It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting in the front room watching Glow Up with Things 1 and 2. Even my Beloved is quite enjoying this one, although he has taken a break to go and pickle some beetroots in the kitchen. Thank heavens one of us is a domestic goddess, eh? I have the same feelings towards beetroot as I do towards boiled eggs: I don’t eat them so I don’t need to know how to make them. I was deeply mentally scarred by beetroot in primary school, where it was served cold with spam and lumpy mashed potato, and the beetroot juice turned everything a uniform shade of bright pink. And, it tastes like damp smells. Ugh. Anyway.
So, Glow Up. We are obviously late to this particular party, and we’re definitely not wearing enough slap, but it’s the same basic format as the Great British Sewing Bee/Bake Off/Pottery Throwdown/etc where there’s a set of challenges and someone goes home in tears at the end and talks about how much they’ve learned and how they’ll nevereverever forget their new best friends. This one has the rather irritating Stacey Dooley in presenter mode – as far as I can tell, she’s basically Ross Kemp with more hair and less war zones. If Ross Kemp did hospitals and homeless people instead of wannabe warriors, that is. She does seem to have found a niche, and good on her for that, but her constant use of the phrase ‘please may you’ gets right on my nerves. She also says ‘haitch’ instead of ‘aitch’. It’s a no from me.
We are enjoying it, and it’s nice to have something that 2/3 of the Things will watch happily together which isn’t a badly-dubbed Netflix thriller or a terrible teen romance angst movie. There’s always one contestant that you really want to go home in the first week and every time they survive a ‘face off’ you get to shout at the telly, and when your favourite survives you get to cheer. Thing 1, as I said the other week, is off to do Theatrical and Media Make-up at college in September, so she’s finding this interesting; I, on the other hand, am just stunned at the sheer amount of make-up these people feel they need to wear, filled with wonder at what people do to their eyebrows, and boggling at the lip fillers. The young make-up artists are proper drama queens, and at least one rushes off in tears in every challenge which doesn’t impress the judges. It’s unprofessional, apparently.
Bake Off is Thing 2’s favourite and she can get very critical about people’s Swiss Roll swirls at times. She loves to bake and experiment, and is a dab hand with meringues as she proved with a pavlova for my birthday barbecue last weekend. It vanished in minutes: perfectly crispy on the outside and melty in the middle, it was a hit with everyone. Bake Off always has a bit more of a competitive edge to it, and the congratulations are sometimes delivered through gritted teeth.
Not so the Great British Sewing Bee, which I am hopelessly addicted to. The latest series finished this week, and for once I was absolutely in agreement with Patrick and Esme about the winner. I have had my doubts in the past and on at least one occasion they have been plain wrong and I wanted a recount. Once Annie had found her feet she was brilliant, and some of her garments were gorgeous. Man Yee was also fabulous, and I’m so pleased she made the final along with Debra – Brogan shouldn’t have been put through, as her Origami outfit in the semi-final didn’t meet the brief. At least it wasn’t gingham or floral though. I loved Debra and her model in the final, slipping in and out of Welsh as they chatted. The contestants on GBSB are always ready to help each other with techniques and figuring out strange instructions, and I love the way they all hold hands as they find out the results each week.
The Great Pottery Showdown is another favourite: I adore Keith Brymer-Jones and the way he cries when he really loves something. The dynamic between Rich Miller and Keith is great, and the critiques of the challenges are so thoughtful and constructive. Siobhan McSweeney should present everything, preferably in role as Sister Michael from Derry Girls with full sarcasm. The last series, where at one point pretty much everyone was in tears, was great. Again the contestants are kind to each other, and that’s such a lovely thing to see. If you haven’t seen Derry Girls, it’s wonderful: funny, sweet and candid. Binge it now.
I was sorely disappointed by The Great British Dig, however. With that title, I had visions of a set of amateur archaeologists and some very neat trenches, and the best find of the week (Roman villa, King Arthur, Viking burial, Saxon hoard etc) would get to stay and the one who only dug up two plastic soldiers and a ring from one of those eggs you used to get for 10p from the machine outside the paper shop would get sent home. Anyone whose trench had a soggy bottom would get be haunted by the ghost of Mick Aston or something. This was not the case: what we got was a bunch of people putting holes in suburban flower beds and Hugh Dennis being smug about stuff. I think my version was better.*
You can keep your Love Islands and I’m a Z-lister, too. Maybe just put them all on an island and just tell them the cameras are on. Pop back in a year and see if it went all Lord of the Flies when they ran out of bronzer.
(I’m really not a big TV watcher, despite the above: unless I’m ironing or GBSB is on, if I’m on my own I won’t turn the TV on – give me music or a podcast any time if I’m working on something, or I’ll be reading if not. On the tube I’m listening to The Socially Distant Sports Bar, which is wildly inappropriate for children and does tend to cause me to laugh out loud. Mike Bubbins and Elis James can reduce poor Stef Garrero to helpless giggles. Don’t be taken in by the name, this podcast is like two hours in the pub with your funniest mates and while sport does occasionally get mentioned there’s a lot more to it. Go on, you won’t regret it. It’s very sweary though. Very sweary. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Speaking of competitions, another highlight of the week was the Conference News Agency Awards 2022 event this week. My friend, swimming buddy and all round fab person Isla kindly invited me along to join her company table – I’ve been freelancing for her for five years or so, helping out at awards and conferences, and I remember her making the leap and starting up her own events business. She survived the pandemic by shifting online, diversifying into online events and experiences, focusing on sustainability. The company, We Are FTW Ltd, was nominated in the Small Agency of the Year category and Isla was so convinced she hadn’t got a chance (there were 10 nominees in this category) that she didn’t bother listening to the announcement. Her face when the presenter said ‘And the winner is…. We are FTW Ltd!’ was the perfect picture of disbelief.
The event was themed around Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and the welcome reception featured strawberry daiquiri bubbles, edible balloons and cocktail mists which were great fun, but making the young women staffing the stations wear aprons printed with ‘I’m delicious, lick me!’ was a little weird…. Miriam, who also works for Isla when she’s not being a performance life coach, wore her amazing steampunk hat and looked fabulous, and there were a lot of bow ties in the room. No one dressed up as an Oompah-Loompah, sadly. I wore some completely impractical shoes, we ate very small but delicious portions of heritage beets, beef short rib and a fluffy raspberry mousse, and the afterparty was great fun.
Other things making me happy this week:
- the final episodes of Stranger Things
- an afternoon at the school fete, sharing my stall with Thing 2 and M’s no. 1 daughter
- Launching the new Adventurers Assemble! assembly at one of our favourite Tower Hamlets primary schools: time travel, space hoppers, missing objects and a mission! Giggling kids and teachers, you know it’s a winner.
- my new shed is finished and my old shed is accessible again!
*I also have a much better version of the second two Lord of the Rings films which would save us all a few hours.
Tomorrow I have to take Thing 1 to Westfield to do some shopping for her National Citizen Service thing – a week away sounds lovely, but they said I’m too old. Ah well. See you on the flipside.
What I’ve been reading:
Ingathering – Zenna Henderson
Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to British Birds – Bill Bailey
I Feel Bad About My Neck – Nora Ephron