Thursday, 27 October 2016

GBBO 2016 - Let's All Bake On!

Well, that's it then.  Bake Off has finished and Candice is the new champion.

Congratulations to her, she certainly deserved to win, as week after week she produced ever-more elaborate bakes - the detailed recreation of her childhood pub home, complete with sticky carpet, was a particular highlight.

The final was close though, and I thought Andrew might just do it, but unfortunately his sausage rolls let him down.

Sadly it means that it's also time to pack up the fancy Neff ovens, Kitchen Aid mixers, the pots and pans, fold up the tent and the gingham altar of baking perfection and head to Channel Four, with only Mr Hollywood for company from the original line-up.

Since the announcement that Bake Off was leaving its spiritual home on the BBC, I've watched the remainder of the series tinged with more than a little sadness.

Sorry, but it doesn't matter who replaces Dame Mary, Mel and Sue, it just won't be the same.

I may give it a brief look just to confirm my suspicions, but even if they do manage to lure French and Saunders as a swap for Mel and Sue by dangling carrot cake and large sums of cash, I can't see anyone being able to replace Mary.

Mary, the yin to Paul's yang (or vice versa), the voice of calm and reason when all around is collapsing like a soufflé which has had the oven door opened too soon, her gentle words of encouragement and the ability to find something positive to say when, quite frankly, a bake looks like I've made it - who can replicate that?

Maybe Delia, Nigella or even Candice - could they be the answer to Channel Four's Bake Off prayers?  How would they get on with Paul, would there be the same chemistry as he had with Mary? 

I just hope that somebody at the BBC has been smart enough to commission another cooking show with Mary at the helm, ably assisted by Mel and Sue - Let's All Bake On.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

I say Honey, you say...

There's a question that's been annoying me.  I'm sure I'm not alone, so I'm going to open up and discuss it with you all.

In the great scheme of things, I know I really shouldn't care.  But here goes - is Honey G a real 'urban artiste' or is it somebody creating a joke character in the style of Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G?  Could it even be David Cameron in a wig and baseball cap?

I only ask because I really don't know.  I'm wondering if she's going to rap her way to the final and then be transformed into an opera singer or something.

I was actually quite cross when she made it through to the X Factor live shows at the expense of talented singers like Janet.  We've always had to sacrifice good singers for the so-called 'entertaining' acts like Wagner, Jedward and Bratavio.  Bratavio's Aqua/Vengaboys mash-up was pretty awful, I'm not surprised they've been voted off. 

But, and I almost can't believe I'm admitting this, I actually enjoyed Honey G's performance during the first live show.

She looked like she was enjoying herself, not taking it terribly seriously, and even more surprising, she appeared to be singing in tune too.  I could even get behind the 'I say Honey, you say G' refrain.  However, she needs to prove now that she is not a 'one trick pony' - she really can't put that into every song week after week.

I'm not sure what categories have survived through to the new X Factor jukebox which supposedly randomly chooses the following week's theme.  I think it will be a great surprise if Fright Night isn't on the Hallowe'en weekend.

We used to have Big Band and Abba weeks.  Now we have 'Louis Loves', which makes me wonder what horrors we will be subjected to when the wheel of fortune selects that option.  I imagine Boyzone and Westlife's greatest hits will feature prominently - the prospect of Honey G singing 'Flying Without Wings' is enough to keep me tuning in!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

'Killer' clowns in the UK

Whose stupid idea was it to import the sinister clowns from the USA?

That's another thing to add to the list of things of which I'm scared.  Not satisfied with a roll-call that already includes spiders, heights, any furry creatures smaller than my hand (mice, rats etc), snakes, worms and slugs I now have to add clowns.

I've never been keen on clowns, although they haven't made my list before now. 

I didn't like Ronald McDonald - probably why I hadn't eaten a McDonalds before the age of about 16, that and the fact that's when they opened up in Kettering town centre I imagine.

Then there was the BBC testcard girl with the chalkboard and her clown that used to appear when your TV service was playing up - thanks for bringing that back in Life on Mars just as I'd managed to erase that particular memory - so double freak out, your telly's not working properly and there's a clown staring at you.

But this new craze brings a whole new level of terror.  Seriously, who thinks that it's ok to dress up as a clown - which ranks as one of the most common phobias in the UK anyway - and then either jump out or chase some unsuspecting member of the public down the road brandishing what may or may not be a real weapon?

What if they surprise somebody with an underlying heart condition and then that person has a heart-attack and dies?  Suddenly a prank turns into a manslaughter charge.

I've heard unconfirmed reports of somebody locally dressed as a 'killer clown' sitting on a swing in a children's play park singing nursery rhymes.  That's not funny, that's not clever - it's just creepy and weird and could mentally scar a young child. 

There are some things that just shouldn't be imported from across the Atlantic.  Donald Trump's 'locker room' attitude to women is one, so-called 'killer clowns' are another.  

Chris Packham, a Brazilian and a penguin

I'm quite a fan of Chris Packham.  I remember him and his extravagant peroxide-blonde quiff from The Really Wild Show many years ago.

This show also fascinated me because of the other presenter, Terry Nutkins, and the fact he'd had part of his fingers chewed off by an otter.  I think until that point I'd thought that otters were quite cute and cuddly and wondered if they would perhaps make nice pets - I very quickly had a re-think.

I tuned in to Nature's Weirdest Events on BBC2 not quite sure what I was going to see, as the whole set-up is quite eerie and Chris stalks about like he's going to unveil Frankenstein's monster or something.

But I was glad I did as this programme contained one of the most heart-warming stories I'd seen in a while.

An elderly Brazilian man found a starving oil-soaked young penguin on the beach near his home.  He brought him home, carefully washed his feathers and fed him.  When he was strong enough, the man returned the penguin to the ocean and set him free.

But the penguin found his own way back to the house, and stayed for a few months before disappearing again.

Experts think that the penguin heads back to Patagonia for the breeding season, and then comes back to Brazil to spend the summer with the man and his wife.  He does this year after year, without fail.

The penguin and the old man are inseparable.  Their friendship is remarkable, and they are devoted to each other. 

There was a lovely picture of the man, his wife and the penguin sitting on the sofa having a cup of tea together - although just to clarify, the penguin didn't appear to be partaking in a cuppa, but he was sitting with them looking very comfortable much like a pet dog or cat.

It served as a reminder that the friendship we can have with animals is genuine, as that kind of loyalty cannot be faked.