I am, unusually for a working day, sitting in my kitchen. It is Good Friday. The British Library is closed, which is fair enough, as Good Friday is a bank holiday. I have too much to do to contemplate a day off, but I’m not angling for sympathy. To everyone who does get the day off, on full pay, I wish you a most excellent day (and likewise on Monday, which is Easter Monday, when I will be writing and filming Telly Addict at the Guardian just like it was a normal Monday). At least at home, I can drink my own coffee, and not pay through the nose for it.
Actually, of late, and to beat the system, I have been taking a flask out with me, charged with homemade coffee, which I then decant into a paper Peyton & Byrne cup in the Library canteen. There are polite notices up stating that only food and drink purchased on the premises can be consumed there, but I don’t believe this has ever been aggressively policed – at least, Library users are exactly the type to bring in their own sandwiches. Tupperware tubs are prominent, and, frankly, as long as most diners pay through the nose for Peyton & Byrne’s expensive cakes, I feel sure that capitalism ticks over. I don’t flaunt my not-bought-on-the-premises food and hot drink, and if I’m meeting someone, I always buy Peyton & Byrne’s coffee, and if the person I’m meeting is paying, I always have an overpriced cake too!
Talking of food and drink, I’m hooked back into Masterchef. I usually favour the Celebrity version for reasons shallow, but I reviewed the first episode of the new series of the Civilian one for the Guardian and haven’t been able to tear myself away. It’s formulaic, but some of the most comforting telly is, and Gregg and John move ever further into self-parody, but, again, it isn’t broke, so why fix it? (The irony here is that Masterchef has repeatedly tried to fix itself when unbroken, but aside from the impossible new “palate test”, this series is relatively untinkered.)
I was given the basic Great British Bake Off Learn To Bake book for my birthday earlier in the month, and I’m also watching Paul Hollywood’s Beard on BBC2 and finding him a stout and reliable tutor, so cooking is back on the agenda. I made this marbled chocolate banana bread at the weekend, which was supposed to be baked in individual tiny cake cases but I chose to do it in a single loaf tin. The result is not “marbling” in the elegant Baroque sense. But it tastes bloody nice. (Someone on Twitter asked if it was gluten-free. I’m afraid not. I have tried baking with rice flour, and various ancient grains, none of which truly did the job. The gluten is the protein that binds dough, and without it, you’re on the back foot. I avoid wheat for reasons of waistline expansion and maintenance of general energy levels, but I am not allergic to it, so when it comes to cake, it’s gluten or the highway.)
I’d read that you can freeze individual slices of cake, but never tried it before, so – after a call-out for tips and advice on Twitter – I wrapped them in tin foil and put them in a sealable bag. Yesterday I took one out, and by the time I was ready to eat it, it was as good as new. (Typically of Twitter, someone re-Tweeted my call for advice to food writer and TV cook Nigel Slater himself, who said, “It should work, but I’m no expert.” I was happy to report back to him that it did work, which makes me an expert.) When you’re baking to save money on shop-bought cake and biscuits, you have to learn how to ration. There’s a war on.
I should, by rights, have been in Glasgow last night, attending the studio recording of the final episode of “the Pappy’s sitcom” for BBC3, which as you know I script-edited. (I think it’s still called Secret Dude Society, but that may not be fixed.) However, it was being filmed in BBC studios, and the wrap party was also being held on BBC premises, so I didn’t travel up for what would have been, for me, a massive jolly, as the NUJ and Bectu were on strike from midday, over redundancies and “bullying”, and it would, for me, have been inappropriate. (It’s an entirely personal matter, and I make no judgement on anyone else.)
Anyway, I got a lot more work done yesterday and this morning as a result. As usual with these writer’s blogs, I cannot give too much away, but I have three comedies in development, currently, all at varying stages. Of the two pilots script that I’ve written, one, with C4, is written and delivered, and has hit a stalemate, but it’s not over yet. The other, for the BBC, was delivered last year and sent back for a complete overhaul – it’s the one that gave me writer’s block – and I have finished the second draft, which I wrote again from scratch, a blank screen. It’s almost ready to go to the broadcaster. The third comedy has only just been green-lit for development, and I’m carefully constructing a story breakdown with a production company before launching into the script. In comedy terms, I have three plates spinning. It’s all about keeping them from crashing to the floor.
I’m printing this picture in memory of Richard Griffiths, who died yesterday but whose passing was announced today. I feel certain it was taken at the first Empire Awards, which were in 1996, although I can find no record of the event to confirm it. I was definitely at the first Empire Awards, and the second, as a chaperone, and I had a terrific time at both, with various approachable film people, so who knows? I seem to recall a whole load of people connected with Withnail, so was there a special award for that film, or for Bruce Robinson? Don’t look on Wikipedia, as it’s not there. If anyone can help, I’d be grateful. I certainly jumped at the chance to have my meeting with Richard Griffiths captured on camera, and it’s a treasured Polaroid in my archive. Someone on Twitter pointed out that he can only have been 48 at the time, as he was merely 65 when he died. I am 48 today. Mortality is a terrible c—, if you’ll pardon the apposite language.
Two further things before I sign off:
Went to the cinema this afternoon – awarding myself half a Bank Holiday, as I’d completed my main writing task of the day by getting up at 6.30am – and after the trailer for A Late Quartet, starring Christopher Walken, I heard an older gentleman in the row behind claim loudly to his wife, “That’s Angelina Jolie’s dad!” (I resisted the urge to turn round and say to her, “It’s not. Don’t listen to him.”)
Now that we’ve seen the David Bowie exhibition, with all of his costumes on display, seeing footage of him on TV has taken a new turn. Catching the end of another repeat of BBC4’s Ziggy Stardust documentary (the one narrated by Jarvis), we found ourselves going, “Ooh, we’ve seen that cape!” and “Ooh, we’ve seen that fishnet vest!” It reminded me of my own dear Nan, who used to love to point out places she and Pap had been on holiday if they ever turned up on television. “Ooh, we’ve been there, Reg!” she would shout, if they showed, say, Minehead.
Happy Easter! I’m working, too, if it’s any consolation – I have got myself all busy for the weekend and so it goes. I also think it’s Sunday today because Other Half was off yesterday. Hmf. University General Holidays mean that he gets a Fri-Wed Easter break, too …
Well done for resisting the jolly (personal opinion agreed with from this end). And have you really been watching Mr Hollywood’s BEARD that closely? Does it whisper extra info and breadmaking tips … ? (Sorry: can’t resist, and now you’ll change the typo and I’ll look like some kind of maniac).
Keep up the good work and enjoy a few hot cross buns over the weekend.
Every time I see Paul Hollywood’s Bread written down, I see Beard, so that’s what it’s now called. An apposite mistake!
Marvellous. And it’s spread into our household, too, now. You’ve started a cultural meme!
wow, Paul Hollywood’s Beard makes some good lookin’ bread. I get that it’s apposite to you, and hopefully you intended it to be funny…hearty guffaws here. PH oozes the kind of confidence that I could imagine even his beard could host a show.
I may try to gluten-free-ify that beautiful bread. It’s more than just my waistline that cries for gluten free and now my wee daughter is showing signs of gluten intolerance. I have found a pretty reliable formula after trying to de-gluten most of my recipes from my little baking business. Calculate the flour components and whatever that number adds up to convert it to 2/3 buckwheat flour and 1/3 almond flour and add an egg to the number of eggs it calls for….also in this case I will add a banana too. Buckwheat flour is a high protein non-gluten flour and my new best friend. But it requires extra moisture to get a decent texture…so extra banana or sweet potato/pumpkin puree or shredded zucchini…depends on the bread. Almond flour is just finely ground almonds and require extra eggs to get a cakey/bready texture.
I wish I could dive in. I make for others four layer white chocolate cakes filled with white chocolate buttercream and fresh raspberries and lime zest and Belgian chocolate chip cookies and every kind of scone you can imagine…and I can’t eat a morsel of it without serious regrets later on.
Oh well. We adapt.
Congrats on your writing projects! I’m cheering you on from this side of the world. It’s the thing I most want to do for the latter half of my life…but also seems most impossible to do. I’m always inspired by those who “dive-in” and just do it. Well done and good luck!
Interesting about the egg – I eat a low sat fat diet to keep my cholesterol in check (it works for me) and have been experimenting with fat free cakes – eggs are less of a villain than the other fat one adds, and one extra egg manages to substitute for all the added fats in a sponge cake recipe I use and does very well. I’m working towards egg-free now as well. Wonder if you can add apple sauce to bread to get that texture that egg helps.