The Bake Off and Me

Let’s talk about the Great British Bake Off. For those unaware, Bake Off or GBBO is a baking competition filmed and aired in Britain. It began in 2010 and is still going strong. The basic format is that there are twelve contestants, who each week produce three different baked goods. Judges are Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, both successful bakers with many a cookbook between them, and presenters are Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. Each week one contestant is knocked out, until there’s a winner.

For such a simple format, Bake Off has swept the UK and caught it up in baking fever. I’m quite late to the party – I only started watching it with the latest series, and only then because a friend made me. And it’s enjoyable. But why is it quite a big a deal as it is?

For anyone who is unsure as to whether or not it’s a big deal, last year there was a scandal on the show, commonly referred to as Alaska gate, where cries of sabotage against one contestant wracked the nation. It was all anyone talked about for two weeks. I know summer is a slow news time, but honestly.

Maybe Bake Off is so popular because it’s a genuinely nice show. The contestants are routinely seen helping each other and offering advice after a disaster, rather than gloating and cackling. There are no sob stories like on the X-Factor. And everyone likes cake.

There are also many ways to enjoy watching Bake Off. You can get caught up in it, in the drama of whether or not a crème brulee will make the right cracking noise. You can watch it to yell at the TV, because you think the judges are wrong. You can watch it for the sheer joy of Sue and Mel, because they are fantastic. Maybe you’re really into baking. Maybe you want to be able to join in the conversations on Thursday at work. I live tweet watching it because it’s enjoyable but ridiculous, especially the amount of dramatic music they put over shots of people taking cake out of tins.

I think, at the end of the day, Bake Off is both lovely and easy to watch. And being completely honest, the bunting in a tent where cake is being made makes it feel very British, which seems to be a powerful commodity these days. For me, it reminds me of village fairs I went to as a kid, where even if you were the only entry in a category, it didn’t mean you won first place. And it means I know what my friends are on about when they get over excited about it down the pub.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like Bake Off, but I was pleasantly surprised. And though I’m not fanatical yet and can’t see myself ever being, if you dislike Nadiya or Tamal, I will fight you.


A Natural History of Dragons

For my birthday, I was given A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan. As in, Marie Brennan wrote the book. She didn’t give it to me. Unfortunately, with exams and the general hecticness of university, I didn’t get a chance to read it until recently. I guess commutes are good for something.


The book, fabulously displayed by Eddie the dragon.

It wasn’t what I expected. I was expecting a kind of field guide to dragons with anatomical drawings and such. What the book actually is, is an introduction by the fictional Lady Trent to her life, which, it must be said, revolves around dragons.

Set in a fictional world in where it is apparently the 1800s or early 1900s, the world in which Lady Trent lives has real live dragons. Apparently, she has been fascinated by them since childhood and is now an expert in the field. This book is her first memoir, recalling how her obsession began and detailing her first expedition to study dragons.

It’s a well written book, even if I was a little sceptical at first. Like I said, it wasn’t what I was expecting and honestly, the era the story is based on means that as a woman, Lady Trent is discouraged from following her passions. Of course, she overcomes this, but that is largely due to social status and encouragement and permission from her father and later her husband. In the book, she is aware of her privilege, which I greatly appreciated, but this is a trope that I think I’ve read too many times. I’m ready for stories set in a world where women can follow their passions without society telling them that it’s unladylike.

The mythology of dragons in this book is well thought through and consistent, even down to dragon grieving rituals. As the protagonist and narrator, Lady Trent often alludes to vaguely scientific ways of study and understanding the creatures, as you would expect an expert in a burgeoning field to be.

Overall, this is a good book, even if it took me a while to settle into the world it builds. I found out the other day that it’s actually part of series and I do want to read the next one. But I’m not rushing out to Waterstones right this instant. I can wait. And I think that sums up my feelings about this book. It’s enjoyable, but you don’t have to rush to read it. It can wait a while.


Ready for My Close Up

If you follow my Faceboook page, you may have seen me posting about the fact that I was modelling last weekend. But I figured you guys wouldn’t want to hear about that.

Kidding. Course I’m going to blog about it. It was excellent.

So frequent readers may remember my friend Maddie. On this blog, you’ll have heard about the travelling we’ve done together, like Bucharest, Berlin and Prague. But this time it’s a blog post based in England. In south London to be exact.


Maddie and Kyle looking very professional.

Maddie’s doing an MA in fashion and as a fashion student she has to create a final collection. And how else to show off a final collection but with models. Now, as you may be thinking, I am not a model. But part of the inspiration behind Maddie’s collection was the idea that clothes should be able to be worn by anyone, rather than just models. Radical, I know. So she asked friends to model, and I am one of those friends.


Who wouldn’t want me to model?

She also asked our friend Beth who you may or may not remember from my Grand European Adventure, parts 2, 3 and 4 and so after I finished work on Friday, me and Beth headed down to the Big Smoke to pretend like we know how to act in front of a camera.

On Saturday, it was all hands on deck as there were some last minute clothes fittings. There were five of us in total who were modelling. Me, Beth and Maddie, who you guys already know, as well as the very lovely Lucy, who has actual modelling experience, and the fantastic Rosie, who you can read more about here at her blog. Me, Beth and Rosie submitted ourselves to Maddie and Lucy, who were far more agile with a makeup brush, and eventually we were all primped and preened and ready to kick ass.


Lucy had a steady hand and make up skills.

That first day we did a standard photoshoot, with a white backdrop and some excellent pouting. The photographer was Kyle Jones who you may remember designed the Facebook banner for my Facebook page. An excellent photographer, film maker and graphic designer who’s just moved to London and also happens to be the brother of one of my university housemates. But I’m totally unbiased. Seriously, he’s good at what he does. Check him out here.


Kyle really liked this picture. I impressed a photographer with my photo off a phone, guys. 

While I felt like an idiot in front of the camera, I felt like less of an idiot than I had at graduation in a motorboard, so that’s good. Maddie’s clothes were a) amazing and b) super comfortable. Putting my own clothes back on was really sad, though I was far less concerned that I was going to spill something on them or rip them or something.

Maddie pouts

Photo credit: Kyle Jones

When in doubt, pout.

On the Sunday, we were filming. That’s right. We made a video too. Maddie’s collection is called Where is May Morris? and focuses on the erasure of women in the design industry. Therefore, she decided that in the video we were going to be a guerrilla girl gang, in a feminist den.


Pink spray paint is a lot of fun.

Making the den was ridiculously fun. There were heels and nail polish every, as well as books and weaponry and generally everything you need to smash the patriarchy. Good times. And when we’d sufficiently made our den look kick ass, then we had to film. We did various things. Planned our next moves on a map with a knife through it, painted nails, read A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft. All kinds of stuff.

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I have so many photos of the den. It was so cool.

Oh, and Rosie gave us a crash course in how to fight LARP style. LARP, for those unaware, stands for Live Action Role Play and you get to attack people with foam swords. (Obviously this is a very brief summary. For more, you should check out Rosie’s blog). And so, in wonderful clothes, and with Kyle greatly amused by our concern about hitting each other, we learnt how to kill. Well, I suppose hit would be a more appropriate verb.


Rosie hacked a plant to pieces at our encouragement.

Eventually though, the fun was over and we had to give back the clothes and head home. Not before we’d taken apart our feminist den. It was a truly great weekend. Maddie’s made some incredible clothes and I’m really glad that I got to help her out.


Maddie was very happy with us.

If you want to know more about Maddie’s collection there are posts on the UCA MA Showcase 2015 Facebook page, or come to the exhibition of all of the students’ work between 18-23rd September at The Rag Factory, 16-18 Heneage Street, London, E1 5LJ. If for nothing else, to laugh at me pretending to be a model.

I leave you with the nerve wracking video of Maddie spray painting a professional camera.



Zombie Apocalypse Preparation

With an hour and half commute to work (going down to 40 minutes from Monday – yay!) I have a lot of time to think. So naturally, I started thinking about what might happen in a zombie apocalypse and if I would survive. You know, standard stuff.

On  one memorable occasion, my cousin turned to me and said, “If there’s a zombie apocalypse, you should hide under a table, because otherwise you’ll die fast.” Wise words. The general consensus is that if a zombie plague did sweep the planet, I would die fast. Very fast. So let’s discuss.


My job is to make websites look good. It’s not really a skill required when the world’s going to hell in a zombie filled handbasket. I can cook, just about. I can sew, though I have no idea how to make clothes. My carpentry and construction skills are non-existent. I think it’s safe to say that in a zombie apocalypse my lack of useful skills would make me somewhat of a dead weight in the initial ‘run, find safety, fortify’ stage.

However, my most marketable skill is that I can speak German. In a full-scale, worldwide zombie apocalypse, I’d be great at communications. Of course, this relies on me surviving long enough until such a time that civilians had been mobilised in the quasi-war effort. But if I could just survive that long, then I could work on a radio all day – doing the communications thing.


During the week I’d probably be in Birmingham. So if a zombie apocalypse started then, I’d be in the UK’s second largest city. That’s 1.1 million people panicking and/or becoming zombies. It’d be chaos. So that lowers my chances of survival – either being trampled or being turned. And I can’t think of anywhere decent to fortify in Brum. Maybe some of the university buildings that were built in the 60s? Or I suppose if you could blockade yourself in the Art Gallery might work. A lot of new buildings like the Bullring and the Library have too much glass to be easily defended.

I read somewhere that the best place to go in a zombie emergency in America is Costco or Walmart.  I guess we have Tescos. The Tescos at home would be pretty good. Blow up the ramp to the second floor of the carpark and the escalator to the shop and bam – all the food stuffs you could want. If it was properly executed, people could live there for years. Sorted.

Knowledge of Zombie Lore

All I really know is to aim for the brain. I’ve not ever been thoroughly immersed in zombie pop culture. Except for WWZ by Max Brooks, which is a fantastic book and one I’d thoroughly recommend. I suppose to raise my chances of survival I should diversify my knowledge of zombies. I mean, I’ve never in seen any media with runner zombies in, and I think that’s probably a huge hole in my zombie knowledge.

So, there you have it. My chances of survival in a zombie apocalypse are not high. How’re yours? Did I miss any crucial factors? Leave a comment and let me know.

And I’ll leave you with this most excellent song. (Note: the video has a repetitive flashing light. You might want to just listen rather than watch.)