Tag Archives: raves

Finding my bliss…

Yesterday, I read a piece about some butterflies and it reminded me of the simple bliss that I find every day, so here’s my list…

Finding some bliss...
  • when the chickens come running
  • when the chickens sit on the window sill and watch us and we’re like chicken television
  • watching the chickens chase butterflies
  • warm nights in bed
  • Tilly getting all giddy to be awake
  • knowing that Tilly knows what petting is about these days
  • Tilly trotting in to bed
  • cold floors when you’ve got hot feet
  • unexpected bursts of sunshine in October
  • watching my freezer fill up
  • watching the butterflies dancing in the asters
  • picking out seeds for next year
  • going to little festivals where a display of enormous pumpkins is about all to be seen
  • seeing a lovely, weed-free patch of soil and knowing the effort that went in to it
  • reading a good book on the hammock in the later afternoon autumn warmth
  • bright blue skies
  • watching a flock of birds dive and swoop over the fields
  • seeing an old lady in a pinny and a huge straw hat and hob-nailed boots
  • old-fashioned stuff
  • baskets of apples
  • apple pies
  • apple crumbles
  • all things apple!
  • huge pumpkins
  • working out a complicated knitting pattern
  • sharing a little something cool with friends who get excited about it
  • quiet Sunday mornings when the only sound is the snoring do
  • collecting seeds
  • starting on new, exciting projects
  • cycling in the sunshine
And not on my bliss-list… mosquito bites. It’s October. Go and hibernate or something.

Tick List 2011

I don’t like resolutions, because they’re always something loose and useless, puffy and vague. So… I’m going to have a tick list instead. I like tick-lists. I like order rather than chaos. Once, in Japan, a guy had photocopied city maps from his guide book, given the things he wanted to see a star-rating, then highlighted the ‘must-sees’ in green then the ‘quite like to sees’ in orange (traffic light colours, of course!) and then worked out the best routes from one to another so he could cram in maximum exposure time.

Whilst this frightens me a little, since it’s sooo regulated it ends up dictating your day like Mussolini and the trains and verges on travel fascism, I still admired it. I used to colour-code my to-do lists, and as every English teacher will admit, would be very happy with a stationery shop as a back-up career. How I love stationery and order!

Anyway, disturbing admissions aside, a to-do list is much more useful. I might even set micro-targets and mid-point targets and outcomes and long-term objectives like I used to do in teaching. Nothing feels nicer than a completed tick-list (unless I am in Eeyore mood, when it all seems pointless and the nearer I get to completing the list, the more it seems pointless) and so I shall use this as a springboard for productivity in 2011. Hoorah!

I might, since I’m feeling super-organised, section these 🙂

Wow, I’m feeling productive and efficient and organised today! Must remember not to drink so much coffee so early!


Home has to be my big one, since it’s been the focus of 2010 to get a new one!

  1. Finish painting all the ceilings in the downstairs rooms
  2. Paint the front room cream, hang pictures, get new flooring, make curtains and nets, paint window frames, put new doors on the door frames to the wash room and upstairs, make and paint new shutters, make cushions and a curtain for across the doorway, put up shoe shelves in the entrance and paper and decorate.
  3. Add work surfaces in kitchen, paint walls peach, make blue polka dot curtains, add shelves and cupboards for my panatry (sic – a word used by Danielle for a pantry, which I like so much more than pantry, so I’ve adopted it)
  4. Decorate dining room, strip floor, xenophene it, wax and polish it, make curtains, new shutters and paint window frames.
  5. Decorate my bedroom, white walls, strip and xenophene floors, put lambris up for the ceiling, make curtains and put up voile panels.
  6. Decorate Jake’s bedroom, paint walls, strip and xenophene floorboards, make curtains, new shutters and paint window frames.
  7. Secure the annex (that sounds like a Nazi war manoeuvre!) and make new shutters, sort out window frames, secure roof, xenophene floorboards and replace where needed, wallpaper, curtains (God, I’m going into about 2017 now!!)

I hasten to point out that many of these to-dos are for Steve 🙂

He’s going to be a VERY busy boy in 2011!

In all seriousness, I hope I do as much myself. I like seeing the fruits of my labour.


Less important, but we’re Englishers in France – it’s vital we live up to expectations and do up the house so that it sticks out like a sore thumb and everyone knows we’re English. If you have a nice-looking house from the outside, you are English, or you bought from an Englisher. It’s the law for Frenchers not to bother with the outside of their house unless they live in a new pavilion or they are renting it out.

  1. Check roof
  2. Put new gutters in and water butts
  3. Paint exterior walls on road side
  4. Paint the lean to windows
  5. Finish painting gate. Alright, I started it in August and this might be why I’m known as ‘Arfur’ – ‘Arfur Job’
  6. Render the rest of the lean-to
  7. Paint inside walls in both lean-tos
  8. Put up shelves in lean to
  9. Sort out new polytunnel fabric.
  10. Sort out middle grass field
  11. Dig over vegetable patches


  1. Plant peas, beans, carrots, potatoes, leeks, cabbages, melons, strawberries, herbs, onions, garlic, chillis, spinach, chard, cauliflowers, lettuces, tomatoes, gherkins, sweetcorn and so on
  2. Keep a garden journal of weather and temperatures and harvests and plantings

Other stuff

  1. Get to know a whole load more about birds and nature – I don’t want a bird coming in my garden that can’t be recognised! Bird identification books are already set out by the window!
  2. Improve my French, bien sĂ»r! Read 10 books in French by the end of the year (now this is sounding like The Great Gatsby and Gatsby’s list always makes me sad!)
  3. Go on at least three long walks a week with the dogs
  4. Get a couple of goats or sheep!
  5. Go to the Alps or to the Aquitaine coast for walks and bicycling in the summer.
  6. Bring a little order to my chaotic life!
  7. By next November, have a freezer-full of stuff to get us through the winter
  8. I feel I have to have 10
  9. But I can’t think of another 3
  10. So I’m just going to have 10 numbers.

I hate things not being even. I don’t mind about the other lists not being even, but I really don’t like it when I finish uneven. I’m such a semi-aspergers’ nerd.

I may strike through the things I achieve as a running example. I doubt it. I bet I don’t revisit this list more than three times! However, it might be nice to look back on next year and see what got done! It will be about a third of these things. That’s fine. There’s nothing like ambition! I must point out that it is 10:38 and I’m sitting here in my pyjamas, with unbrushed hair, covered in dog hairs. Hmmmm.

I do like the new year for that breath of fresh air I get from it. It feels like a new start, like a new term at school where you get new books and have a new pen. Everything is beginning again and it feels clean. It’s like all those new books you have lined up at school, unwritten in, fresh, uncreased, the corners un-dog-eared, graffiti-free. It lasts, as new term feeling does, for only a few days, but it’s nice to have that feeling of being at the beginning again and feeling ready to start a race.

Addendum #1:

Take up knitting.

My bucket list 2003

Back in 2003, before Andy died and before depression really kicked in, I wrote my bucket list – the things you have to do before you kick the bucket. When I got to 2006, the list seemed pointless and worthless – a tick list of things that wouldn’t matter in 200 years’ time. Anhedonia – the inability to get pleasure from anything – is the worst aspect of depression for me. I can’t enjoy stuff. I hate eating. I don’t like anything. It all seems pointless. So to get my bucket list out again and see what was on it and what I’ve achieved now gives me a lovely sense of pleasure – a sign that perhaps the clouds of depression are lifting once again.

Here it is:

1. Learn to rollerblade – check. That very year, I rollerbladed down the Avenida Atlantica in Rio – and it was every bit as fantastic as I hoped it’d be.

2. Kayak on the Charente – check. I admit we didn’t get very far, but kayak we did and I’d even forgotten it was on my list. Thanks to Steve and Jake for making that come true!

3. Read the works of Dickens – still ongoing. In fact, that’s what made me think of my list, since I knew this was on it. And it was Malcolm in the Middle that made me think of this. I’m about to embark upon A tale of Two Cities.

4. See the works of Shakespeare – I’m a good few further on, having seen Julius Caesar, The Taming of the Shrew (best production ever… really made me think!) Twelfth Night, A Winter’s Tale, Macbeth (again!) Measure for Measure, A Midsummer Night’s Dream … And a good few of those have been the most excellent Propeller company! That just makes it even better!!

5. Go to India – still on the list.

6. Get my nose pierced – still on the list. Sorry mum. But it’s got to be done! Last had it done back in Uni, and I’d love to relive those hippy days!

7. Have a hummingbird tattoo – still on the list, although I have added to my tattoos with a cherry blossom. Wisteria, Maple and Snowflakes still to come!

8. Mountain bike in Matlock – check! I biked around the town – cool as anything!

9. Stay in Paris – check. October 2004, I was rich, it was a beautiful autumn. I bought Chanel sunglasses and stayed in Montmartre with my brother.

10. Publish a novel – well, textbooks will have to do!!

11. Run a marathon – check. 34 under my belt. Thanks to Pete Nesbitt for giving me the marathon urge, and sad to say stress fractures put an end to that!

12. Sing – have singing lessons – still haven’t done that one!

13. Learn to photograph properly – check. I have advanced skills and a darkroom of my own : )

14. Climb a mountain – check. Not Kilimanjaro, as I wanted, but Cuba and Scotland will do!

15. Visit Scotland – check. Thanks to Pete Nesbitt for that, too!

Just past Glen Coe

16. Be a size 8 once! – and I was! When I went to Mexico in 2003, I was 7 stone 6! How cute was I??!

17. Learn to speak French properly – underway!!

18. Completely read a French novel – check. Parfum in French was wonderful!

19. Do yoga – check. Didn’t last long though. I call it ‘glorified lying down’ – it wasn’t for me. Tai Chi, though…

20. Go skiing – still haven’t done that… Maybe I’ll make it over to somewhere lovely and French next winter?

21. Snowboard – ditto!

22. Own a pair of ice skates – I obviously had a winter theme!!

23. Bake a carrot cake – I was early in my baking career!

24. See the rainforest – check. It was utterly glorious! Brazil was a thrilling experience

On the Amazon... houseboat

25. Drive down through California – still not done this yet. Still lots of places to visit!

26. Scuba-dive – check. The waters off Cuba were sublime. It wasn’t the Maldives, but it was fantastic enough!

27. See the Maldives – unfortunately, that one never came to fruition, and with Andy gone, it’s a little harder to do this.

28. Own a really expensive pair of shoes – check. Dior – check. Russell and Bromley patent Mary Jane’s – check. Karen Millen pink snakeskin cowboy boots – check. They don’t get much wear on the farm, though!!

29. Own a really expensive handbag – check. My Dior fantasies didn’t pay off, but Longchamp is good enough!

30. See the Red Hot Chili Peppers again – check. Thanks once more to Pete Nesbitt! Boy, we did a lot of stuff together! He was a lovely boyfriend! And he’s still a good friend. God bless Whizzbit.

31. See China

32. Go to Australia

33. Work abroad – check. I guess I’m doing it right now!

34. Get a dog – check. The Molly Dog, Tilly Floss and Saffy Womble are filling that there box!

35. Ride through Sherwood Forest – not quite. But I’ll find a better place to ride a horse!

36. Dance on a bar – check. Kos 2001 saw that!! Everyone has to dance a bar once in their life.

37. Walk in the Alps – not yet. Maybe this summer I should do that! I’m nearer now!!

38. Do something really worthwhile for charity – I don’t think I’ve done as much as I’d want to… I’m still on that one!

39. Go back to Venezuela – not yet.

40. Do something for the community – I’m much more involved now, but I don’t think I’ve really got up there yet!

41. Go to Brazil – see Christ the Redeemer – check.

Looking down from Christ the Redeemer

42. Star in a stage production – it is a little-known fact that I once played Prince Charming in a play. I want to do more theatre. One to stay on the list.

43. Go to an opera  – I took my Nana to see Madame Butterfly and we cried the whole way through. Plus, I’ve seen Kabuki in Japan. That’s got to be worth something!!

44. Own a piece of murano glass – not yet. I live and dream. Lalique would do! I keep looking on ebay.fr and Le Bon Coin…

I had 44 things to do and some are ongoing. I’m amazed I’ve done so many of them. I guess I’ve done a whole load more that I really didn’t expect. I didn’t think I’d see sakura and hanami in Japan. I didn’t think I’d hang out in the mountains where Fidel and Che hid from the junta. I definitely didn’t think I’d be going up Chichen Itza, or seeing Land’s End, falling in love with Cornwall or living in France. It wasn’t even in my thoughts I’d achieve that. It’s been an amazing eight years, surely, even carrying depression and mania with me for most of them. I never thought I’d ride a camel in the Sahara or swim in the Caribbean, walk through a souk or meet a million people I’m glad I’ve met.

Some great guys I met in Havana

So… now I’ve done so much on my bucket list, should I add more?

Maybe that’s a thing for New Year’s Eve, when I’m in on my lonesome with all my girls and The Basil.

Zero degrees!

Winter is here!

This morning, the car was iced over and the thermometer said 0 degrees for the first time since last winter. This is it. It’s officially here. The fields around were misty and white and the trees were dropping leaves in indignation. The combine harvesters have been busy at work and many of the fields of corn around us have been cut down to stubble. What was a hidden gem of a village, coming into Agris, is now bare and clear. No twisting roads through cornfields. No surprise turnings. No thinking I’m living in a strange horror movie.

We now have an extra metre of sky on each side. Big sky has become even bigger and I found myself worrying if I’d be claustrophobic back in Britain with a thin strip of sky between the terraces.

It’s just quite lovely driving down the lanes at impossible speeds, watching the fields going by, waving to the cows on the way. It’s not like Manchester. I find myself falling more in love with the place, despite the cold. None of this grim autumn here. I might be wearing jumpers in bed and hugging the dog to steal a little warmth, but the bright band of blue through my draughty windowpane is worth the cold.

I found a great fabric shop at Champniers: Cache Muraille (hide the fortification??!) where I’m going to spend lots of pennies buying fabric to make quilts and extra curtains and draught excluders. I really want to get into the creative me this winter. So far, it’s been very limited to food, rather than artistic pursuits.

Yesterday, I made walnut and gorgonzola pasta with foraged walnuts. Steve isn’t a fan of nuts in general, so this was more of a dish for me. I have always liked the idea of walnuts and gorgonzola (and walnuts in salad!) but you don’t get fresh ones in England; they’re more bitter and tough. These were soft and sweet and delicious! Now I want more to keep me going through the winter – like a squirrel!!

Jake has made 42 little fairy cakes this afternoon, in cute little Halloween bun cases, to take into school tomorrow. They’re just as cute as the biscuits. I’m looking forward to next week – all the cooking we’re going to do! He even did a little ‘s’il te plait’ when I asked if he wanted the butter – impressive, since we’re still on very formal terms chez nous. It feels very odd to kiss-kiss my clients – I’m not quite used to it yet! I like it though! I was chatting to one of my clients this morning about English formality – and I really feel it’s very odd to be so reserved when the rest of our European neighbours are a little more physical. Okay, maybe not the Germans, but I get the sense the Belgians are in on it as much as the Spanish and the Italians and Portuguese and Greek. I’m not so sure about the Swiss. I don’t think they do kiss-kissing either. Bizarre! What was nice was the guy in front of Sue and I last week in the supermarket. He lent over the checkout in a way that can only be described as if he were going for the till. Maybe that’s the Northerner in me that thinks that. But no, they kiss-kissed and bon apres-midi’d and then she sat back down, he stood back up, she scanned his shopping and they chatted as per usual. Très mignon!

Search engine madness

This is a post from a blog that I enjoy… you pick the random searches that people do that bring them to your page. I remember finding some funny ones, but unfortunately, I haven’t kept most of them.

I get a lot of people searching for David Austin roses, though I mentioned them once. Also, for Lady Gaga and for stripper shoes, bizarrely.

This was the best one I ever saw. Why the hell would ‘girls in jeans farting in mens faces’ result in a link to my lowly blog?! It’s one of the most random things ever. I think the search engine link should also say who looked for it, and then you could tell on them. I bet this was some 14 year old lad from Leigh and I’m sure his mother would need to know.

Today, the searches produced some of the following:

Stripper shoes 2
repair high heels 2
gallic-roman site of cassinomagus 1
worn down heels 1
putain de merde 1

Putain de merde (Fucking shit, or Fucking hell) often links to my page. I get a few for stripper shoes. I hope the people who want stripper shoes (other than strippers) read my post about where to wear them (in summary: the bedroom, the lap-dancing club AND NOWHERE ELSE, ESPECIALLY NOT SAINSBURY’S)

But… next time you do a weird search, you just might give some blogger a giggle. And if I have my way, the infinite powers of the internet will tell me who you are and give me your mother’s phone number so I can tell on you.

Les tipules, chataignes et araignees

It’s the season where everything seems to want to come inside for the winter, particularly daddy-long-legs, not, as you would have hoped les papas-jambes-longs but les tipules. We have at least three or four come in of an evening for a dance about the living room. I don’t know why they creep me out more than spiders – maybe the spindly legs and unpredictable moth-like dancing.

It’s definitely autumn, though temperatures are still up into the high twenties. It’s not quite fire time yet! It’s also rained for the first time in weeks, properly, although it didn’t last the day out.

Yesterday, we went for a walk to discover the grotte where the Agris helmet was discovered. The Agris helmet was mainly discovered by an archaeological dig in 1981 – quite amazing since it’s from the 4th Century BC – and is made of bronze with gold leaf.

It’s quite something! Anyway, I had heard a rumour from Grumpy (I’m not being mean – he has a sign outside his house that says ‘Grumpy’s Den’ – so it’s an appropriate nickname) that if you went up the road to Chasseneuil from Agris, at death-by-roundabout (drive as fast as you can onto this roundabout for kicks and fun if you live in rural France, just to see if you can cause a fatal collision with an unsuspecting foreign motorist who is under the assumption that you give way to stuff) you could go to the Grotte des Perrats, which is a cave off the dried-up Bellonne river bed (not the Tardoire as it seems to suggest everywhere else) so we set out in pursuit.

Jake likes to think he is mini-Indiana-Jones, so he was up for it. He likes the idea of finding treasure (though it’s illegal to look for it in France, even on your own land, unless you have a permit!) and there’s none of this ‘it’s half yours’ malarky you get in England where farmers find stashes worth millions. You hand it over to the authorities and then they put it in a faraway museum and give you a copy to stick in the local town hall.

I kind of half-followed Grumpy’s directions – park at the riverbed, look for a turning to the left – but ended up parking quite some way away. We wandered around the forest for a bit, picking up bags of sweet chestnuts – getting prickled by brambles for our foraging.

This, I suspect, is the autumn the poets write about. Not that damp, misty, kind-of-colder-than-summer-and-a-little-bit-more-rainy weather of Manchester. Not that freezing-cold-but-blue-almost-winter-weather that we sometimes get, where I need to put on my down jacket. Lovely, warm, clear, bright weather perfect for long countryside walks.

It was still t-shirt walking weather. The leaves are kind of turning brown and dropping their seeds. Lots of acorns and chestnuts, sycamore leaves and cones everywhere.

There were mushrooms, too. Not lots, but a few. The problem is it’s hard to tell which are edible. I suspect the ones that are there are ones people have left, so I’m not bothering eating them. Then there were some that were bright yellow, and something tells me bright yellow mushrooms are not so good to eat.

We picked two kilogrammes of fat sweet chestnuts, which I have very little idea of what to make into. I think some marrons glacĂ©s, some chestnut purĂ©e and some roast chestnuts (which we had last night and were a bit floury and a bit ‘meh’ – although it does make you feel all Dickensian and Christmassy to eat them. I’ve put a kilogramme aside for the winter – roast chestnuts at Christmas and chestnut stuffing for the turkey, chicken or goose.

When we got to the grotte, Jake was mostly disappointed. I think he was very excited about the idea of going in an actual cave and then not being able to was annoying. It was all blocked off and there were ‘chantier’ signs everywhere – although we sneaked in, the cave looked like a real cave-diving expedition kind of a cave.

Still, we wandered back through ancient woodland, all perfectly preserved and easy to navigate, even stumbling across an apple tree, which we helped ourselves to an apple from.

les etoiles et les herissons

It occurred to me, sometime around half four when I woke up this morning, that there is a whole life in Les Ecures that I don’t know about: the night life.

Last night, it was an incredibly star-lit night; I’d even dragged Mr H out to have a look at it before I retired for the evening. The moon wasn’t yet up and it has been a long time since I saw so many stars. Out in the desert, maybe, in Morocco. Manchester has far too much light pollution and cloud cover to see anything clearly, and the night sky is not unlike the day sky, just with a grey-amber glow.

This morning, the stars still seemed super-bright when I got up, so I put on a jumper, got the torch and binoculars and went down into the field.

It was amazing. First, there was a warm breeze and it was easily still 15 degrees, following an unusually hot autumn day yesterday. It was the kind of breeze that always reminds me of Brazilian nights, or Mexico, balmy and pleasant – like taking a shower in something very lovely. The kind of breeze that perks you right up. Basil accompanied me down the garden, and it was clear this is ‘his’ territory. He was about as alert and kittenish as I’ve seen him these last few years, running from tree to tree, racing up them then jumping back down. The crickets were in full chorus with their cri-cri, but other than the wind in les trembles and the crickets, there was no sound. No cars. No people. Bliss.

We don’t have the ambient light pollution either, although there was a faint, light glow above Angouleme 20 kms away. They switch some street-lights off here after midnight.

It’s about 50 metres from the house into the field, walking under all kinds of obstacles for an unobstructed (well, fairly… the trees are fairly tall around here!) view – but when I got into the middle of the field, sitting there looking quite bewildered was Mrs Tiggywinkle and her family!

Three lovely, bright-eyed hedgehogs sitting there! I was so close to one I’d almost stepped on it!

Now I’ve never seen a real ‘live’ hedgehog. Plenty dead by roadsides to assure me of their existence, but no real, live ones. And there, at six o’clock in the morning, are three – in my garden!

They soon scuttled off after they realised I wasn’t going to do anything to them, but it was lovely to see them, all the same.

After that, I just sat and stargazed for half an hour or so, Basil racing about the garden, the wind in the aspens and the crickets cri-cri-ing. It’s amazing how much life there is round here in the middle of the night!

Oooh, a lovely bit of crumpet!

Jake and I have been making crumpets this morning. Delicious! In between making the dough, we made some chocolate chip cookies which started going down as quickly as they were coming out of the oven, but there’s still a good twenty or so left. Definitely a day for baking!

Jake's crumpets

New favourite website of the day is re-foundobjects, which is a fantastic website with beautiful treasures found and done up – definitely something I want to do myself. There’s some beautiful hand-painted tins, which is a bit above and beyond the tins I plan on painting to adorn the side of the house next year. I really would like mine in bright colours hanging down the side of the house with some nasturtiums and verbena in acid colours trailing from them. However, I love these beautiful tins

And I also like these rather weird painted plates

La confiture de raisins

Or grape jelly to you and I…

Our grape vines, all 130-odd of them (and then some!) are all in various stages of coming to fruition. I like that word for fruit being ready. It seems somehow appropriate! Yet, what to do with such a harvest?! We aren’t in the ‘wine producing’ stages yet. Our grape  press, for one, is out of commission, though I think I could manage well with a bucket and a drill bit for stirring cement (make do and mend!) to get the juice out – and the rest, as I can see, is about killing off some of the natural yeasts, adding your own, then letting it do its business. I might have a go anyway.

But in the meantime, it’s grape juice and grape jelly a-plenty. I have a new-best-website find, the cottage smallholder which is an amazing site not unlike one I’d hope this will look like in a few years! I’ve been using this site, along with BBC Food (of course!) which negates the need for recipe books at all, especially if you love James Martin and the Hairy Bikers as much as I do. I’m a fan of Nigel Slater, too. I’m a fan of chefs who like to eat as much as they like to cook – they cook because they love what they produce. Not a fan of Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey, though most of my dislikes of both are about their character rather than their cooking. Jamie Oliver needs about 2 inches shaving off his tongue on each side and needs to get over his ‘faux-pukka’ persona. Steve told me yesterday his son is called ‘Buddy Bear Maurice’ – which is either a Care Bear or a gay moniker. That’s a seriously evil thing to do to a child. That child will one day be a 50 year old bloke wondering where his life went wrong. Poppy – okay. I get that. That’s fine. Petal? Not really. It sounds like a detergent. Daisy Boo. Just no. No. No-one should have ‘Boo’ as part of their name. He makes me NOT want to use my British supermarket of choice, Sainsbury’s, because I don’t want a single penny of mine to go to him. Extreme, I know. Buddy Bear has enough issues without needing to be a trust-fund-pukka-wallah.

Gordon Ramsay – I just don’t like him. The arrogance of the man, the ‘sleb’ friendship with the Beckhams, the endless books written by other people with his name on them. The fact he probably hasn’t cooked for 10 years. The fact that he isn’t even EXECUTIVE chef at his own restaurants. Not only doesn’t he cook, he doesn’t even decide what should be cooked! The pretentious recipes, the endless books, his misuse of the word veloutĂ©, the pretentious names he gives to his food, his misuse of the word ‘custard’, which to my mind must have some kind of egg or egg based product in it. That’s the point of it. His sidelining of Marcus Wareing and Angela Hartnett, the real names behind his restaurant success.

Anyway, my top 10 – since top ‘whatevers’ always rock – of catering giants & then my worst cooks ever…

1. The Hairy Bikers. It might lead to coronary heart failure, but it’s constantly reliable and very, very British and Northern in good ways.

2. Nigel Slater, for his ‘plot-to-pot’ stuff and his simple suppers, even if some of the recipes need a little adjustment. A good cook would realise what needs sorting!

3. James Martin, for never, ever having failed to produce a recipe I’d want to cook and eat

4. Nigella Lawson, whose recipes are also a bit hit-and-miss, but she makes great, inspired puddings.

5. Simon Rimmer for also making good food you actually want to eat

6. Keith Floyd for his exuberance, simple recipes and use of wine in cooking – which is perfect!

7. Antonio Carluccio because he always makes simple, wonderful food that’s just wonderful. Italian food, like British food, is all about the carbs – with lots of  lovely vegetables these days!

8. Gary Rhodes, if for nothing more than the giant jaffa cake!

9. The WI for their fantastic baked goods, chutneys and jams

10. Ching-He Huang, like Ken Hom, for fabulous, simple oriental food

I must admit I like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Heston Blumenthal as well. Heston’s Christmas smorgasbord was fabulous – I can aspire!!

And with the Golden Raspberry of chefs going to:

1. Gordon Ramsay. Urgh. My worst nightmare would be to be in Indecent Proposal with Ramsay as Redford and me as Demi Moore.

2. Jamie & his Ermintrude tongue

3. Lesley Waters – don’t know who this is but they have far too many crap recipes on the BBC site. I haven’t seen a single recipe yet that I’d want to cook.

4. Delia – because none of her over-complicated recipes EVER work – and I can’t fathom why. If you want to cook ocelot’s earlobes, Delia’s supposedly-simple ‘How to Cook’ books are the place to start. They should be simple, but when you need a whiff of a kaffir lime leaf, or Grape Nuts or some other peculiar ingredient, then they aren’t. I made a key lime pie once for Steve based on her recipe. Grape Nuts are vile. Vile, I tell you!