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Friday, 27 November 2015

A day at the BBC Good Food Show Winter 2015

Well, what a day at the BBC Good Food Show Winter 2015 at the NEC in Birmingham yesterday... a day of food, glorious food. A day of watching the celebrity chefs, a day of fervent food tasting, people watching, present buying...all human life and foodie temptations are there.
There's hundreds of stalls - some large, some small and some quite beautifully staged and arranged that draw you there....
For example The Port of Lancaster Smokehouse

and The Garlic Farm from the Isle of Wight. I just had to buy some garlic to plant in January. I did taste a few garlicky sauces too...which were lovely but thank goodness, I was prepared . I had a tube of my mints in my bag.


Some stands attracted me because of the sheer beauty of their Merangz.

And this one, Patchwork Cutters...where a woman was decorating the most beautiful cakes
Whereas other stands caught my eye because of their name.

No, I didn't have a slug of  the sloe gin, it was before midday....but many others were knocking back the gin, prosecco, wines, cocktails, and other fairly lethal looking concoctions with gusto all day.

It's always good fun to people watch at the Good Food see those whose eyes dart here and there, their antennae on full alert as they spy free samples. In they dive, elbowing others out of the way...before moving on to the next stand.

In one hall, the World Of Cheese Awards were taking place , and I spent a fascinating ten minutes watching the judges deliberations. With around 2,500 cheese to taste, it was a slow process. Everything was tasted in a very considered manner, with nods if liked, slight shakes of the head if not, and of course there was some conferring.

The general public wasn't allowed into the area during the judging, but if I'd have stayed there any longer I would have jumped the safety barrier , fought my way in and grabbed a few of the cheeses myself. And I would have had to question the judges.

 This weekend though, you can book a cheese tour  around the judging tables and there are lots of cheese talks too.

Luckily there were plenty of cheese stands to buy from yesterday
It's so encouraging to see so many local producers of fine foods there, to see someone new, and to find new tastes and flavours.

But back to people watching, and there were plenty of opportunities to sit down and watch the celebrity chefs .The more I see of Michel Roux Junior, the more I like him. He talked openly and honestly on the Lakeland Interview Stage about his life, his favourite meals ..the relish in his voice and his smile as he said his favourite food is chocolate , was quite charming. And he's so good demonstrating different dishes....

And another chef who amused her audiences was Lorraine Pascale. I like her recipes because they really work. She impressed me with her relaxed cooking demo with life stories in between. I knew she had been a model. but didn't realise she had trained to become a car mechanic, (too cold in the garage), a hypotherapist (too boring) before she finally trained to be a chef and found her forte.

I also saw the ever reliable, ever lovely Phil Vickery too...but  one thing struck me  about all three...Lorraine, Michel and Phil...they're all quite skinny, which I think is decidedly unfair.

This weekend at the show, you'll be able to watch Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry. Tom Kerridge, James Martin, Brian Turner and so many more all strutting their stuff, and tempting everyone with their recipes, and their books.

And talking of being tempted, there were so many lovely gadgets and appliances on show...some which I didn't even know I needed, but it's a given  that I shall be back to buy a couple at the next show!

What's also inevitable as  I walked back to the car park, is watching others wandering around  the car parks  having "mislaid" their cars. Feeling smug, I walked straight to mine, but then disgraced myself by getting lost as soon as soon as I left the NEC exit. Again....

Friday, 20 November 2015

A frivolous, happy Friday until....

For the last three years or so, Laura, Susie, Fiona and I have met up for a Friday fizz night, We meet most weeks's a lovely start to the weekend with nibbles, ice cold bubbly prosecco or sometimes champagne. We laugh a lot, we support each other if something goes wrong, and what 's talked about in our Friday night fizz gang stays with the gang.

Last Friday was different, we were saying goodbye to Laura before she flew off  to live in the States, and as we wouldn't be seeing her at Christmas, we would exchange presents.

So I turned up at Susie's ....and found Laura sitting beside a Christmas tree. In November - an old naff Christmas tree which Susie's Mum was throwing out. Susie shrugged..."Well, I haven't bought one yet, and needs must", or words to that effect.

And in addition to the usual nibbles such as olives, pate, crackers, cheese, bread etc, there was a Christmas cake.

There were even crackers

 We  gossiped all evening, while Laura made impromptu decorations  with the corks from the bottles of prosecco and ribbons from the crackers

And we giggled and laughed, making the most of what would be the last time we would see Laura for months.

And then Susie's husband came home, saying "Had we heard the news about Paris?" We hadn't, but switched on the television and couldn't believe what we were watching. The murders of so many who were innocently enjoying a night out.

I thought of my cousins who have both left Paris in recent years. Alexandra, husband Leo and their children were safe in Lyon, and Claire was back down in the South of France. Thank goodness....

Of course, the impromptu Christmas party in November ended shortly afterwards could we carry on laughing and being frivolous ? We kissed Laura goodbye and wished her well ...

 On Saturday morning, I woke to the news that the death toll had risen to 129.

 I began to cry, for those who never got to say goodbye to their loved ones, and who will never see them again.


Thursday, 19 November 2015

The day the crane collided with a cross

Usually, there's sky to look at as I gaze through our newsroom windows. And as I walk to the window, I can look down at Jubilee Square , which is a piazza with trees, walkways and grass.

But for the last couple of days, all I 've been able to see is this.

It's a Wheel of Light, a large one at that and it 's been erected in time for the Christmas Lights switch on here in Leicester. From the window, the 110 foot high big wheel it looks rather lovely

I love the arcs and angles of the metal catching the light against a blue sky...

And I walked back into work yesterday after driving across the county to do some interviews, I admired the reflection of the Wheel of Light in the glass at the entrance to our BBC building.

But, the morning before, Jim Davis, the breakfast presenter and I had been discussing what was going on outside as the crane and workmen were working away to get the big structure into the sky. Storm Barney was gathering pace and we both agreed that it was very optimistic to be putting something so huge into the sky on such a blustery, gusty day.

Well, that was it we thought, and when I left work that night , I was too busy being blown about in the wind while scurrying to the car park to notice that anything was amiss.

But there was, because that evening there was an incident...involving Leicester's historic High Cross monument standing adjacent to the crane and the Wheel of Light.

A monument which used to look like this

This column was one of eight pillars arranged in a circle which held up a dome shaped roof  and gave shelter at this very spot from the sixteenth century. In the photo above you can see the stone ball and the gold cross which glinted in the sunshine....well, it did until Tuesday night, when the crane smashed into it.

So I didn't have to walk very far to my first story of the day yesterday. The poor High Cross looked very sorry for itself, and by the time I left work last night, it looked even worse, illuminated by some of the lights of the Wheel of Light.


Luckily though, all the pieces were retrieved, and are now safely under lock and key, and stone masons are already deciding what to do.

The Wheel of Light opens on Sunday, and there will be hundreds of visitors wanting a ride on it to look out  over the city - I just hope they give a thought to the historic, but battered High Cross by its side.


Friday, 13 November 2015

the day we planted an oak tree

"So what are you doing this weekend then, Bridget" asked my friend Tim at the end of a meal to celebrate Diwali last Friday.

"Oh this and that...but tomorrow we're planting the Jubilee tree in our village" I replied casually.

Tim was intrigued..."oh, what jubilee are you celebrating?"

When I told him we were marking the Queen's Jubilee, he burst into fits of laughter asking if there was a time warp in our village - after all, we were three years late .

I suppose we are a bit behind with the tree planting, but we did have a lovely lunch on the village green at the time of Her Majesty's actual Jubilee (click the following link)

And we have a lovely tradition of planting Jubilee trees in our village. We planted one to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee way back in 1897, and it stands proud on our village green.

Tim wanted to know why there was such a delay.

 I'm not sure, I know we did have an oak tree.....but it was mislaid. Before you ask how is it possible to lose an oak tree, I have no idea...but it was. Then there was the question of where to plant it and that took a fair bit of discussion. And by the time another tree had been found, it was the wrong time to plant it etc .but Tim still thought it was hilarious, until I reminded him that the Jubilee Square in Leicester was only finished last year, two years after the actual Jubilee too.

Anyway, last Saturday, the rain was lashing down in the village, and the wind was howling, blowing leaves off the trees already planted around the village. It really was a foul day. But by 1pm, the time of our gathering, the rain had stopped. We were all in the village hall, fortifying ourselves with hot soup and rolls.

That's one thing we always do well  in our village. Food. We love our bring and share events in the village, and on Saturday,there were home made soups of every persuasion.... tomato and basil, spiced parsnip, roasted red pepper and butternut squash soups. With plenty for everyone....and then we were off to the hedge beside the village hall for the ceremony itself.

Phil, Reg,Mark and Reg had dug out the land before and done most of the hard work the day before,

so it was up to young Oliver, to firm the ground around the tree...

And he showed Gabriel how to do it...

Iona however decided she didn't need a spade and used her bare hands.....

while the grown ups clapped and then chatted, catching up on all the news....

And even the youngest villagers were there to join in...

And we all took home our hand designed and decorated bone china mugs which had been specially commissioned a few years before by Georgina who also organised our tree planting day....

OK, we may do things differently and at our own pace here in our village, but it was good to meet up and mark the Queen's Jubilee. Once again, the day reminded why I love this village so much,  and it will be interesting to see this oak tree grow and thrive in the years to come.


Sunday, 8 November 2015

A day of drawing with wire

 A trip to an art gallery? Oh yes please! A mooch through all the arty books in a bookshop? But of course....

I'm interested in art, so why was I always so awful at the subject  at school? Well, I've never been handy with my hands, and paint never seemed to go where I wanted to. Slapdash and inept. Drawing was a no no too...I could weep when I see a beautiful drawing , knowing that I could never ever create a thing of beauty.

I was talking about this very subject a few weeks back at one of our book group lunches.
"Nonsense!" said Sue firmly..."Everyone can draw".
"Mnmm, I thought, "not quite everyone." Sue was a fine art lecturer at one of our local universities and she's a very talented artist who is adamant that anyone could produce something.

So that's why on Friday morning, there was a knock on the door and in walked Sue with plastic boxes full of stuff, ribbon beads, you name itshe brought it. And four of us settled down in my dining room on a dull and wet day, for a drawing with wire workshop. No paint, just wire, pins, and paper. Oh, plus coffee, tea , a banana loaf and a batch of  biscuits I'd  knocked up an hour before,to kick off the session.

Sue showed us the basic technique, of drawing an outline, or using a templateof a fish, flower, insect, whatever we chose...and showed us some she had made earlier....

We set to work with a will, laying wire on paper, using pins to anchor the wire. Josephine in green , chose a chicken, Laura who isn't photographed, chose to do a dragonfly....

And I chose a goose

You're probably doesn't resemble any goose that I've seen walking around, but do you know what?  I don't care, it was such a relaxing, carefree hour, not thinking of anything else, just sitting quietly with my friends, creating something. And that's the whole point according to Sue, who says drawing with wire is an alternative way of drawing which takes away your inhibitions.

It was the process that was the interesting part....and we couldn't believe an hour had flown when we stopped for more coffee and cake.

Sue was right, it was lovely to just create something,  and she has promised me that she will get me drawing. And I think that she will do. Although I can't forget that "oh, I can't do this because I'm not good at it" feeling that I constantly had during art lessons at school, I'm not let it going to stop me actually trying from now on. And if others want to laugh at my goose or whatever else I produce, let them.
Besides I have every confidence in Sue....her paintings are beautiful and just take a look at what she does with her wirework.

And two of my favourite pieces are these....ethereal, wirework sculptures mounted on wood which, inspired by seed heads from Sue's garden, sway like flowers in the breeze.

I think they are breath taking...

Sue regularly exhibits her work and runs workshops and you can e mail her at
In the meantime, it may take some time before I can stun you with something of mine which is as captivating, but I'm going to be having fun!