An Evening With G&T


I am insanely excited for this.

You’re all watching Happy Valley on BBC1, of course, so you’ll know George Costigan is one of its stars (and star of a ton of other things, including Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Calendar Girls).  And so of course, OF COURSE, you know that it’s written by the inestimable Sally Wainwright.  And you all know of Tim Pigott-Smith (Jupiter Ascending, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, V for Vendetta). 

And I’m getting to share a G&T with G&T (see what I did there) at the Square Chapel in Halifax, on Sunday 28 February.  Whoop!  George and Tim are patrons of this wonderful cultural hub, and they will be giving an exclusive performance of some of their favourite readings from plays, prose, poetry and songs, including Alan Bennett, Randy Newman, Willy Russell, Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, Dickens, Michael Frayn and Malcolm X. The award-winning screenwriter and fellow patron Sally Wainwright (Last Tango in Halifax, Scott & Bailey and Happy Valley but then you know all of this, how can you not?) will contribute a brand new short piece towards this evening.

Tickets are priced at £25 (£20 for Friends of Square Chapel) + £1 online booking fee.   There are few left. Do yourself a favour and buy one.



We’ll Always Have Paris


Somewhat ironically, words cannot express my job at receiving a review copy of Emma Beddington’s first novel, We’ll Always Have Paris.

Emma is perhaps best known for her excellent blog,  but before all that, she was (she says) a bored, moody teenager who came across a copy of French ELLE in the library of her austere Yorkshire school. As she turned the pages, full of philosophy, sex and lipstick, she realized that her life had one purpose and one purpose only: she needed to be French.

I’m almost finished reading it and my full review will be published here very soon.  But I can tell you that already I know it to be wonderful and when it is published in April you are in for a treat.  Pre-order here

The Great Sport Relief Bake Off – ep. 2


For a variety of reasons (okay, one reason, going to the first meeting of the new Harrogate WI, no, I don’t know myself anymore either) I missed the first episode of the Great Sport Relief Bake Off.  Nothing, however, was going to stop me from watching this week’s, mainly because of my giant girl-crushes on Victoria Coren-Mitchell (VCM)and Kimberley Walsh. I love Kimberley, and still feel aggrieved on her behalf for being ROBBED of the Strictly trophy two years ago.  ROBBED.

Anyhoo, moving on. Signature challenge? Bake 24 muffins which must be identical.  Jennifer Saunders was very keen that the bakers understood this.  I’d have preferred Jen to appear as AbFab’s Edina, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

Blokes were Chris Camara (sports commentator, apparently) and Ed Balls (#edballs). Chris was making sultana (bleurgh) and banana muffins, with a touch of cinnamon. Ed  was making the same, but his had yoghurt in (double bleurgh, although to be fair, yoghurt can work as a kind of wet cream of tartar, so fair enough). Kimberley made strawberry cheesecake muffins because she is a goddess, and VCM made Bloody Mary muffins, involving celery (meh) and vodka (get in). VCM is ace, and should be my best friend and teach me how to play poker.

VCM spent a great deal of time staring worriedly into her oven. Perhaps she should have ditched the muffins altogether offered Paul and Bezza several shots of vodka instead. Everyone knows Bezza likes a drop of the hard stuff.

Judging time. “The muffins should be well-risen, beautifully flavoured, and neither tough nor soggy,” intoned Jen. Chris presented his muffins (no innuendo).  My daughter looked at them with disdain. “Sultanas ruined everything.”  Paul wasn’t impressed either. “They taste like paint.”   Ed’s were more successful. “A pretty good muffin.” Meanwhile, Kimbers’ efforts had sunk, but nil desperandum. “The flavour is FANTASTIC,” Paul announced, ignoring the muffin and looking adoringly at Kimberley’s false eyelashes.  VCM was told her muffins did, actually, taste like a Bloody Mary.

Technical challenge: football pies.  Football who the what now? Double crust, filled with mincemeat, onions and peas, with a football “design” on the top, apparently.  Everyone looked taken aback, but carried on gamely.  Meanwhile Bezza and Paul discussed supporting Liverpool (Paul) and Everton (Bezza).  Nobody had any idea how to make pastry well, apart from Ed.  “Add two egg yolks, and small splash of water,” said Kimberley, reading the instructions. “How much is small splash though?” wondered Chris.  Ed looked smug.  Chris didn’t know what clingfilm was. Seriously? No, he didn’t.

VCM said her eyes watered when she chopped onions, and so donned a huge pair of sunglasses, immediately resembling Roy Orbison in a kitchen.  Ed baked his pastry case blind “just for five minutes.” (No need Ed.  Just saying.) and pratted about with hexagon-shaped bits of pastry that looked like flowers, not footballs, but I like Ed so I’ll say no more.  Ed’s pies experienced spillage (still no innuendo), and VCM’s pies looked as pale as a Jane Austen heroine with consumption, because she’d forgotten to glaze them.  She slapped on a bit of egg yolk glaze which worked a treat.  Alas, Chris’s pies looked like roadkill, several days after the Ford Fiesta had flattened the carcass.

Kimberley’s pies had what she described as a “sort of” football on the top, with nice and thin pastry. Chris’s roadkill was under-seasoned. VCM’s were described as “a nice bake” and poor old Ed’s were both under-baked and collapsed, and lacked seasoning. Ed looked as disappointed as the other Ed just after David Dimbleby announced the winner of the General Election.

Ed came fourth, Chris third, Kimberley second and VCM in first place. Who would win the whole thing overall?  It was all down to the show-stopper, a three-layered cake representing an extreme sport.  Chris started making an “extreme bodyboarding” cake. Riding shallow waves is the most extreme of all the water-based sports, innit. His boarder looked like a corpse on a banana.  Kimberley recreated Mount Kilimanjaro in cake form, in memory of her Sport Relief climb a few years ago. It looked sensational.  Ed made a complicated ski jump cake, complete with a fondant Eddie The Eagle and a snowman that resembled a penis.  VCM went for a “round the world sailing” cake with, she explained, “the taste of the sea”.  This turned out to be nothing more sophisticated than insane quantities of salt in a blue mess.  “I’ve done a slightly rubbish cake,” she said, ruefully. Stick to vodka and cards, Vic.  That’s a winning combination in anyone’s book.

The judging.  “All of them have been baked beautifully,” smiled Mary.  Kimberley won and everyone applauded heartily.  You know why Bake Off is such a success? Because nobody is mean, or needlessly cruel.  Everyone has a laugh, helps each other, and treats it as the good fun it is.   I love it.