was told by the bouncer she wasn’t allowed to bring in her own alcohol.   Nobody likes a show off, Soph.

Scouse nana Flo was baking a cake that looked like a melon.  “I don’t like melon meself,” she confided.  I love Flo.  Stacey wasn’t happy with her red velvet sponges, binned them and started again, poor love.  Steven was making a cake like a BLT sandwich.  Yan was making a cake she called banana ramen.

No not that.


But a chicken katsu fillet and mango salmon roe made with liquefied agar jelly. Berrlimey.

Kate was making a glacier mint glass terrarium housing buttercream houseplants which is not a sentence I ever thought I’d type.  She had designed the moulds herself, as had Peter.  The wealth of imagination and skill on offer was, frankly, breathtaking.

“A work of art,” said Paul of Yan’s effort, and indeed it was.  “Cake’s slightly too dry though.” The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

Graham Norton, I mean Chris, produced his pork pie cake.  “It’s too dense,” grumbled Paul.  Flo presented her water melon cake.  It looked astoundingly good, and all the other bakers looked thrilled for her.  “I love you Flo,” grinned Paul.  Peter’s bread cake (it’s a thing) wasn’t particularly successful,  Neither was Stacey’s black clutch bag cake, which looked burnt seaweed but apparently tasted delicious.  Sophie could not have looked more smug as her champagne bottle cake was presented.   The judges dug in.  Prue’s jaw worked in a circular motion for a considerable amount of time. “Surprisingly dry,” she coughed, witheringly.  Sophie resembled a sunken souffle.  Hubris, darling.

Steven’s BLT sandwich cake was stunning.  “It’s perfect.  The colour, the texture, the illusion… it’s all there.” The rest of the tent murmured their approval.   Bake Off contestants are lovely.  He was declared Star Baker.

Up came a pile of pancakes covered in whipped cream and berries from 19 year old Liam.  “I want to come to yours for breakfast,” innuendo-ed Prue.  “Anytime,” grinned Liam.  Filth! The spirit of Mel and Sue lives on.

Peter, who’d had a complete ‘mare of a couple of days, went home.   Noel gave him a great big hug.  Everybody cried a bit, including your writer.

Next week, biscuits.






Celebrity Big Brother – the first eviction

Celebrity Big Brother

If you believe the result of The World’s Most Orange Face competition would be a draw between Peter Andre and Donald Trump, take a look at Paul Danan.  Located on the glow spectrum somewhere between an easyJet headrest and a pan of burnt carrots, the marmalade dementor sucks all the colour out of a room, it being unable to compete with his thermo nuclear, Ibiza travel rep hue.


I mention Paul only because this week he fell out with Sarah Harding and insults were exchanged.  The Sun gleefully reported the Wildean exchange: “The pair clashed on Monday night with Paul branding Sarah “insecure” and “moany” while she described him as “psycho, snide and a hypocrite”.  3-2 to Sarah.

Tonight is eviction night.  Who would go? More to the point, who cares? 1.1 million of you, apparently, according to the ratings.  Not as good as Usain Bolt failing to win the 100m final of the World Athletics Championships (8.9 million) but then not as bad as Football On Five (600,000).

Which meant your writer opened £5.99 Côtes de Provence Rosé from Aldi (not sponsoring me either, the swines), switched on the telly, and readied herself for an explosive night’s viewing.


I will make a brief confession here.  I haven’t watched a single minute of CBB since the launch night, so I remain blissfully ignorant of the identities of a fair number of the housemates.  But since the car crash that is Ms Harding is eclipsing everyone else anyway, why bother? Economy of effort, folks.

On came Emma Willis, looking unfeasibly beautiful as per.  She went through the people up for eviction. Nope, nope, and nope.  The Monobrow.  And poor old Sarah Harding. And someone else.  As the roll call of names was announced, half-hearted boos rang out from the gathered mob, all of whom had nothing else to do on a Tuesday night.  I don’t have much fellow feeling for any of the housemates, but really… who cares what this bunch of losers think?

Cut to footage of the housemates waking up.  Holy crap, Bazza from EastEnders, naked in bed.  Shouldn’t there be a three second warning before broadcasting this sort of thing?


Sarah came to the Diary Room.  “I miss my dogs.  If they’re not happy with you, they pee on the furniture.” Be careful what you wish for, Sarah.  Remember Paul Danan is in the house.

But why all the suspense? Surely, as a famous psychic, the all-seeing Derek Acorah could tell us who would be evicted. Perhaps he was too busy chatting to Sam (his spirit guide) to tell us.  A quick google revealed Derek is convinced he was a “little black Ethiopian boy” (nice turn of phrase, Derek) in his last life, which is how he met Sam, as they lived in the same village 2,000 years ago.  Okaaaaaaaaay.


Sarah and Paul held a duel in the kitchen, covering up last night’s spat by pretending to be concerned about each other.  Paul assumed the role of the wise old man of showbiz, prepared to share his hard-won knowledge with the ingénue that is the far more successful, and indeed famous, Sarah. “Ar remember vat Love Island shit.  Ar see masell in you,” he confided.  Sarah looked appalled at this revelation, and went in for a hug in order to shut him up.

God this was boring.  Where was everybody else? Some dude called Jordan who couldn’t string a sentence together discussed his week-long “relationship” with some woman – sorry, no idea – who felt things were going too fast.  Jordan took this revelation on the chin. “We’ll coolitdarn. Sortit.” Said woman looked bored. Who ARE these people?

Okay, eviction. Chad (boos). Marissa (boos). Karthik (boos). Sarah (massive cheers). Trisha (boos).  It was between Karthik and Marissa. The tricoteuses yelled “Get Marissa OUT!” Why though?  Marissa appeared on the stairs looking terrified.

Why anyone would subject themselves to this kind of public damnation is beyond me.  I make fun of the housemates, but it’s the public who need to have a word with themselves.








Celebrity Big Brother – launch night

Celebrity Big Brother

I gave up watching CBB a couple of years ago, the majority of contestants being drongos from other reality TV dross, but this year, it was rumoured that in amongst the nonentities would be some proper slebs.  Whoopee! Bring it on, Tom Hiddleston! Welcome, Kit Harington! Well hello there, LordeRuPaul, the pleasure is all mine! Sorry, what’s that? Barry from EastEnders 13 years ago?

The best part of the build up to the show has been the supposedly inside story of ex-Girls Aloud chanteuse, Sarah Harding.  The allegedly hard-partying Sarah, who is only 35 but now resembles a 48 year old woman who has undergone surgery in order to look like a 45 year old woman, apparently has mixed feelings about going into the house.

Sarah Harding

An insider told The Sun Online: “Sarah is fully onboard. But she is not sure if she feels ready.

“She has been enjoying a career out of the spotlight recently and is not sure she wants to give up her low-key presence just yet.”

The term “insider” is journalistic shorthand for “we made this up”, and given that Sarah’s career in recent years has comprised appearing on Tumble, Celebrity Masterchef, Dating in the Dark (yes, really) The Jump and a universally panned guest spot on Corrie, once might want to question the veracity of this statement, but props to her for giving it a go.

Anyway, tonight is launch night and as is customary, your writer laid in supplies of prosecco and Lidl Bitterol (only £7.99 and better than Aperol, you’re welcome) and stared keenly at the screen, ready to be awestruck, or at least only mildly bored.

Lidl Bitterol

(I’m not sponsored by Lidl. More’s the pity.)

First out the gate was, yes, Barry from EastEnders, dressed as a Poundland Simon Cowell.  “Hello, I’m Shaun Williamson. I can sing.” Eh? Bazza gave us a couple of notes to better illustrate this unexpected statement. “Singing. I like to think that’s the thing I can do best.” How wrong can a man be?

Shaun was given a secret task of such stupifying idiocy – “be nervous!” – that I refuse to say anymore on the subject.

Ooh, Sarah Harding, dressed as a supervisor in the Doncaster branch of Next, three hours and 15 rum and cokes into a hen night.  Sarah gave us the inside track regarding her misunderstood personality. “Arm just one of the lads,” she confided.

Someone from Made In Chelsea.  Sorry folks, I’ve never watched it.  A swift Google revealed him to be a chap called Sam Thompson. Not a very upper crust name, but perhaps he would be teaching the housemates how to play polo later.

Oh Christ, the ocean-going, gold-plated twat that is Derek Acorah. “If there’s activity, or a presence in the house, I will expose it.”  Emma eyed him warily. “Do you think the house will be haunted?” she queried. “Yes,” replied Derek.  He went on to give us his philosophy on life. “Inside us all…. if we think fun…. er…. fun and….er…. think… of fun….” Emma kindly helped him out. “We’ll have fun?” “Yes.”

Marissa Jade. Not a clue.  Neither had the housemates.  “How ARE you?” they chorused, too polite to ask, “WHO are you?”

Sandi Bogle, of Gogglebox fame! Sandi is ace. She looked fantastic, as well she might given that she is Naomi Campbell’s cousin (appaz).

Another bloke. “Most people know me from The Bachelorette.” Not me, mate.  Chad Johnson.  The Sun reports that he once shat himself on TV.  Chad is the living embodiment of Andy Warhol’s much quoted prediction.

Helen Lederer. Cracking. Funny, clever, terrific on Ab Fab, and unusually truthful. “I wouldn’t describe myself as a celebrity.  I would describe myself as someone who likes a drink.” She’s far too classy to be on this shite.  Perhaps she’s a large mortgage to pay off.

The Apprentice

Prize berk Karthik Nagesan of Apprentice (fired) fame appeared.  His monobrow spoke to the nation. “I’m going to be the centre of attention. I can sleep when I’m dead.”  Except you can’t.

Some foul-mouthed bint known as Brandi Glanville, which sounds like the kind of puzzling condition doctors in an Edwardian sanatorium would discuss, turned up.   “What is it, Professor?” “I believe it to be…..Brandi Glanville.” “NO!” “Yes.  Ask the nurse to bring the ice, and a gallon of laudanum.”

Another bloke. “I’m not going in this house to play safe. I’m gonna do what I wanna do.” Genuinely, no idea. Clueless.  Jordan Davis.  “Hopefully the house will be 15 girls, and just ME!” he yelled in Emma’s face. “I’M GONNA WIN IT!”  Emma wiped his spittle from her elegant cheek, and looked doubtful.  The voiceover informed us Jordan had slept with 1,500 women.  His OBE is in the bag.


Trisha Paytas landed, dressed as Miss Piggy  during an explosion in the local Kleenex factory.  “Trisha once ate 10,000 calories in one sitting!” declared the voiceover.  Same.

Another one. Jemma Lucy. “Arve got tits, teef and tantrums,” she announced, her grammar limp with excitement.   Would this damned programme never end? A glance at the TV schedule revealed there was another 30 minutes to go, and I had already endured an hour and a half.  Beyonce and The-Dream wrote Single Ladies in 20 minutes, for crying out loud.  PEOPLE ARE GETTING CLOSE TO RUNNING A MARATHON IN LESS TIME.

Professional Northerner  Amelia Lily used to be a figure skater, we were told.  She has owned 28 guinea pigs and once wet herself on the London Eye.  Her parents must be so proud.

Paul Danan! “Ma nickname is Dangerous Danan, because arm dangerous,” he explained helpfully.  I remember Paul from Celebrity Love Island, where he behaved like a complete prick.  One must hope he has changed.  “Arl juss be me,” he leered. So no, then.

So that’s it. All the housemates were in the house.  What next? Channel 5 cut to shots of them chatting awkwardly, looking like the delegates at the annual luncheon of the Didcot Chamber of Commerce.

Send help.












Strictly – the quarter final

Strictly Come Dancing the quarter final

Musicals Week, hurrah!  But before we embark on our Strictly journey, take a moment to remember the man, the legend, the sheer, er, balls, that is Ed:

In the great steaming pile of shite that is 2016, Ed was a weekly two minutes of joy. Now at something of a loose end since last week’s Strictly ejection, he has said he has no plans to return to his previous life in politics.  Very wise.  Let’s face it, if a tangerine fuck-knuckle can make it all the way to the White House,  the public affairs bar is set way too low for a man of Ed’s talents.

Dress watch: Tess in a split bin bag, Claudia in an Ann Summers’ nightdress.  4/10. Must do better.

The show kicked off with Anton Du Beke yelping an abomninable ditty specially penned by Strictly’s music producer Matt Howes, who should be taken out and shot.  The only distraction from Anton hitting all the wrong notes was his unfeasible, decayed satsuma-coloured hair.  Presumably Anton is mates with Paul McCartney and Silvio Berlusconi, both of whom use the same orange hued dye. Embrace the grey, Anton.  And never sing again.

Once I’d taken my fingers out of my ears, I was able to focus on Ore and Joanne,  who danced the Foxtrot to ‘Pure Imagination’ from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with Ore as Willy Wonka.   It was truly lovely, but I’m afraid I’ve led you astray with my previously stated conviction that he would win the competition.  He won’t.  Hey ho.  This is why I don’t win the Lottery, folks.

Next, Judge Rinder and Oksana, who danced the Samba to ‘Oh! What a Night!’ from Jersey Boys.   I have loved Rinder ever since the moment when, waiting to find out if he was in the dance off, he was caught during one of Tess’s interminable pauses mouthing “Oh COME ON.”  Alas now Ed has gone (obligatory two minutes’ silence) he is the weakest link.    I missed some of Rinder’s dance due to a brief spat with my daughter who objected to my asking her to unglue herself from her iPhone and pour me another Aperol Spritz – what are offspring for, if not to keep one’s drinks topped up?, but what I did see looked fun.  Not good, but certainly fun.

Louise and Kevin danced the Quickstep to ‘The Deadwood Stage’ from Calamity Jane.  Louise’s characterisation was brilliant, although there was far too much out of hold and she messed up the timing. Len, of course, managed to bugger up his bon mot: “Never mind the Deadwood stage, you could be on the, er, um, er, the West End stage!” he burbled, like a grandad at Christmas, unable to get his knock knock joke in the right order.

Claudia and AJ danced the Salsa to ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ from the Lion King.   It was a frantic routine, the teeny twosome bopping like toddlers high on Ribena and Tangfastics at their 12th birthday party.  “Well, that was HIGH ENERGY!” shrieked Darcy, who kindly refrained from mentioning the final lift in which AJ lifted Claudia over his head and wore her like a hat, something I hope never to witness again.

Finally, Danny and Oti danced the Tango to ‘One Night Only’ from the musical Dreamgirls.  Danny was excellent at the start of this series, and is still excellent, although his footwork went awry several times.  He’s too much of a tailor’s dummy for my taste, but there’s no denying the man can dance.  He’ll probably win.

The show finished with a knock-out West Side Story routine from the professionals that mercifully did not include Anton singing.  If only Ed Balls had been in it, it would have been perfect.





Strictly – Blackpool!

Strictly Come Dancing Blackpool

It’s that week.  You know, the one where everyone pretends that they want to go to Blackpool.  They don’t, of course, but part of Strictly’s charm is pretending to like things when you patently don’t.  Ed Balls, for instance.  There must be quite a few contestants who would like Ed to be knocked down by a Blackpool tram, but nobody says so because that’s not the Strictly way.  Not me.  I’m 100% #teamballs.  Er, #teamEd.

Yes Blackpool, the “Vegas of the North”.   People say that. They really do.


Blackpool is usually where the novelty act gets booted out, so this week could be the end of Ed’s Strictly run, but then, in a world where a hamster-crowned kumquat can be voted the leader of the free world, who knows?

Claudia and Tess maintained current hideous dress form, Claudia dressed as a 1960s primary school teacher in navy polyester, Tess in a red confection that probably looked okay until the caretaker’s cat mauled it.

Up first were Claudia and AJ, dancing the Jive to ‘Hey Mickey’ by Toni Basil, a song I hated in 1981 and didn’t sound any better in 2016, as it was murdered by the Dave Arch singers.  In typical AJ style it was fast, probably too fast for Claudia, who went wrong right in front of the judges.  Len was on hand however to provide reassurance, and his customary unfunny word-play.   “Verr woz no takin’ the mickey wiv that darnce!” he yelped.

Peter Kay turned up to read out the terms and conditions and was funnier in his allotted 90 seconds than any other comedian manages in an hour.  Behind him, the dancers giggled wildly and Claudia gave up any attempt at control.

Next up, Ore and Joanne danced the Viennese Waltz to ‘That’s Life’ by Frank Sinatra. I have tipped Ore to win, but I am now going to hedge my bets and say Ore or Ed. (Now Ed will be voted out. I am rubbish at predictions.  This is why I haven’t won the Lottery.)  Their dance was gorgeous, notwithstanding the extra dancers milling around the floor which I find an annoyance, not an enhancement.    There was a fleckerl that went on for a week and a show-stopper of a finish.

Louise and Kevin danced the Paso Doble to ‘Explosive’ by Bond.  Louise has gone from tentative “don’t look at me” to full-on hoofer and it has been a joy to watch.  Their Paso was passionate, dynamic and perfectly choreographed.  Even Craig liked it.  Just as it seemed as though the judging panel might all say something informed and constructive, Len blasted through their measured intelligence like an ice cream van fuelled by amphetamines: “Ar woz blown away on the beach diss mornin’! An’ arm blown away nah!”   Shut up, Len.

Danny Mac and Oti (love her) danced the Charleston to “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Gregory Porter. He was supposed to be playing a waiter, but was dressed like a circus ringmaster; no matter, it was really, really good.  Her choreography was terrific, a sort of American Smooth Charleston, and although Danny looked a bit knackered in the middle section, there was no denying it was a full on performance.   Craig gave it his first 10 of the series.

Ooh Ed Balls and Katya! They danced the Jive to ‘Great Balls of Fire’ by Jerry Lee Lewis. The Jive is where many dancers trip up (literally) but my worries that Ed’s dancing would be flatter than a platypus nailed to the floor were unfounded.  There were genuine kicks and flicks in his routine.  Of course the judges have now given up attempting to provide any form of critique because he is just fun to watch and the public love him.  His marks were rubbish of course.

Next it was Greg Rutherford and his huge bottom, dancing with Natalie to the Quickstep to ‘Hand Jive’ by Sha Na Na.  Greg looked nervous throughout, skipping round the dance floor like a kangaroo keen to let the townsfolk know that young Barry Dingwall had fallen down a disused well.

Finally, Judge Rinder (now spray tanned to a shade known as Donald Trump Max) and Oksana who danced the Salsa to “Spice up your life” by  – do I really have to tell you?  I LOVED it.  Lots of hip action, and Rinder unable to stop himself singing.   He and Oksana really seem to have struck up a genuine friendship.  Craig, amazingly, loved it.  “Hip-tastic, dahhhling.  I think I’d like to call you Judge Grinder.”   Darcy gave him The Look.


but Craig was unapologetic. Len whinged about piffling detail relating to footwork, but Rinder was too happy to care.

Will this be the week that results in Balls being buried at Blackpool?  I’ve no idea, but clock that alliteration.

Strictly – Halloween!

Strictly Come Dancing Halloween

I bow to no-one in my love of the BBC, but their copywriting stinks.  Cop an eyeful of this drivel:

“Want to see an Olympian practicing witchcraft, or a TV presenter playing an evil shopkeeper? How about a couple of comic book villains giving us a chilling Charleston, or a Lady Gaga song turned into an eye-popping Paso Doble? Of course you do. So grab a toilet roll, do yourself up like a mummy, and get into the spooky spirit.”

Grab a toilet roll? God’s sake. Hey Beeb, give me a ring. I’m way better than the dudes you employ who churn out this deathless prose.

Anyway, to the dancers.  Halloween night is usually a florid rat’s nest of ludicrous props and holy-crap-the-kids-have-found-my-all-my-lipsticks face paint, as pros and slebs alike camp it up more than a Carry On film directed by Liberace.  This year’s stuck fairly close to tradition.

For anyone missing, or at least recently discharged from hospital after playing, Bake Off Bingo,  there’s always Strictly Halloween Bingo to keep you warm/ease you into an alcoholic coma.  Neck a double everytime:

  • Someone (and when I say someone, I mean Tess or Len) says “spooktacular”
  • Ditto “frighteningly talented”
  • Ditto “scarily bad”
  • Len smugly delivering the line “there woz plenny of tricks anna few treats” or variations thereon
  • Craig referring to Ed Balls as “a horror show” or variations thereon
  • Len telling us all that the Rumba is hard for a man
  • Anastacia pretending to be pleased Brendan is back
  • Tess wearing an appalling dress.  Oh hang on, that’s every week.

In a case of supreme bad taste, the opening group number was to “You Spin Me Round”, a hit for the recently deceased Pete Burns.   The Beeb rushed out a statement blithering on about it being a tribute, instead of admitting they hadn’t had time to choreograph and rehearse anything else.  Tess and Claudia appeared, Claudia in her usual flapper-meets-shapeless-sack affair and Tess wearing her nan’s bra and net curtains she’d dyed black for the occasion.

First up, Louise Redknapp and Kevin Clifton, dressed as Suicide Squad Lite, dancing the Charleston to the ill-advised Emeli Sande version of ‘Crazy In Love’, one of the worst songs ever recorded.  I thought it was dull, but the judges loved it.   Maybe I need new glasses.  Maybe THEY need new glasses.

Judge Rinder and Oksana gave us their Paso Doble to Gaga’s Born This Way.  He was a moth, she was a butterfly and it was tremendous fun.  Their gapping would have allowed a small mini-van to drive between them, but there was bags of theatrical energy and I loved it.  Even Craig liked it.  Rinder looked delighted and squeaked with pleasure.  I’d rather watch him than tailor’s dummy Danny Mac any day of the week, but each to their own.

Claudia Fragapane and her partner AJ, who is taking part in this competition to pass the time until he’s allowed into big school, gave us their American Smooth.  It’s difficult for tiny people to pull off elegance, not least because when in hold, teeny Claudia looked like a baby mammal clinging to her mother rather than a sophisticated foxtrotting dancer, but again, the judges loved it.

Oh God, giant ego Brendan and Anastacia in one of the unfunniest VTs of the series.  “Aal this bat training has got me burble burble burble Aa hope Aa wone bee wingin it” she drawled.  At least she had the grace to look embarrassed.  They danced a flat-footed Jive to ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ by Meat Loaf.   Darcy wiffled on about confidence and failed to mention Anastacia’s kicks and flicks had all the sharpness and energetic action of an elderly bear wearing Ugg boots.

Danny (tailor’s dummy but very accomplished dancer) and Oti (fabulous) danced the Foxtrot to ‘Take Me To Church’ by Hozier.   An interesting choice of music for a pagan festival.   Their VT was one of the worst-acted in the entire history of Strictly, ever.  How is this man a paid actor? Sorry, what’s that? Oh.  He’s in Hollyoaks.  That explains it.   Danny messed up but he’ll still make the final.  He won’t win though.  Ore will.

Laura and the sweating Italian Giovanni danced the Tango to The Rolling Stones “Paint It Black.”   They were all kinds of wonderful; sexy, passionate, snapping heads – a real tango, in other words.

Ore and Joanne danced the Charleston to the Bow Wow Wow version of ‘I Want Candy’.   Now this was a routine about Halloween I could get on board with, that is, one that was all about stuffing your face with sweets.  It was utterly bonkers, tremendous fun and incredibly fast but unfortunately he missed a lift, there was hardly any swivel and he got out of sync for a couple of seconds.  But hey, it just wasn’t his dance.  And imagine how dull it would be if he was brilliant every week.  I am, in case you were unsure, a huge Ore fan.

Greg Rutherford danced a rumba to ‘Bring Me To Life’ by Evanescence. Natalie, a woman who has always resembled a robot until her partnership with the Olympic gold medallist, gave it her not inconsiderable all.  Greg did a lot of “acting” and the choreography was fast, faster than most rumbas, possibly to cover up the fact that the rumba content was almost non-existent, Greg’s hips needing a couple of cans of WD40 to get them moving even a centimetre.  It was all performance and zero technique,  a critique which reminded at least one viewer of an ex-boyfriend.  Darcy sympathetically told Greg that “rumba is hard for a man”.  DRINK, EVERYONE.

Daisy and Aljaz danced the Paso Doble to Santa Esmeralda version of ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, that well-known Halloween anthem (me neither).   She wore a fantastic dress (I care about these things, shut up), the Day of the Dead make up on both was outstanding and they danced a Flamenco-based Paso that was truly exciting to watch.

Finally, Ed Balls (Ed Balls).  Hurrah!  Craig has awarded him two points each time for the past three weeks, and I felt worried that his Cha Cha would bring a new low with only one point.  Latin is not Ed’s friend.  But they danced (minced would be more accurate) to the Hansel Martinez version of ‘Love Potion No. 9’ and bloody hell, it was great!  Not in a dancing sort of way, you understand, I’m not mad.  “I absolutely loved that,” said Darcy, puzzled.  “There was actually quite a lot of cha cha.”  She looked as though she needed a lie-down and a Valium.  Len, of course, was keen to impart his not at all scripted wisdom. “It wozzunt soopa, and it wozzunt natrell, but it issya best darnse.”  Craig awarded him a four and laughed like a loon, Bruno lost his head and gave him a eight, and the nation ran round its sitting rooms in delight.  Nobody can quite understand the Ed phenomenon, but if I might be allowed to put forward my two penn’orth worth, these reality competitions are now crammed with people who have stage/performance/acting creds, if not dancing ones, and total novices like Ed are rarer and rarer.   Which is why we take them to our hearts.

OMIGOD Ed wasn’t bottom of the leaderboard, either.  That humiliation was occupied by Brendan and Anastacia, who have surely outstayed their welcome.

Next week, everyone quacking on about how badly they want to go to Blackpool.  Which we all know is absolute rot.