Photos: Radio Times and the Daily Telegraph and Touchstone Pictures
Similarly devoted #TheArchers fans will not have been able to move for (tasteful) nudey photos of the female cast of the show in Lyndy Snell’s production of Calendar Girls, this year’s Ambridge Christmas show, which will be broadcast on the wireless this weekend.
Last month’s London DumTeeDum tweetup, that featured LovelyDeadNigel a.k.a. Graham Seed, was abuzz with talk of a corresponding tastefully-shot naked calendar featuring some of us Tweetalongers. Even yours truly was asked – I assumed they were joking – but I even considered it for a little while, soon realising that prior commitments, amongst other things, would prevent me from taking part. Not to worry though, because even before that tweetup, @Dumteedum had managed to garner the services and studio shots of about nine willing volunteers. Having seen Ms @Jojosexyheels‘ putative contribution, I know I could never match up.
Reassured that the incipient calendar will not be filthy smut but, rather, done in the best possible taste, I await the ordering details. It will go well in my pantry, though it’s a little chilly in there for long-term baring of flesh.
In case you have just returned from another planet, Calendar Girls was a stage play and film about Women’s Institute women from all walks of life raising money for their local hospital by producing a calendar of tasteful nude shots. Actually I think I was at a stage in my life when I used to fall asleep whenever I entered the warm, dark environment of a cinema so I can’t say I remember much about the film.
Lots of people have a go at this every year, from Pirelli to the French Rugby Team, most of whom seem completely unabashed when displaying their all for the camera, but I think I’d be a bit more modest. It got me to wondering about what I’d use to conceal my assets if I were to pose for this sort of calendar, all in a good cause, of course.
Maybe it would be a tray of the infamous brownies that never go right or, as I might prefer, a music stand holding an opera aria score. Maybe I’d be concealing my chest with a filigree fan. More likely I’d be behind my ironing board, iron to shirt. If I can do it, perhaps my friends might. There might be, say, a friend holding sundog training dummies; someone with a casually-slung saxophone. Perhaps another friend would use a strategically-placed hairdryer to conceal her embonpoint. Another might have a spreadsheet showing companies that had been rescued from going bust.
Who else is there?
One friend might pose behind a magnum or two of Champagne; another might be carrying a bowl piled high with Tabbouleh. There would be several carrying laptops and at least one friend might be standing behind a baptismal font. Some would be holding little dogs or a cat – very carefully; some might be sitting behind sewing machines or microscopes or wrapped in an academic gown. The picture in my head – always far more vivid than the pictures in front of my eyes – is vivid and true. Each woman is smiling with confidence at the camera, knowing she is doing a good thing.
Have you ever considered doing a nude photoshoot for a charity calendar? If so, what would you use to maintain your gravitas? How would your friends pose? Or perhaps you would just not bother with props and stand there in all your naked glory like some of those French rugby players. What do you think?
Leafing through my signed copy of Simply Nigella, it caught my eye: the Date and Marmalade Christmas Cake that tastes of a fine Christmas pudding, apparently, that Quakers used to say was “The invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon.” Obviously, that sounded to me like a challenge.
So today, dear Reader, I made it. A strange confection, gluten free, dairy free, with a base of fruit and nuts, with coconut oil and eggs. Naturally, I somehow did not have the requisite 20cm Springform tin, though I could have sworn I had one a few days ago, so I improvised with one of those parchment liners from Lakeland that I happened to have in the cupboard. (All my baking tins are in a cupboard in the utility room as even my new kitchen has no space for them. Nigella, apparently, has a whole wardrobe dedicated to baking tins, for the same reason.)
It seems to have turned out OK though I don’t think anyone will be eating it until at least Christmas Day afternoon, so I’ll have to report back. The idea of using coconut oil has intrigued me, though. In India it’s been used since the beginning of time as a skin lotion and hair conditioner, and my mother used it on her own long hair. I remember the bottles of solidified oil warming up to melt on the radiator behind the telephone table in the hall at home. I hated the stuff because I didn’t want to reek of it. How funny, then, that it’s become such a fashionable superfood now.
I have vegetarian guests over Christmas and one of my tasks over the next few days is to make mince pies – I never buy them. I use a combination of butter and white fat for the shortcrust pastry but I’m not happy about using hydrogenated vegetable oil so recently I’ve used lard. Which is, of course, not acceptable for vegetarians.
So I wondered whether I could substitute white fat for coconut oil. People like @VeganNeil, who should know, have pointed me in the direction of sites that use coconut oil for pastry crusts so I think I might well give them a go to satisfy my curiosity if nothing else. I’ll report back when I do.
And another day, another batch of brownies. This time, after many, many years, I finally used the correct sized pan. I added 8 minutes to the woefully inadequate 25 minute cooking time, let them cool completely and they were STILL runny in the centre and had to be saved by microwaving them. I wonder if my brownies will ever turn out properly.
Behold a card from the family of a man with whom the OH used to work about 20 years ago. He lives in upstate New York, commuting distance from Manhattan and, when we were in more regular contact, he was already doing very well for himself.
We get a card from them every year, and it’s our only contact. Awkwardly, I never know whether or not to reciprocate: we’ve never met their children and I think they might have met the BW only once, as a baby.
I have pixellated the faces because you never know who’s looking.
I think this year’s offering is particularly strange. You’ll notice that, despite the white snowflakes, it doesn’t even purport to be a Christmas card. It’s not even red. That Happy Holiday is more postcard from a lovely holiday spent catching big fish, I’d say. There is another fish on the reverse and the 12 year old child appears to be winning a race in the other picture.
So what is the intention of this card? It’s not a Christmas (or “Happy Holidays“) card at all, is it? It’s like a postcard cum newsletter (people use cum to mean / in India all the time) cum smug Round Robin with minimal input. Why on earth would you send someone a card like this at Christmas time, especially someone with whom you last had meaningful contact decades ago?
I am perplexed.
I have been a devotee of Nigella Lawson’s writing for years, since way before her cookery books, when she wrote a column for the London Evening Standard. I have most of her books (Domestic Goddess and Feat are my favourites) and I have written before on this blog about how convinced I am that the world divides into two sorts of people: followers of Nigella and disciples of Delia.
The exception that proves this rule is @Annette1Hardy who probably has all the cookery books ever written. I see them all, colour coded in a large galleried library like that of Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady and she spends half an hour at the very beginning of each day whizzing around smoothly on a mobile ladder singing to herself while she decides which book she’ll choose for the day. Or something.
Whilst I have respect for Delia as a teacher of recipes, I have none of her books. I might be doing her and her good, standard, basic recipes a huge disservice here but, to me, food is about much more than nourishment and fuel for our bodies.
What has always attracted me about Nigella Lawson’s approach to food is that she’s never been afraid to revel in its sensual pleasure. The people I know who sneer at and express their disgust for her are invariably those who have seen her on TV and feel uncomfortable at the suggestive nature of her conspicuous enjoyment of food. And, let’s be honest, what does that say about their approach to other good things in life?
Yet in tonight’s conversation between her and Diana Henry at my children’s school, she pointed out that she doesn’t do any of this stuff on purpose. (I have only ever seen a half on one of her programmes so I’m not really in a position to judge them, but I have read what she writes on food and I totally agree with her.)
I am against the worthy, virtuous Puritanism that looks down upon people who enjoy good food. Generally these thin-lipped, scowling negative types turn out to be prissy and judgemental, so anxious to prove that in refusing to indulge themselves, they are so much better than those who do.
To them, food is merely fuel. It’s not a shared ritual of coming together to indulge our senses and nourish minds and bodies with food that has been prepared taking time and love. (It doesn’t need to be a huge, stressful effort, either.) I know people like this and there’s no reasoning with them. They just don’t get that it’s good to indulge your passions and pleasures, probably because it makes you into a more interesting person.
I’m not expressing myself well tonight, am I? Upshot is: we went to a book-promotion evening at our school where Nigella Lawson was being interviewed by Diana Henry, whose food writing I have yet to experience, and it was captivating.
There is no alchemy involved in being a good cook, to buy mind. You just have to have a little imagination; to be able to read and to be able to follow instructions and pay attention. It is Nigella’s approach – her books and recipes are like having a reassuring friend in the kitchen with you – that made me first experiment with steak and kidney pudding, which I would never have introduced to our diet if I hadn’t seen a Nigella recipe for it.
And, to those people who saw an article bemoaning the ticket price of this evening in the Daily Mail: she is obviously far more popular than you’d credit: there’s probably a reason why the evening was sold out.
Well, it might be a Thing in the USA, that quiet day between Thanksgiving (always celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November) and the weekend, when people are so busy sleeping off their turkey and marshmallows and yams and whatnot that they cannot bring themselves to stir from their vast and beautifully-upholstered sofa to go shopping, and therefore must be tempted with seasonal sale bargains to go and buy stuff. No, I get all that, and hats off to the Americans for having it there. It must be a relief to know exactly which day you’re going to aim to do all of your Christmas shopping. Not in any way an added moment of panic and stress to angst-filled Advent.
But it is NOT a THING over here. Why? Because we DO NOT CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING here in the UK. Maybe we should. I often think it would be nice to take a day out of the hectic maelstrom of life and simply enjoy a day being thankful for all I have. Perhaps an earnest and sentimental open-your-heart expression of thankfulness (to whom?) wouldn’t really be the done thing in this country of restraint and stiff-upper-lippery.
We do not celebrate Thanksgiving here so Black Friday should not exist, you’d think. There should be no excuse to go and behave badly in shops. Does no-one remember that the only permissible occasion for this to occur is on the opening morning of the Harrods Sale and then only once, for the cameras?
And yet, this year my email inbox is flooded by organisations trying to sell me stuff at a discount. I even saw a promoted tweet today that referred to Special Offers for THE WEEK OF THANKSGIVING. How ridiculous. In my view, there’s more of a case for a post-Diwali gold sale in this country than for Black Friday.
I shall not be indulging in Black Friday bargains online, as ASDA or elsewhere.