Just about Saturday

I know it’s late but BB called and asked me if I was tired. When I said no, and I should have seen it coming, she asked me to collect her from her University halls so she could finish her essay at home tomorrow. I couldn’t say no, had no excuse, and anyway – it’s lovely to be asked and good to see her. So, off I went in my little red Nellie. Half way down the M25 the frigging roof blew off.

I felt like I was in a cartoon with a big massive falcon snatching me from above.
In the event it was just the catches that had come undone. I don’t know why or how, although I was travelling a bit fast. Alright, maybe a little faster, but I had a girl to collect, a petrol tank to fill and three programmes on the telly to watch. No, not ‘Marmshjeyg Krapklposefuteb’!

When I hit Lewisham, there was a huge traffic jam – at 9.30 at night! By the time we got home and had eaten my rather marvellous curry, it was ten before midnight.

I mixed lamb and beef in a marinade of yoghurt, hot chilli, coriander and garlic, then sweated down some onions, browned the meat and added water. Thank you, Manju Mahli. Her recipes are brilliant, simple and easy to follow. Check out her recipe books ‘Brit Spice’ and ‘India with Passion’. Well worth the money.

By the time I arrived home with the child and all of her smelly washing, Jim had put the rice on, Patsy Kensit was sitting on Jonathan Ross’s stomach, and the curry was perfectly cooked.

But now it’s over to you.

Dear, dear Marmite girl, you know who you are. Yes, I do mow my own lawn before the gardener comes. Hardly a gardener. More a little chap with a rucksack and a dream of horticulture. His name is Dominic and he does a good job of pulling me weeds. But my lawn is my thing. It is a meditation. I think as I walk up and down and up and down.
When I mow North to South the view is of the golf course and oast houses. When I mow South to North it’s the hedges of Johnathon’s garden next door. If I mow East to West, it’s the cottage walls, and if I mow West to East it’s the studio at the end of the garden and the fountain I had put in by two girlie gardeners years ago for reasons of feng shui.

Now, I know that feng shui is regarded by some as faintly ridiculous, but when you hear that The Bank Of England had their offices feng shui’d and that Chinese banks have their land feng shui’d before they build on it. Well, it does make you wonder. Anyway, I had our fountain built when we ran out of money.

Apparently our cottage is a ‘hungry ghost’. All the good chi flies up the stairs, goes straight into the bathroom and right down the toilet (or should I say lavatory). So, you could say that all our good fortune was being flushed away. When the bank statement arrived it was not only our good fortune that had been p…ed away. So, I borrowed money and put gushing water in the wealth area. Theoretically it’s meant to encourage flow of money. Anyone who thinks it’s a load of old codswallop, put your hands up now. No, not you, Jim! It worked actually. Now we only use the lavatory half as much as we used to!

After my lawn mowing I took my jacket into the cleaners. It made me sad because my lovely Angelina used to do all that stuff for me – I had other stuff to do.

Then I went to my cranial osteopath. His name is James Bibby, and he knows I am deeply potty about him. He is young enough to be my son but old enough to fix my body’s broken bits. He lays on his hands, the knots untangle and the stress dribbles away. Stuart Korth’s practice is the last charity that Princess Diana was going to lend her name to before she died. The practitioners work on children and adults and I swear if it wasn’t for the likes of Stuart and JB, and all the other brilliant cranial osteopaths, a lot of us would not be walking around to tell our tales. And I mean that quite literally. They are a charity so please support them if you can. Bless you Bibby.

In answer to those who have heard that I am coming back in the Autumn, those jolly chaps at UKTV are ever so naughty as nothing has been agreed. I don’t know what they are offering. And anyway, by the time September rolls around I may be working as a lap dancer in an Armthorpe working mens club… But rest assured (Carole) – I will not start singing. This fat lady is keeping as quiet as possible.

I am still recovering from Bruges.

We stayed in a delightful hotel called Ter Brughe, recommended by the very delightful floor manager, Ali Day, and her husband Kevin. We stayed in a room overlooking one of the canals. The lights worked by turning the door key once to the right in the plug in the wall. We forgot to do it so halfway through a trip to the bathroom the lights dimmed and the world went dark. I thought it was the Belgians being coy.

We arrived on the Sunday and hauled our case over the cobbles. Eurostar was dead simple whilst the train from Brussels to Bruge was even simpler. But we needed the walk into Bruges itself. No TV ariels, no satellite dishes. Just fantastic architecture. The house tops look like something out of a Walt Disney cartoon, with stepped roofs and brick chimney pots. I am not an architectural buff but the skyline made me want to be.

On Sunday night I felt like meat. No, not me literally. I needed to eat some flesh so we went to an Argentinian restaurant. The waiters were swarthy, the shelves were dusty and the meat was off. Oops.

All Monday my poor husband was throwing up lumps of rib eye and wishing he was dead, whilst I sat on the window sill, watching the ducks, reading and wishing I was dead. By five in the afternoon Jim had eliminated his last steak and felt well enough to walk through the city, but only as far as a bar that sold 400 beers. The women were surly and the bill far too large.

Tuesday faired better, the sun shone and we had a ride in one of the city’s famous horse and carts. The coach driver was a young blonde thing who was going to be a photographer but decided on being a coachman instead. All year she grooms the horses, lovely ex-racers, and takes folk around the city. Stopping after ten minutes to let the tourists off to take photos of lace and tapestry and all the Japanese tourists who are taking photographs of the tourists who are taking photos of…

Jim and I are great wanderers so we wandered back into the old town and had a beer opposite the only wooden house left standing after the great fire hundred or so years before. Having toured the brewery, we were ready for conversation. A couple from Sheffield sat down next to us. He was a steel welding fascist who admired Hitler, rolled his own and had taken the ferry from Hull to Zerbrugger for his 51st birthday. His female companion had bought gifts from C&A for her daughter. They both liked Bruges for it’s quaintness, cleanliness and, best of all, there wasn’t a ‘paki’ in sight. Which is precisely why I didn’t really take to the place.

It’s tidy and well presented – a bit like a museum. It doesn’t feel real. A community without colour and diversity doesn’t appeal to me at all. Although we did meet a lovely Kosovan who told us that Bruge had saved his life. He had lived there for eight years and nothing had changed. The sameness made for a safe, ordered existence. Indeed, the safeness was extraordinary. Everything closed up early. Some didn’t open at all, and some chose to sleep all day on Wednesdays. Our Kosovan friend said if we were to come back in another 8 years he could guarantee that everything would still be the same. It’s a bit scary.

Later on Wednesday we walked through the market with its stalls of fresh fruit and veg, cheeses and meats. That was fabulous. We took a boat trip through some of the canals, went under the lowest bridge and through the oldest. 600 years and still standing, as indeed we were, after our meal of mussels the night before. The restaurant knew its stuff, open for fifty years but now with a new manager – female and perfectly balanced. The table cloths were yellow, the wine list comprehensive and the menu stylish.

Jim chose mussels in white wine and cream. I had mussels in the aphrodisiac sauce. Which didn’t mean truffles and cow dung but little red peppers with a lot of celery. Two glass bowls were placed on the table for the debris. We each had a big silver saucepan dumped in front of us. I burnt my right arm on the rim of the pan, then my left, Jim just his right. The chips arrived with three different dips and Jim chose a crisp cold Berjerac to go with them. It was a tasty, tempting meal. Jim and I talked as we threw our empty mussel shells into the bowls. Chucking molluscs at each other makes for a really good night out. The restaurant was between The Bruge and The Mark called ‘Breidles du Conink’ but it’s not open on Wednesdays. Book early.

We went to a Salvador Dali exhibition, visited loads of churches, stroked lots of Carrera Marble and had coffee in a a cigar and coffee house. It was a good break.

Would I go back? Probably not. After the beer and mussels, what then? The folk are grand but I prefer a hotter temperament. I am, after all, a blooming Russian peasant with Yemenite overtones. But I was aware that my appreciation of the place was only due to GFL.

I have learnt how to appreciate good food and wine. I have learnt how to cook and eat my mussels, how to sniff wine and taste it, and how to be totally grateful for those lovely five years with people who nurtured me and helped me through: everyone from the wonderful Lady M, otherwise known as Juliet, who made a silk purse out of a sows ear and introduced me to real drinking, to the one and only Elaine Bancroft and Nikki Cooper, who literally made me who I am today and, oh, here I go again. It sounds like an Oscars speech, but I miss them all.

Bruges was okay but GFL was better.

I’ve gone all soppy.

Thank you for signing the petition. I can’t believe you can find the time.


15 thoughts on “Just about Saturday”

  1. Oh darling. We can always find time for you! Jeni, you’re so special to us. We’re more than your fans, we’re your friends too and we really do care about you. So you go as soppy as you like! You will always be our Miss Barnett, the mighty chomper of old London town!
    Love as Always

  2. Jeni, I can`t thank you and GFL enough for giving me my obsession with food! Please come back soon.

  3. Hello Jenni,
    Now that GFL has finished (tradgedy)I have a bit of time on my hands when I finish work at 6pm, so after some consideration I decided to create my own interpretation of GFL and dedicate it to you. So…. I have dug a vegetable patch in the middle of of the lawn and have planted peas, beans, herbs, spinach and lettuce (Great Food Live – get it!?) And I have ceremoniously named it the Jeni Barnett Veg Patch. I’ll let you know when I harvest my first Jeni veg!. 6pm will never be the same again.
    Lots of love Helen

  4. Hi Jeni, loved the blog today, I will give the Argentinian a miss when I go to Bruges in May, seething myself today, was in a one act drama competition last night, and we wuz robbed …so the audience told us after which kind of makes it worse eh?
    If you need any more meditation I have a very overgrown lawn here in South Wales you would be very welcome to use.
    Lots of love Marmite Girl (even my friends are calling me that now!!!)

  5. Hi Jeni,
    Firstly may I say you are sorely missed.
    Just read your comments on Brugge. I went there a couple of years ago with my husband and wondered if it was just me who thought the place was souless. It’s a place only to be visited once. I found most of the shopkeepers very surly.
    Hope to see you back soon.

  6. Bruges sounds a bit iffy. I hope you do come back to our screens in Autumn, if not far sooner. You are much missed, dear lady. Much missed. Who’d have thought that someone we, as a viewng public, would never meet, could become so important to us? A friendly face, even though at a distance?

  7. Jenny….It’s time to think of a new programme for you and I think I have come up with a good ‘en….No!! Don’t delete me….listen!
    The Hairy Bikers with you as thier “Momma” touring the World doing what you all do so well…them cooking and you eating……you in leather sitting in a sidecar would send the ratings SOARING!
    If I win the Lottery soon I shall back the show….from my Palace in some remote place.
    Keep smiling….Ann

  8. Jeni
    I miss you – 6pm is no longer fun & other then the news there is now nothing to watch while we sit & eat our supper. We tried Market Kitchen but as you say the food takes second place & Tana Ramsey CANNOT interview guests to save her life!!!!
    You always did your research & asked the right questions for the short amount of time you had.
    I MISS YOU & ALLTHE CHEFFS – Please come back soon
    Nicola xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  9. Hi Jeni,
    Hope you are doing ok, sounds like you are – just thought it may cheer you to know that we are boycotting Market Kitchen and anything else UKTV Food may come up with until you are brought back. We miss you.
    Love Ian and Di

  10. hi jeni
    really enjoyed reading about your trip to bruges…..used to live in spain and watched you then……now back in uk after illness so won’t be going abroad again…. but after your evocative words feel like i have now ‘done bruges’ thanx…………
    this blogging thing is wonderful… …ordinary people all over the world ‘talking’ to each other about their daily lives…..no need for politicians and wars!!!!!!
    people like the welder you met will be increasingly shown the real world where love and acceptance are the only way forward…………..
    haven’t yet been able to bring myself to watch m***** k****** so uktvfood has not been on in this house since you ‘left’
    take care…keep writing, please
    love sue

  11. Dear Jeni
    I love reading your blogs,since I’ve been booted out of my job it’s the first thing I do every day, cheers me up no end. I once met you at the Henley Food Festival and you were so kind to me, although you had a busy schedule you made me feel as though I was one of your oldest friends. Thanks for that. As for the comments about you coming back to UKTVFood, one of the continuity announcers (yeah I know the technical terms, I used to work for the Beeb), said that you were going to be one of the judges on Local Food Heroes 2007. Did you know that?

  12. Hello Jeni,
    So pleased to have found this site. My husband and I went to Brugges a couple of years ago. It was our first weekend away from the troops for years and we had a brilliant time. The travel fairy was on our shoulder and guided us to the loveliest restaurants and bars. The sun shone even though it was early November and we were very pleased with ourselves. Thre was only one downside – the natives! Stodgy, bland and humourless in the main. Great fans of Market Kitchen so I hear! Anyway, I can’t tell you how much I miss you and the team on GFL. I have learnt so much from you all over the past few years and have so enjoyed your sense of fun and the intelligent, entertaining way you presented the programme. As a fellow Russian Jew (lapsed)I have enjoyed all the references and have always felt like a friend was talking to me through the television. So, if it’s true that you might be back on UKTV in the autumn with some new programme I couldn’t be more pleased, but whichever way it goes, I know you’ll find something perfect for your talents and I send you every good wish for the future. Carys x

  13. Hey Jeni
    Hope you are well! Missing you and GFL massively. I have also tried to watch the Market Kitchen and agree with the other comments posted here it is dull and boring. Cannot really make head nor tail of where it is going. Have just read the thread above about you returning and hope for all our sakes that you come back soon. Glad you had good break.

  14. Hi Jeni
    I just want to say that since GFL as finished I have boycotted UKTV Food and most definately will not watch Mabadwffagt Khfgghjjjkikdd.
    I think you are the best thing that has ever graced our tv screens. I cannot wait till you are back on tv making us laugh.
    You used to make me laugh everyday (in fact you still do with your blogs)even though i couldnt cook and can’t due to the fact I suffer from Cerebral Palsy and use a wheelchair. I have picked up lots of handy tips and lovely recieps that my family use. Myself, My Mum, Sister and Nan cried when the last episode of GFL was aired and miss you loads.
    Take Care
    Love as Always

  15. Have just found your blog thanks to uktv message board. Its great to read all the latest news Jeni. Miss you and GFL so much. MK is rubish.When are YOU coming back to our screens?
    Take care LOL
    Sylvia xxxxxxxx

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