As the last fireworks faded in the sky above Buckingham Palace and the streets around it rocked and rolled with Queen lovers, one watched with mixed emotions. After two years of Covid, God knows we needed a break. After a year of political slush, we needed a leader to inspire. But did we really need to blow a small fortune on 70 years of regal life? Okay, it may not have cost a billion (Twitter is not a reliable news source, folks) but it certainly cost a lot and while much of the rest of the world continued to agonise over the hell going on in Ukraine, millions of Brits took to the streets in an orgy of paper crowns and sausage rolls. But not all Brits....
An exclusive and in-depth poll carried out in the village where we live (not quite YouGov but me with a notebook) revealed a sturdy disquiet with the events. Concern about the cost of living, the low level of pensions and where the next meal was coming from ranked stratospherically more relevant than 70 glorious years. A glance at Facebook revealed similar pockets of resistance across the country.
A crucial point, however, is that huge numbers celebrated a group of unelected individuals who live in five palaces, at least three stately homes, and a clutch of rarely used houses. Just under 3,000 rooms lie empty most of the time waiting for the patter of tiny royal feet. When immigrants, refugees, and a shedload of newly weds struggle to find accommodation, a recognition of these facts would have been timely from one of the richest families in the world.
None of the above means that I am a republican. Kings and queens have their uses. Useful for opening things and events. Cheering up hospitals, nursing homes, etc. They are a useful distraction from the real, often ugly, world. But they are a distraction and Mondays will keep on coming.
In a weird way, the performance by Elton John at the Buckingham House concert revealed it all. He sang a tribute to Her Majesty with a reworked version of Daniel
, a hymn to a long gone lover. Just as he had reworked a Candle in the Wind
from Marilyn Monroe to Princess Diana. All tinsel town sentimentality. Opiate for the masses?
Now that the deluge of purple prose from exhausted royal correspondents is over, television will presumable go back to what it was before: endless programmes about antiques, squabbling B&B owners, Naked Attraction
and yet more screenings of Nanny McPhee
. Those apart, it seems to consist of countless cookery programmes in which celebrities and chefs mess about in kitchens creating dishes nobody would wish to eat. Who needs them?
Back in the days, everyone who left home to flat share rapidly discovered that food did not miraculously appear on the plate. Mother had something to do with it. Ready meals being in their infancy, Deliveroo and pizza to the door yet to be born, there was nothing to do but learn to cook. It was the era of Elizabeth David, the woman who introduced the British to French country cooking and the revelation that meat could be pink, vegetables al dente
and there was no need for chips with everything.
Mind you, there were pitfalls. Luncheon and dinner parties were the rage among those with a flat to share. For one luncheon held with my flatmate, I was doing the cooking and opted for a starter made from avocado pears and poached eggs. Avocados had never been seen in Scotland and I had not the faintest idea of what they were but it sounded exotic and different. I could not find any in the local greengrocer or the street market but undeterred set about preparing my starter and – a pear being a pear as far as I was concerned – opened a tin. The result was spectacularly awful.
A TV cookery programme might have helped but apart from Fanny Craddock and Johnny, there were none around on television and we did not have a TV set. Nor was there Google. But there were cookery writers in newspapers, notably the marvellous Marika Hannison-Tenbury in the Sunday Telegraph,
who was not above saying open a tin of something or use frozen whatever in her recipes as it saved time and achieved the same result. Hence my pears mistake.
The other was Bee Nilson whose Penguin Cookery Book,
left behind in our flat by a former sharer, departed with me when my time came to go and still sits in my kitchen. It is dated – no metric measurements for instance – but everything you need to know is there somewhere and it is still available as are lots of other books by her. All I could find out on Google about the lady to whom I owe the cooking equivalent of driving lessons was that she is still alive aged 113.
As for my other two, Marika, who was married to the explorer Robin Hannison-Tenbury, taught me not to scorn shortcuts and Elizabeth David told me about foreign ways.
There are, of course, other great cookbook writers like Delia Smith, Pru Leith and Nigel Slater, but they come lower down my must have list. The one I would take to my desert island would be Bee. And who knows, avocados might grow there. I am not making the avocado and poached eggs catastrophe up – recipes do exist on Google. Have a peek.
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