India can wait

What’s the worst I can do? Lie.

Well, it wasn’t exactly a lie. Somewhere deep inside my addled brain I really thought I would go to India but here’s what happened. For three nights I haven’t slept. I’m not saying I am the New Messiah, but when I rose this morning I knew that something had shifted.

I showered really early. So early that the dawn chorus was just clearing it’s throat. Then I jumped into my little car and set off for London. Don’t be silly – of course I got dressed first.

I have a two seater red Mazda MX something or other (I don’t care about that bit) with a soft top and a very good sound system, although Jim reckons his controls are better than mine. (What is it with boys and their knobs?) I clambered into my seat, put on a wooly Tibetan hat that makes me look like a very sad old meer cat, checked the time, 7.00a.m., and put my foot down.

It wasn’t exactly cold but it wasn’t warm either. By the time I reached Streatham, I’d thawed out. I arrived at the flat in time to check my emails (lovely people you are), strip the bed and change into my trainers.

Then I walked very briskly. So briskly that when the white van men honked their horns, I knew it was less about my hour glass shape and more about certain body parts wobbling and my little legs taking me as fast as they could. I arrived in Sloane square with 30 minutes to spare.

Read more

Courage mon brave

Okay, Good Food Live has finally been confined to the media dustbin. After five years of eating, laughing, interviewing, drinking, posing, munching, crying, learning, the new powers that be decided to take us off air. The set got cruddier, you could see the sellotape holding it together. From a meagre budget we were given pin … Read more

Good Friday

8.40pm on Good Friday. I have so many bunches of flowers I feel I am present at my own funeral.

The truth is we pre-recorded today’s show, and now I realise why.

After five and a half years, 5,942 recipes, a stable of exhaustingly generous chefs and a team of undyingly committed GoodFoodLifers, it would’ve been impossible to do it live.

The tears started on Wednesday when I recieved a bottle of Champagne and a card written by our Polish caff-ertiers. When they first started serving up breakfast not one of them had a word of English. Now they can argue with you, in perfect Blighty, about how much you owe on your tab. I cried as one immigrant to another.

When the wreaths started arriving, I was minus mascara. After make-up, fully painted, lashes as long as you like, and yet more flowers, I was still minus makeup. Poor old Carolyte had to be on hand with her makeup bag and a few well chosen shovels and trowels to reapply the camouflage – the old face needed re-landscaping every few minutes.

Read more

Ritualistic ablutions

I have over one hundred cookery books in the flat, and even more at home in the cottage, so when the Hairy Bikers Cookbook arrived on my desk, I was less than overjoyed at yet another tome I had to absorb. After the shows I have so much to do. I do think I am some sort of workaholic, which is why the programme coming off is a little scary. All that time to think about myself. Oooooee terrifying.

But whatever I do, I have my bedtime ritual which is always the same. Sometimes I brush my teeth, depending on whether Jim is around for a good night smacker, remove all my makeup, remove my pyjamas, put on my reading glasses, plump up the pillows slide into bed and read my notes and whatever book we are doing. So, apart from my teeth, it’s pretty much routine. But let me just tell you the routine of keeping myself televisual which is a pain in the proverbial.

I have a wonderful beautician, Amanda Day, who has her Chilstern Clinic in Tunbridge Wells. Every month I lie down on her chair/bed, she covers me in a blanket and then proceeds to hurt me. With enzymes, and potions, she sets about dealing with my ancient skin. Considering I have 83,000 tons of crap ladled on my face daily, Amanda does a very good job in keeping my derm and paciderm elastic. The ceiling fan whizzes round like a Moroccan bazaar – the cold air is theoretically meant to reduce the stinging. Yeah, and pigs might fly. New age music – a loose term – is played through the tasteful speaker, and then I lie very still until the stuff on my face dries – hard, and pinchy. If I move an eyebrow, it can make my face itch, so I remain comotose. The slightest twitch can destroy the calm. Sometimes Amanda administers reflexology on my feet, which does wonders for my soul and heels. By the time the concrete has been washed off, I am so relaxed that the car drives itself home.

Read more

Box, set and match

Richard Phillips cooked English lamb and liver, Nick Watts made sashimi with red mullet and daikon, Charles Metcalf brought in the booze, Paul Young provided the easter eggs and my body has gone into revolt. Just how many bloomin’ bits of chocolate can you eat? I have a cake waiting for me, made by Eric … Read more


The oosbind found out today that he is going to be acting at The Globe from the Bard’s birthday until October so, thank the Lord, we can eat from now until Halloween. Anybody that wants to see Jim will have to book tickets now, or transmute into an American tourist as they snap up the … Read more


Yes, I do have a life but Jim’s doing his last show night. I am all alone with the dog, who’s just had his freshly cooked brown rice and a third of a big tin of dog food. I don’t know what they put in that stuff but sometimes, if I’m in the right mood, … Read more


Well, it’s 1.01, or too-late-for-my-own-good.

The old man has just arrived home from Hornchuch where he’s been giving his Trinculo in the Tempest. I watched some TV after driving for two and a half hours from the centre of London, where I did a voiceover for an advert that I WANT. Sorry, I don’t mean to shout but we jobbing actresses have to take whatever we can get.

I didn’t know that Jane Asher, she of no middle name, started acting when she was five. She is of indeterminate age, a step grandmother, with a sylph-like body and a fab sense of humour. She made cakes on the show and all the time I wanted to ask her what she thought about Heather Mills, or as she was so aptly described in the paper recently as ‘that one legged charity campaigner’, but Ms Asher has class and discretion and she would never reveal what she really felt about anybody, and certainly not an act like Mrs Mills.

Longevity in the business does equate with how many people you have miffed. June Whitfield is renowned for being a lovely woman. My mentor Betty Marsden, of the same generation as Miss Whitfield, and the female voice in ‘Round the Horne’, pee’d off everybody she met. If she didn’t like them, she told the truth. She taught me to do that in both my acting and writing.

Read more

Friday morning

The alarm goes off at 7.00. I either meditate for 20 minutes or sleep for 45 or jump out of bed and ablute. This morning I slept. I am knackered from taking out my daughter, nephew and great nephew for supper. I did the minimal washing. You know, all the important bits. Then I walked … Read more

Jammie Dodgers

One of the best things about getting older is that you really do know what you are doing.

In today’s ‘wrinkle free, let’s pretend we haven’t lived for years in case we look a day older than 28’ culture we actually deny all experience. We’re turning into denuded rats without a grain of pain on our smooth uplifted faces.

I admit that I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t have many lines although I do have the down turned mouth which afflicts so many of us old peasant women. It makes me look sullen and miserable even if I am hysterical on the inside.

If I catch myself in the window of ‘Top Shop’, I grin – yes, inanely – or if I feel the scowl, I try and smile, even if it is only passing bus drivers who notice. Indeed, I do get that inner glow when the sewage truck comes to empty the cess-pit in the garden. I know the geezer with the pipe (his son used to learn cello with my daughter) so we always have a chat as he empties last month’s waste. He says I don’t look a day older. The reason I mention this is because today’s programme bore testimony to the good old, and I mean that – the GOOD OLD.

We had Jimmy Hill (Oh, behave!) on the show (he of the footballing pedigree) with his delightful wife Bryony. She talked about her gardening book, her painting, jam making, her breasts and her husband’s long career. It was quite a chinwag, which is exactly what she was. Probably one of the first ever WAGS there was, if ever the WAGS there is. But the point is that we all chatted so easily because we are old.

Read more