THE NEWSDESK: Fabulous baker boys just take the biscuit

BACK TO BAKING: Winner John Whaite, left, with presenters Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry and fellow contestants James Morton and Brendan Lynch

BACK TO BAKING: Winner John Whaite, left, with presenters Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry and fellow contestants James Morton and Brendan Lynch

First published in News South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

IT HAS been bad enough to witness the “journeys” being undertaken on the X-Factor and The Voice and Strictly Come Weightloss/Career boost, now we have to witness grown men almost having a breakdown over a sponge.

When it began, the Great British Bake Off seemed the sort of TV which would avoid the pitfalls of other types of talent contests by virtue of it springing from the Marguerite Patten stiff upper lip world of make do and mend and minimising food waste.

There we were, post-Jubilee street parties and post-Olympics flag-waving, ripe for another experience straight from the 1950s world of floral tea sets and recession- proof macaroons, only to be faced with men having a hissy fit over their bread-making or pastry having a soggy bottom.

There has been a lot of tosh written in the Press this week about how men who bake are sexy – not if they are going to have a breakdown over their jam tarts.

We women are looking for the strong, silent type of baker who can whip up a chocolate fondant without fuss and nonsense. All the hyper-stressing and gazing into the oven door while knotting the corner of an apron does nothing for most of us.

I do, however, love judges Paul ‘Badger’ Hollywood and Mary ‘None Of Your Nonsense Thank You’ Berry, permanently unfazed by the disasters they are asked to sample and the strange, lurking presence of Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. And as 7.2 million people viewed the all-male final this year, won by 23-year-old law student JohnWhaite, it’s unsurprising that the Americans now have Badger and Berry in their sights.

Rumour has it that network CBS are interested in “snapping them up” and exporting the show to the States.

The format has already been sold to Denmark and Sweden, and is a hit, and there are plans to make versions in Belgium, Poland, Australia, Ireland, Norway and France.

It’s successful precisely because this is a get-on-with-it type of show.

So next series, let’s not spoil it with more tear-jerking back-stories, selection of high-maintenance contestants or emotional “journeys”.

That would fair curdle the milk in our Darjeeling.

We’re skint but insist on life’s little luxuries

IT SEEMS that even when belts are being tightened, we Brits are not prepared to give up on what we think of as our “essential” pleasures.

A new survey by LV shows we are not prepared to forego our holidays, meals out, trips to the cinemas and takeaways. Forty-four per cent of us considered a holidays or weekend breaks as “essential”, with British households spending £83.3 billion on them between August 2011 and August 2012, £1.8 billion up on the previous 12 months.

Twenty-seven per cent of us said meals out are “essential”, a spend of £20.2 billion, 22 per cent said the same about TV subscription (£8.1 billion), 18 per cent thought the same about both haircuts (£4.5 billion) and a night out in a pub or bar (£12.1 billion), 17 per cent about takeaways (£12.5 billion) and 15 per cent about trips to the cinema (£833 million).

And 14 per cent of us thought eating “premium foods” was one of life’s little essentials, Brits spending £7.3 billion on them in that 12 months.

Crossing takes its toll on the Welsh

I WOULD love to know just how the government has accrued such massive maintenance and building debts from the Severn Crossings that the toll would have to remain at its current level when it returns to public ownership, as UK transport minister Stephen Hammond said last week.

Wasn’t the running of the bridges given to a private company for all these years precisely to recoup the building costs and ensure they were properly maintained?

So what exactly has gone wrong? It’s not as if there isn’t a monopoly on crossing the Severn, and I have yet to see an empty toll plaza when I have used it despite the frankly painful level of tolls we now endure.

It will simply continue to be a tax on being Welsh.

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