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It was on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, that Theresa May made her final appearance at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons at PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions). Boris Johnson succeeded her as Prime Minister later that day.

Here’s a great video compilation of Boris in action. He was declared the next Conservative Party leader on July 23:

Today’s PMQs session was bittersweet. I remembered liking Mrs May wholeheartedly until March of this year.

Outside of Brexit, she was a very good PM, as MPs from both sides of the aisle made clear during today’s 65-minute PMQs.

The link in the next tweet shows a list of MPs who asked today’s questions. Mrs May did not wear this suit, by the way:

Instead, she wore the royal blue one that matched Angela Merkel’s in colour. As it looks like wool, that must have been over the top when we are not only in July but also in the middle of a heatwave:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid her a brief compliment on her ‘sense of public duty’:

Political pundit Guido Fawkes noted with irony (colour and italics in the original):

Remarkably he will now be onto his third Tory Prime Minister, not that he’s had much to do with that himself…

May asked Corbyn with good humour if he would follow her example:

She said:

Perhaps I could just finish my exchange with him by saying this – as a party leader who has accepted when her time is up, perhaps the time is now for him to do the same.

She also reminded the House of his many political flip-flops:

An Independent MP later agreed with her:

May has taken 4,540 questions during her PMQs sessions since she became PM in 2016. She has spent hundreds of hours answering them.

Both Conservative and Opposition benches gave her credit for:

– lowering public borrowing (the lowest rate in 17 years);

– a stronger economy, despite Remainers’ anti-Brexit Project Fear;

– reducing unemployment;

– actively supporting legislation, currently in place, to combat slavery;

– actively supporting legislation, also in place, to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence;

– supporting law enforcement, although, as always, more work needs to be done;

– promoting a more equal society, as she promised in July 2016;

– being a solid role model for women, including those in politics;

– showing dignified, respectful leadership.

Indeed, Brexit was her only black mark.

After she listened to a warm tribute from Jo Swinson, the new female leader of the Liberal Democrats, May rightly pointed out that only the Conservatives have had two female prime ministers! She added that most of Britain’s political parties have or have had women leaders. She concluded by saying that there is only one party that has not had a woman leader: the Labour Party! (We cannot count the Brexit Party, because they have no MPs yet.)

Philip May was in the spectator’s gallery to watch his wife give her final appearance in Parliament as PM. A Conservative MP mentioned it. You can see that she really loves her husband, because she blushed and smiled broadly at his mention.

When she left the dispatch box, she received one minute of applause and a standing ovation from Conservative MPs.

Theresa May will now sit on the backbenches as a Conservative MP.

Outside of Brexit, she did a great job as PM.

Thank you, Mrs May.

Guido Fawkes has a rundown of what happened next. I’ve inserted tweets from the BBC:

13:00 TM returns to Downing Street to say goodbye to staff.

14:00 TM leaves Downing Street for the last time as Prime Minister, making a short speech outside.

14:15 TM goes to Buckingham Palace to tender her resignation to the Queen.

15:00 Boris goes to Buckingham Palace to be formally appointed as Prime Minister.

16:00 Boris makes his first speech as Prime Minister from the steps of Downing Street.

17:00 Boris heads to his Commons office to begin his Cabinet reshuffle.

Expect the top jobs to be announced by 10pm…

I wish Boris Johnson well as Prime Minister.

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On Friday, May 24, 2019, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would stand down as Conservative leader immediately and as Prime Minister once the Conservatives have elected a new leader.

The tension at No. 10 must have been palpable that morning, as the email with the text of her speech had no attachment. ITV’s Robert Peston tweeted:

Nonetheless:

The Guardian, among other media outlets, has the full text of her speech (emphases mine below):

Ever since I first stepped through the door behind me as Prime Minister, I have striven to make the United Kingdom a country that works not just for a privileged few, but for everyone. And to honour the result of the EU referendum. Back in 2016, we gave the British people a choice. Against all predictions, the British people voted to leave the European Union.

I feel as certain today as I did three years ago that in a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I have done my best to do that. I negotiated the terms of our exit and a new relationship with our closest neighbours that protects jobs, our security and our Union. I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so.

I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high. But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new Prime Minister to lead that effort.

So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen. I have agreed with the Party Chairman and with the Chairman of the 1922 Committee that the process for electing a new leader should begin in the following week. I have kept Her Majesty the Queen fully informed of my intentions, and I will continue to serve as her Prime Minister until the process has concluded.

It is, and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit. It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum. To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in Parliament where I have not. Such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise.

For many years the great humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton – who saved the lives of hundreds of children by arranging their evacuation from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia through the Kindertransport – was my constituent in Maidenhead. At another time of political controversy, a few years before his death, he took me to one side at a local event and gave me a piece of advice. He said, ‘Never forget that compromise is not a dirty word. Life depends on compromise.’ He was right.

As we strive to find the compromises we need in our politics – whether to deliver Brexit, or to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland – we must remember what brought us here. Because the referendum was not just a call to leave the EU but for profound change in our country. A call to make the United Kingdom a country that truly works for everyone. I am proud of the progress we have made over the last three years.

We have completed the work that David Cameron and George Osborne started: the deficit is almost eliminated, our national debt is falling and we are bringing an end to austerity. My focus has been on ensuring that the good jobs of the future will be created in communities across the whole country, not just in London and the South East, through our Modern Industrial Strategy.

We have helped more people than ever enjoy the security of a job. We are building more homes and helping first-time buyers onto the housing ladder – so young people can enjoy the opportunities their parents did. And we are protecting the environment, eliminating plastic waste, tackling climate change and improving air quality. This is what a decent, moderate and patriotic Conservative Government, on the common ground of British politics, can achieve – even as we tackle the biggest peacetime challenge any government has faced.

I know that the Conservative Party can renew itself in the years ahead. That we can deliver Brexit and serve the British people with policies inspired by our values. Security; freedom; opportunity. Those values have guided me throughout my career.

But the unique privilege of this office is to use this platform to give a voice to the voiceless, to fight the burning injustices that still scar our society. That is why I put proper funding for mental health at the heart of our NHS long-term plan. It is why I am ending the postcode lottery for survivors of domestic abuse. It is why the Race Disparity Audit and gender pay reporting are shining a light on inequality, so it has nowhere to hide. And that is why I set up the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower – to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again, and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten.

Because this country is a Union. Not just a family of four nations. But a union of people – all of us. Whatever our background, the colour of our skin, or who we love. We stand together. And together we have a great future.

Our politics may be under strain, but there is so much that is good about this country. So much to be proud of. So much to be optimistic about. I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold – the second female Prime Minister but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.

When she got to the last five words of her announcement, she choked up and abruptly turned around before re-entering No. 10:

Here is her statement in full (start at 1:28, sorry for the closeup of Peston):

Brexit defeated Theresa May:

The Sun‘s political editor observed:

Peston called it correctly:

This is important to remember over the next several weeks:

The new Prime Minister should be in place by the time Parliament begins its summer recess. The 1922 Committee is comprised of Conservative MPs and will oversee this process:

Then again … please note:

The Guardian has more (emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis and the vice-chairs of the 1922 Committee, Cheryl Gillan and Charles Walker, have issued a joint statement setting out the process for selecting a successor to Theresa May.

First they thank her for her service to the party as an activist, councillor, MP, a member of the shadow cabinet, party chairman, home secretary and, finally, prime minister.

“She embodies the finest qualities of public service and, with this decision, has once again demonstrated her strong sense of duty and devotion to the national interest,” they say.

They set out the following –

    • The timetable to select a new leader has been decided by the executive of the 1922 committee after consultation with the party board, which includes representatives of the voluntary, parliamentary and professional party.
    • Nominations will close in the week commencing 10 June, before “successive rounds of voting will take place until a final choice of candidates to put to a vote of all party members is determined”.
    • “We expect that process to be concluded by the end of June, allowing for a series of hustings around the UK for members to meet and question the candidates, then cast their votes in time for the result to be announced before Parliament rises for the summer,” they say.

So we should have a new prime minister by mid-July.

They conclude:

We are deeply conscious that the Conservatives are not just selecting the person best placed to become the new leader of our party, but also the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. That is a solemn responsibility, particularly at such an important time for our nation. We will therefore propose that the leadership election and hustings involve opportunities for non-members and people who may not yet vote Conservative to meet the candidates and put their questions to them too.

Peston points out that Graham Brady did not sign the 1922 Committee’s letter, even though he is its chairman. It is possible that Brady wants to throw his hat into the ring as a contender:

I assume the reason the chairman of 1922 committee of Tory MPs Graham Brady hasn’t signed letter setting out timetable for new leader and PM to be in place by 20 July is that he may well be a candidate to replace .

Soon afterwards:

By mid-afternoon:

Jeremy Hunt was the first to formally declare his own candidacy:

I doubt either of these men has a chance. The Conservatives must choose someone who can defeat Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, therefore, I predict Boris Johnson will be the next leader and PM.

May’s predecessor tweeted his appreciation of her service. It did not go down well. One person remembered that he stood down as party leader the morning the referendum results were in — around 9:30 a.m. on Friday, June 24, 2016:

He gave an empathetic interview to the BBC later in the afternoon:

Let us spare a moment to recall Cameron’s jaunty ‘doo-doo-doo-doo-Right!’ tune after he resigned:

Brexit is powerful, although, despite this tweet, not insurmountable:

I hope the new Spanish government’s concerns turn out to be accurate (emphases mine):

The Spanish government has described May’s decision to resign as “bad news”, warning that it significantly raised the prospect of a hard Brexit, reports the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent Sam Jones.

A hard Brexit in these circumstance seems an almost unstoppable reality,” the government’s spokewoman, Isabel Celaá, said at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

Celaá said the announcement would disappoint all those “who want an orderly UK exit from the European Union”. But she said that Spain had contingency measures in place and would do everything possible to “guarantee the best situation” for Spanish citizens and businesses in the UK.

A No Deal Brexit does not mean a disorderly exit from the EU. Plans have been in place for months to implement No Deal processes, as drawn up by civil servants in Whitehall. No Deal was ready for implementation well in advance of Friday, March 29, 2019.

Outside of Brexit, I believe Theresa May was a good prime minister.

As far as Brexit went, however, her downfall started when she presented her deal at Chequers in July 2018. The principal members of her Brexit team at the time resigned. It is rumoured that her ‘deal’ — a treaty — was developed in Berlin by one of her advisers. I have read at least one article about it, but would like to see another source before writing more.

Whoever the next Conservative leader is, I hope he or she is a committed Leaver and will toss the whole of May’s deal into the long grass of history, where it belongs.

Any Remainers who missed last week’s BBC4 Storyville documentary about Brexit from a Brussels perspective must watch it before voting in the EU election on May 23, 2019.

The two-part documentary was made by Belgian film-maker, Lode Desmet, who spent two years with Guy Verhofstadt and his team in Brussels.

I did not watch it at the time, because it features Verhofstadt, whom I consider to be odious.

At the weekend, I read a British website where two Remainers commented after watching it. Both said they had changed their minds — to NO DEAL! Amazing.

After that, I looked the Storyville documentary up on YouTube, because BBC iPlayer said their videos could not be played at that time. On BBC iPlayer, part one is here and part two is here.

Each part is just under an hour long. I highly recommend them to everyone, particularly Remainers:

 

Conservative MP Mark Francois is absolutely correct:

What follows is part of his article for Brexit Central (emphases mine):

On one occasion – incredibly, bearing in mind he was on camera – one of Verhofstadt’s staffers, exclaimed on hearing that we had agreed to the 585-page so-called “Withdrawal Agreement”, that “We have made them a colony!”. The sheer joy that was evidenced on the faces of the European negotiators when it became apparent that we had acceded to the “Withdrawal Agreement” tells you everything you need to know about why they regarded it as a clear victory over Britain.

Again and again throughout the documentary, the UK’s negotiating tactics are derided by their interlocutors, including the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier. The Prime Minister and her team are repeatedly disrespected and only on one occasion – when Dominic Raab took over as the Brexit Secretary – did any of the Europeans appear to believe that we had started to resist …

Verhofstadt and his highly self-satisfied team are then filmed watching the result of the first Meaningful Vote in Parliament in January 2019. When the “Withdrawal Agreement” was defeated by 230 votes (the largest defeat in parliamentary history as it turns out), their disappointment is palpable. The pattern is repeated for MV2 and MV3 – by which time Verhofstadt cannot bear to watch, as he has clearly realised what is going to happen.

I have never doubted that I was right to vote against the “Withdrawal Agreement”, but this dramatic insight only confirmed my deep conviction that we were fighting a surrender to the European Union all along. Indeed, Martin Selmayr, the Secretary General of the European Commission said some time ago (although not in the programme) that “Losing Northern Ireland was the price the UK would pay for Brexit”. It seems on reflection the House of Commons was not prepared to pay this price – and rightly so.

One other thing struck me when I watched the programme – as a patriotic Brit – which was that I could not help but be angered by the sheer arrogance of the people on camera and the utter disdain that they had for our country and its people. I was discussing this only yesterday with a TV producer who is a self-declared Remainer but who told me, in her own words:

I have always been pro-EU and I gladly voted Remain, but when I saw that documentary all I could think was – how dare you talk about us like that, f**k you!

As a media expert, she also volunteered that these people were not in any way self-conscious about being filmed – because they clearly thought that they were doing nothing wrong.

Ultimately:

I would urge every MP and indeed everyone who is thinking of casting a vote in the European Elections on 23rd May (which I hope will be as many people as possible) to watch this programme before deciding how to cast their ballot.

The European elite have completely given themselves away – on camera – and proven once and for all via this programme that 17.4 million people were right all along.

The EU elite do not give a fig about Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They are interested only in our money to fund their lavish Brussels lifestyles.

I am surprised that the BBC even showed this documentary, because it really paints a most unflattering portrait of the EU elite.

Therefore, this is one of those rare times I can honestly say, ‘Thank you, BBC!’

Yesterday’s post was about the BBC’s MasterChef.

It could be argued that the 2018 amateur series was the best to date.

Today’s post has more about the winner and a few inside scoops on the show.

More on Kenny Tutt

The Sun has excellent photos of Kenny Tutt’s restaurant quality winning dishes.

When bank manager Tutt beat Dr Nawamin Pinpathomrat and pilot David Crichton in the final, he said:

This whole thing is for my dad. I know he’s looking down and been giving me support. It’s a special day.

The first quarter hour or so of the final programme presented a segment on each of the finalists’ personal lives. Kenny’s mother related that her husband and son died when Kenny was a young man. He was close to both, but she said that he and his father were ‘joined at the hip’.

Kenny is devoted to his mother, his wife and his two daughters.

Yet, to look at Kenny’s characteristically happy face — we dubbed him Mr Smiley — one would never think that he had had two traumatic deaths to make sense of:

I drew two lessons from this.

The first is that we never know what has happened to other people by looking at them. Although far from being as sunny as Kenny, years ago, someone once said to me, ‘Nothing bad has ever happened to you’. I was taken aback, thinking how utterly wrong that person was.

The second is that the resilience and positive attitude that Kenny displays are exemplary.

We also found out from his wife Lucy that he got up when it was still dark to practice his dishes and perfect his culinary techniques for the show.

The Radio Times reported:

Speaking about his plans after the competition, the chef said “he would love to get more young people cooking”, but that his “ultimate ambition would be to run a high-end gastro Pub”. Just save us a seat whenever you open, Kenny.

The Daily Mail told us:

He said: ‘I would love to get more young people cooking. I always love to get my girls involved in the kitchen, and my eldest Emily just loves to cook and taste the food. Cooking teaches so much, from science to maths, and allows children to be creative and proud.

‘I would also love to write about food and want to put together some great food events, be it supper clubs or private dining. The ultimate ambition would be to run a high-end gastro Pub/B&B.’

The dad-of-two lives happily in Worthing, West Sussex, with his wife Lucy as well as their two children three-year-old Emily and 10-year-old Grace.

The Mail explained how he became interested in cooking:

Kenny started his culinary craft at a young age as he always loved watching his mum cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

The bank manager developed an interest in food from different cultures thanks to his love of travelling across the globe.

The Sun told us what he said before the final:

He said: “My mum always said if you just put a bit of love into it, that generally will make the food taste better.

“I’m just going to give it my best shot, try and have a bit of fun and we’ll see what happens.”

He said his job with the bank was his first “proper” job – and he’s worked there for 15 years.

Kenny says he appeared on MasterChef because he wanted to try something different.

Of course, MasterChef finished filming long before it aired. As with similar televised contests, the winner has to keep the victory a secret until the whole series airs. Add on the six weeks it takes for the show to complete on television and that is a very long period of time.

Mirror TV managed to interview him afterwards:

Speaking to Mirror TV, dad Kenny said that he still “couldn’t quite believe” that he had won the competition and described it as “mind-blowing”.

“It’s an amazing achievement for me, my family and everyone. So yeah, I’m really happy,” he said.

Revealing that he managed to keep the result a secret from most of his family and friends, he admitted that he told his wife Lucy and mum the outcome.

“My wife thought I was joking!” he quipped.

Kenny, who is dad to Emily (3) and Grace (10 months) said that he couldn’t have done it without his wife’s support.

The Mirror asked about the trip to Peru during finals week:

One memorable moment saw a contestant attempt to recreate the Andes mountains out of corn, and another arrange piranha heads on a plate. But was it all work and no play?

“We went out and had a bite to eat, but generally there was a lot of us thinking about what we were going to do next,” he told us.

“But yeah, we managed to spend a few hours together here and there which was really time well spent.”

His MasterChef experience far exceeded his expectations. The contestants were decent people:

I thought it would be more like competition – dog-eat-dog with people trying to clamber over each other to win and the thing that made it really good was that there wasn’t any of that.

We were all the best of friends. And the time the bell rang for us to start cooking we were all in our own little worlds anyway.

Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace:

were the same in real life as they were on screen: “A couple of great guys”.

One thing Kenny hadn’t bargained for was the camera and sound crews:

The thing you don’t see when you’re watching on TV is the things that go on around you when you’re filming like cameras and sound. I didn’t know about that – you don’t even think about it.

It is a bit weird but you quickly get used to it. Once I was used to it it was like they had always been there. They were all great actually – the production crew, camera guys – they all had a great sense of humour.

He also said there was:

a “great atmosphere” on set and said that “everyone was well looked after”.

As for his cheerfulness:

To be honest, that was just me – what you see is what you get and I do get a bit excited to be there. I was just a bit like an excited puppy and that comes across.

I mean, I am a pretty happy guy, I’ve got nothing to be upset about. So I think most people take that as a good thing, but you do get the odd person who is like, ‘God, why is he always smiling?’

Well, you know, I’m on a TV show and I’m doing alright, so I’m not not going to be happy about it.

And:

He also said that he hadn’t realised he was “quite so animated” from the facial expressions he pulled: “It is quite cringe when you watch it back”.

It was all good, Kenny.

He told the Mirror that he was looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the experience before launching into any culinary projects.

Judges’ tasting and food waste

Many MasterChef fans wonder if the judges have to taste the dishes cold. They are also interested in what happens to leftover or unused ingredients.

The Sun posted an article which explains everything. In 2012, Gregg Wallace revealed what happens to the unused food and the cooked food:

The raw food gets divided up by the youngsters in the crew — talented young people who’ve just begun their careers and aren’t necessarily earning very much.

The cooked food is devoured by the filming crew. A lot of them carry their own cutlery!

That said, contestants race the film crew to taste each other’s dishes:

Chetna Makan, from the 2014 series, told Digital Spy: “It’s not just the cameramen who swarm over the food, we (the other contestants) definitely do it too.

“We all run to the food made by whoever got the most compliments. Literally, everybody runs, nearly knocking each other over to have a taste.”

As for the judges’ tasting, the Sun cited former MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist Louisa Ellis, who told Birmingham Live:

The food stays there for a bit after you’ve finished so they can get good shots of it.

“So it can be cold by the time the judges get to it – especially if you’re last to be judged – but they take that into consideration.”

The judges are said to get round this by going round and tasting each contestant’s food straight from the pot, in scenes which are later edited out.

Narrator India Fisher

India Fisher breaks the mould with her sultry, intense narration of MasterChef. She narrates all of the various series except for the Celebrity editions.

The Sun profiled her on April 13:

The softly-spoken host gives a commentary on the dishes whipped up by the cooks – and always makes them sound as good as they look …

Others have admitted that they’d love India to narrate their lives and describe their cooking successes with equal vigour.

This can be problematic for viewers when she moves on to other projects, such as commercials:

Fans may have noticed that India’s voice is affiliated with a number of different brands.

She is the voice of Natwest and has presented a variety of different advertisement campaigns.

Amusingly, her voice has become so synonymous with the show, that fans find it hard to focus when she embarks on a new project.

She also does other voice work:

India is also a broadcasting star, providing voice work for Science Fiction audio dramas including Earthsearch Mindwarp and Doctor Who.

She has also appeared on BBC Radio 4 comedy series Elephants to Catch Eels and Dead Ringers.

As we never see her, the Sun has a photo of her at the top of the article. Mystery solved!

India has been with MasterChef since its relaunch in 2005. Yet, we know little about her. The Sun tells us:

The 43-year-old is an actress and presenter who was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

She comes from a famous family, as her dad is former MP Mark Fisher.

India is also the step-sister of musician Crispin Hunt and actress Francesca Hunt.

The trophy

The MasterChef trophy and logo were updated in 2012 to reflect a 21st century look.

The Sun explains:

It is made of polished aluminium and mounted on a tiered aluminium base.

Makers of the award, Gaudio, say on their website: “The MasterChef trophy is instantly recognisable and is treasured by winners.”

The article also gives updated information on recent winners’ activities in the culinary world.

Another series of MasterChef ended on Friday, April 13, 2018.

MasterChef, in all its incarnations — amateur, professional and celebrity — has comprised most of my BBC viewing. The only other programme I watch is Inside the Factory, which is also food oriented. As everything else is either politicised or revisionist, I avoid the rest of the BBC like the plague.

The last time I wrote about the amateur series of MasterChef was in 2013, when Londoner Natalie Coleman won. I was going to write about Ping Coombes in 2014, but a serious family matter intervened.

I remember well the original MasterChef, which Loyd Grossman — originally from Marblehead, Massachusetts — hosted in the 1990s. Grossman also hosted the British edition of Through the Keyhole for many years.

MasterChef underwent a revamp in 2005. The new studio was large (the current one huge), and the challenges became more involved. Chef and restaurateur John Torode and former greengrocer Gregg Wallace became the new co-hosts. Since then, many the winners have gone on to greatness, opening their own gastro-pubs and restaurants. Thomasina Miers, the 2005 winner, is probably the most successful of all the MasterChef winners. She founded and owns the Wahaca chain of restaurants featuring food you won’t find outside of Mexico.

Every series has some sort of controversy. 2017’s was about the proper pronunciation of chorizo. That year also saw the debut of the market, full of ingredients for the contestants to use. A physician from Watford won: Dr Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed, who now divides her time between hospital work and a cookery career. The doctor had stiff competition in Giovanna Ryan and Steve Kielty:

Now on to the 2018 edition of MasterChef.

The standard of cookery gets higher and higher every year, beginning with the first episode. Successful contestants make and plate restaurant quality dishes. Competent home cooks end up eliminated early on.

This was also the first year that the amateurs went to a foreign country during Finals Week. They spent time in Lima, Peru, cooking for two of the country’s top chefs.

The near diplomatic incident

In Knockout Week, Gregg Wallace nearly caused a diplomatic incident when he criticised a Malaysian contestant’s chicken rendang because the skin wasn’t crispy. On April 4, the London Evening Standard reported:

Wallace sparked a wave of criticism, including from Malaysia’s prime minister, after telling Malaysian-born Zaleha Kadir Olpin her chicken rendang dish needed a crispier skin.

“The skin isn’t crispy. It can’t be eaten but all the sauce is on the skin I can’t eat,” Wallace said on the BBC show.

His sharp assessment of the dish, which saw Ms Olphin crash out of the show, sparked a rebuke from Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, who tweeted a picture of the curry dish along with the caption: “Does anyone eat chicken rendang ‘crispy’? #MalaysianFood”.

Wallace appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain to explain:

I didn’t mean it should be fried, like a fried chicken. What I meant was, it wasn’t cooked. And it simply wasn’t cooked. It was white and flabby.

It did no good. A Facebook page went up in Malaysia with the title ‘Justice for Chicken Rendang’ and demands for apologies from judges Torode and Wallace:

One commenter, Jin Wee, wrote online: “As a Malaysian, if I could, I would personally go to the show and rendang their head. Uncultured swine, doesn’t know variety of cuisine and claims to be Masterchef?”

The British high commissioner also got involved:

Vicki Treadell, the British high commissioner to Malaysia who was born in the country, tweeted: “Rendang is an iconic Malaysian national dish … It is never crispy & should also not be confused with the fried chicken sometimes served with nasi lemak.”

Torode had the final say, with no apology:

I did a whole series on Malaysia. Malaysian food is fantastic. I absolutely love it. I said to her, it wasn’t cooked enough, that’s what I said.

The Radio Times has more on the incident, including tweets. The magazine gives Torode’s exact quote as he was judging the dish:

I think the chicken rendang on the side is a mistake. It hasn’t had enough time to cook down and become lovely and soft and fall apart. Instead the chicken itself is just tough and it’s not really flavoursome.

Chorizo pronunciation redux

Questions over the pronunciation of chorizo arose again with Portuguese-born Alex, who works in the fashion industry in London. On April 12, the Sun reported:

Alex claims she’s from Portugal but some viewers seemed doubtful due to how she pronounced Chorizo.

One tweeted: “Alex on MasterChef tells us she’s from Portugal but then she says ‘Choritso’…#suspicious.”

The Sun included the tweet:

Alex did not make the cut for the final, but as the fourth remaining contestant, did a great job throughout.

Finalists

The final three contestants this year were all men: bank manager Kenny Tutt, airline pilot David Crichton and another physician, Thai-born Dr Nawamin Pinpathomrat, who is currently studying for his PhD at Oxford.

The Radio Times has more on the finalists, including their style of cuisine.

The apple crumble moment

David Crichton made an outstanding crumble in Finals week:

David’s apple crumble mille-feuille – layers of puff pastry, filled with caramelised apple and cream custard, with a crumble topping and served with clotted cream ice-cream and a caramel sauce – almost reduced John Torode to tears. The judge called it “fabulous, fantastic and faultless”.

The Australian-born Torode speaks as he finds. This crumble brought out a side that viewers had not seen before. The Evening Standard carried the story, peppering the text with tweets.

Torode told David:

“Fabulous, fantastic and faultless,” he said as he came close to shedding a tear. “Like honestly, it makes me well up – that is sensational.

“That’s what this competition is about where you push yourself to the stage where you make your own puff pastry and take the risk.

“You make a crumble, you make an apple pie, an apple tart, an apple [mille-feuille] and you take it to dizzy heights where it stirs emotion. Restaurant quality absolutely and a credit to you David.”

Here are two of the tweets:

Kenny’s cauliflower

On April 12, the day before the final, Alex and the three men were tasked with reproducing intricate recipes served at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

Chef director Ashley Palmer-Watts devised his takes on these historic dishes with the help of food historians and the team at Hampton Court Palace. Each recipe is 15 pages long.

The four contestants had five hours each to re-create four of the dishes to Palmer-Watts’s exacting standards. Each contestant was assigned a different dish. One of his sous-chefs was on hand to supervise and offer advice.

SpouseMouse and I really wanted Kenny to win. We think his bank branch is going to close, and he desperately needs another line of work.

We were furious to find that Palmer-Watts’s sous-chef allowed Kenny to leave his cauliflower garnish in the oven. We weren’t alone. Digital Spy reported:

People were fuming that poor Kenny wasn’t reminded about his cauliflower – especially when fellow contestant Alex had been given a helpful hint earlier…

For whatever reason, the sous-chef muttered:

His cauliflower’s still in the oven, so I’m not gonna tell him…

Representative tweets in Digital Spy‘s article follow:

Not only ‘could have’ but jolly well ‘should have’.

After a nail-biting round with Ashley Palmer-Watts joining John and Gregg in the judging, it was a relief to discover that Kenny was going through to the final.

Torode welled up once again:

Alex narrowly missed out on a spot in the final, but said that she was delighted with how well she’d done.

Judge John Torode got rather emotional when the time came to announce the results – and viewers were very quick to notice:

Alex is standing next to Kenny, awaiting the verdict:

The final

In an online poll, most MasterChef viewers did not expect Kenny Tutt to win the final.

However, win he did and in true style. Metro reported:

The 36-year-old father of two is the 14th amateur cook to claim the prize – beating 55 other hopefuls from the current series to the title after seven weeks of culinary challenges.

He ultimately fought off competition from fellow finalists Nawamin Pinpathomrat and David Crichton to take the title.

And he did it by impressing Gregg Wallace and John Torode with a three-course meal which was described by the judges as ‘restaurant-style perfection’ and ‘make-my-heart-thump fantastic’.

Kenny wanted to present the judges with three courses that showed techniques he had learned at the restaurants where he and the contestants cooked during the series to reflect his MasterChef journey:

Kenny kicked things off with roast scallops, smoked cauliflower, shimeji mushroom and pancetta.

His main course was a Squab pigeon breast and bon-bon, heritage beetroot, baby turnip, spiced cherries, bread sauce and game jus, followed by a bitter chocolate, ale ice-cream, malt tuile and smoked caramel.

The judges were impressed, to say the least:

‘Today we watched Kenny coming of age,’ Gregg said of his win.

‘We have just witnessed Kenny having his best round on MasterChef and he saved it for the final. His starter was a stunningly beautiful dish, it was quality restaurant-style perfection and his main course was even better.’

John said:

I think Kenny’s journey has been extraordinary. He has come a long way. His food has got more and more refined and his main course was make-my-heart-thump fantastic!

Kenny said:

I have put my heart and soul into it and it’s been an absolute pleasure. It’s up there with the happiest days of my life!

More on Kenny and MasterChef tomorrow. This series was so memorable in so many ways.

On Saturday, January 6, 2018, Newsbusters posted an article about a BBC interview with Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury, which is about President Donald Trump.

Incidentally, the book is currently available for free online. As such availability likely violates copyright law, I have not posted the link.

Nicholas Fondacaro’s article, ‘Wolff Touts Book “Will Finally Bring Down…This Presidency”’ recaps a BBC interview Wolff gave to the BBC’s Nick Robinson last Saturday. Excerpts follow (emphases in the original):

In an interview with BBC Radio on Saturday, Michael Wolff, the author of the dubiously sourced gossip book targeting President Trump, boasted to host Nick Robinson that “the story” that he told, “will finally end…this presidency” once and for all …

Now, all of this is fascinating, it’s an insight, it’s gossip some of it, it may not be enough to stop him from being president. Whereas, the allegations about Russia may be,” Robinson prefaced. “Do you believe that anything in the book will actually change the chances of the allegations of collusion with Russia being found to be true and therefore leading to the impeachment of the President?

Wolff said:

You know, I think one of the interesting effects of the book so far is a very clear emperor-has-no-clothes effect. That, the story that I have told seems to present this presidency in such a way that it says he can’t do his job. The emperor has no clothes. Suddenly everywhere people are going: ‘Oh my God, it’s true, he has no clothes.’ That’s the background to the perception and the understanding that will finally end this – that will end this presidency.

As retired courtroom lawyer Lionel says, such talk is potentially dangerous:

Incredibly, Wolff told Robinson that Trump hardly has any staff and that he will do little as president. Despite stellar economic results in 2017, Wolff said:

The economy is booming possibly because you’ll have someone who’s not capable of actually implementing any policies or regulation.

In a way, that makes no sense.

In another, such a statement implies that the economy does better with less government interference.

Trump’s insistence on rolling back Obama era regulations has helped the economy improve. Trump was also busy last year negotiating various trade initiatives, such as coal.

In June, the New York Post published an article on coal by Salena Zito, who does an excellent job of covering small town life in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

‘Don’t be so quick to dismiss Trump’s coal mining initiative’ is an eye-opener. For the first time in a decade, a new coal mine opened in Acosta, Pennsylvania. Trump sent his congratulations via video shown to local residents (emphases mine below):

The Acosta Deep Mine in Somerset County marks a dramatic upturn for the area. And while President Trump cannot claim that he brought the industry back here personally (this new mine was already being developed before the election), he is an effective cheerleader for folks who’ve been discounted by the political elite.

“We will begin by employing 70 to 100 miners and we hope to open a total of three new mines in the next 18 months — and that will mean additional hiring,” said George Dethlefsen, CEO of Corsa Coal, which owns the mine.

More than 400 people applied for the first wave of jobs that will pay from $50,000 to $100,000, Dethlefsen said.

In a region where the median household income is $29,050, and nearly 12 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the economic injection is huge.

It also creates a ripple effect: For every new job generated by the mine, even more jobs like waitresses, hotel workers, barbers or grocery workers are needed to support the community.

Absolutely.

Furthermore, the coal mined in Acosta is being used for steel production:

The coal from this mine is not going to be used for energy — instead, it will be used for the production of steel for the next 15 years. (According to the World Steel Association, coal is used to make 70 percent of the steel today.)

Every single one of us relies on steel in our daily lives. It’s found in our cars, bikes and public transportation. Those wind turbines so loved by environmentalists? Made of steel. The utensils we use to eat? Steel. Medical devices used to save lives? Steel.

Roads, bridges, appliances and even iPhones and computers all contain steel.

Exactly.

This is a great move.

And there is more good news on the coal front. In July, The Conservative Treehouse reported on the increase in American coal exports. This came as news to me:

U.S. EIA data shows a gain of 60.3% so far this year in exports of both steam coal (used to generate electricity) and coking coal (metallurgical coal used for steel manufacturing) as a direct consequence of President Trump’s common sense energy policy.

Interestingly, the largest destinations for the growth in American coal export are the U.K. (+175%) and a doubling of tonnage to both France (+100%), and Asia (+100%). High transport costs to ship coal to the EU are being offset by U.S. coal manufacturing efficiencies and improvements in mining productivity.

Reuters has more:

“Simply to know that coal no longer has to fight the government – that has to have some effect on investment decisions and in the outlook by companies, producers and utilities that use coal,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Energy Department, said: “These numbers clearly show that the Trump Administration’s policies are helping to revive an industry that was the target of costly and job killing overregulation from Washington for far too long.”

Coal could also be a major economic weapon used against North Korea, one of China’s principal coal suppliers.

Recall that China’s president Xi Jinping met with Trump at Mar a Lago on April 6 and 7, 2017. On April 11, Reuters reported:

Following repeated missile tests that drew international criticism, China banned all imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off the country’s most important export product.

To curb coal traffic between the two countries, China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes, said three trading sources with direct knowledge of the order …

The Trump administration has been pressuring China to do more to rein in North Korea, which sends the vast majority of its exports to its giant neighbor across the Yellow Sea …

North Korea is a significant supplier of coal to China, especially of the type used for steel making, known as coking coal.

To make up for the shortfall from North Korea, China has ramped up imports from the United States in an unexpected boon for U.S. President Donald Trump, who has declared he wants to revive his country’s struggling coal sector.

Eikon data shows no U.S. coking coal was exported to China between late 2014 and 2016, but shipments soared to over 400,000 tonnes by late February.

This trend was exacerbated after cyclone Debbie knocked out supplies from the world’s top coking coal region in Australia’s state of Queensland, forcing Chinese steel makers to buy even more U.S. cargoes.

I digressed from Wolff. However, he and his fellow ilk in the media deserve to have their collars felt by the authorities. What Wolff is doing with his book and what the media have been doing with fake news could be construed as advocating the overthrow of government, or, as Lionel tweeted, sedition.

In December 2016, BBC Two broadcast a fascinating animal documentary called Wild Tales from the Village.

I’m not much on animal documentaries, but this is a must-see. Children will enjoy it, too.

Filmed in the French village of Puycelsi, the hour-long documentary looks at the everyday life of squirrels, dormice, hedgehogs, pigeons and more, starting in winter and ending the following autumn. You see a year’s worth of activity beautifully filmed. Here’s a short clip of two squirrels. Their love life is traced through the seasons:

Wild Tales from the Village was made by the BBC Natural History Unit and is narrated by Tchéky Karyo from The Missing.

It’s witty, charming and gentle. It might be shown on PBS in the US. If so, do watch or record for later. Budding film-makers will appreciate the lush slow-motion close-ups. This film deserves an award.

Puycelsi is one of Most Beautiful Villages of France. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France is an official designation, not a mere soi-disant marketing slogan.

Puycelsi is located in the Tarn region in southwestern France. It has an interesting history of destruction and rebirth.

It had inhabitants well before the Celts lived there between the 8th and 2nd centuries BC. The Celts named the settlement Celto Dun, a wooden fortress on a hill. The Romans came and named it Podium Celsium, raised platform. Part of the road that the Romans built is still visible and ramparts can be found in the nearby Grésigne Forest. Puycelsi — originally Puycelci — is probably Occitan, which would have been spoken in that region many centuries ago.

Benedictine monks from Aurillac built an abbey in Puycelsi in the 10th century. The earliest document relating to the village dates from 1180, involving the sale of the land by Abbé (Abbot) Pierre to Raymond V, Count of Toulouse. Raymond V saw the strategic significance of Puycelsi and his successors built a fortress and a château.

Regional wars took place. The Counts of Toulouse were able to fend off their enemies from the city of Albi and the Montfort family. In 1229, Raymond VII signed the Treaty of Meaux-Paris with King Louis IX. The treaty stated that Puycelsi’s château and fortifications had to be destroyed.

They were later re-erected. Puycelsi was under siege by enemies from nearby noble families in 1363 and again during the Hundred Years War, when 450 English troops tried to capture it. Incredibly, all of the attacks on the village failed.

The ramparts from the 14th century are now among Puycelsi’s tourist attractions as is the château built in the 15th century. Other attractions include the many buildings — including St-Corneille Church — from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Between 1586 and 1652, Puycelsi had four plague epidemics. The villagers decided to erect a chapel — St-Roch — to fend off illness. The lack of roads to the town no doubt contained the epidemics. Until 1850, there were only mule trails leading to the village. In fact, during the 18th century, Puycelsi women who worked as embroiderers walked 25 to 30 kilometres on foot to markets to sell their products.

The other artisan industries in the village were wool spinning and glass making. However, those ended in 1850, when a coal mine opened in the town of Carmaux. The young and able moved there and Puycelsi entered into gradual economic decline.

This was further exacerbated during the Great War, during which 55 young men died in duty by 1918. Puycelsi went into a long decline after that. People died. Their houses were left to stagnate. It turned into a ghost town and remained that way until the 1960s, when French couples looking for a second property began buying the houses and refurbishing them.

Today, nearly all the houses have been restored and Puycelsi is a popular destination for tourists. The English have a particular fondness for it. There is plenty to see. Cafés and artisan businesses are thriving.

Someone at the BBC knew what they were doing when they chose Puycelsi as the location for Wild Tales from the Village. Perhaps that someone has a holiday home there.

BBC logoIf you’re a home cook who peruses the BBC food site for recipes, it’s time to print copies now before it closes.

On May 17, The Guardian reported that recipes and food articles are already being ‘archived’ and eventually will no longer be visible.

The site has 11,000 recipes, some of which have been available for 16 years. After these food pages are ‘mothballed’, one of the only ways to see them will be via the Wayback Machine using this link, which a Guardian reader helpfully shared:

https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://Www.bbc.co.uk/food

Of course, you won’t be able to search on it and will have to remember approximately when you saw the recipe first appear.

Recipes from current television programmes will be on the BBC site for 30 days after they are broadcast.

The move comes after George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the BBC was being ‘imperial in its ambitions’ by having so much online content. Articles on travel destinations and local news output are also likely to disappear or be scaled back in the coming months.

Other BBC services, channels and coverage could be consolidated or even ended as the broadcaster attempts to save money.

It is odd, though, that an online recipe collection — and the travel archive — can’t be saved. The pages are static. The British people paid for that via their television licence.

Guardian foodies are dismayed, to say the least. As I write at noontime on Tuesday — 12 hours after the article was published — there are already 1,859 comments!

However, there might be a glimmer of hope: a change.org petition to save the recipe site already has over 41,500 signatures of the 50,000 needed for consideration.

The Spectator reports that Helena Kennedy — Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, QC* — recently presented a two-part programme on human rights for Radio 4.

The magazine’s Theo Hobson was bemused by the fact that Kennedy overlooked Christianity as being at the heart of human rights even when one of the interviewees said that religion was paramount in this regard:

but Kennedy failed to pursue this with real curiosity.

Furthermore:

No Christian theologian was consulted.

Instead, Mesopotamia and Buddhism were invoked by human rights lawyers and non-Western participants. One imagines they mentioned the Code of Hammurabi, named after the ruler of Babylonia who developed it, in 1754 BC. Babylonia was part of Mesopotamia. Incidentally, the ‘talk‘ page of the Code of Hammurabi has an intense discussion about its relationship to Mosaic Law. Revisionists claim Moses took his codes from the Babylonian.

Kennedy grew up in a devoutly Catholic home, yet did nothing to defend the faith despite the fact that she remains a practising Catholic.

As Theo Hobson points out, it was only the spread of Christianity, greatly aided by the Reformation and the Enlightenment, which saw human rights become what they are today:

It was the Christian West that gradually heaved such aspirations into politics. It was in Protestant lands, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that the crucial right to freedom of conscience took root – modern citizenship flowed from this. And as one of the contributors said, it’s only within nation states that rights are really secure.

Absolutely.

It’s a pity Hobson couldn’t have been on instead. But, then, that wouldn’t have fit into the BBC’s agenda. Or Kennedy’s, one suspects.

*Queen’s Counsel

Today, BBC1 broadcast the Queen’s 90th birthday walkabout from Windsor.

Tens of thousands attended and Her Majesty unveiled a plaque at The Queen’s Walkway, which is 6.3km long and marks 63 significant points of interest in the town.

Although the majority of well-wishers were British, a number of them, especially women, came from Commonwealth countries and the United States. One British-American group of women met in the crowd at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They have kept in touch ever since and made plans to attend this historic event.

Queen Elizabeth looked resplendent in a ‘spring grass green’ coat and matching hat trimmed with fresh white and yellow flowers. She was all smiles as she accepted cards, flowers and gifts from young and old alike. She deftly handed them to her lady in waiting. Groups of schoolchildren and adults sang Happy Birthday as she walked along the route. Prince Philip kept a discreet distance behind his wife and also talked to the crowds.

As one commentator put it, when it comes to meeting the public, the Royal Family say, ‘We’re in the happiness business’. The BBC interviewed a variety of celebrities and authors who have met the Queen. Everyone said that they were in awe of her but felt at home at the same time. They added that she puts you at the centre, however briefly.

Most people lining Windsor’s streets have never known any other British monarch. Sixty-three years and counting is a very long, intergenerational time — the longest any sovereign has ever ruled over our nation.

During that time, the world has seen rapid change and upheaval. One pundit said that the Queen’s presence gives us a sense of stability and continuity. No matter what happens, she is there with us as our head of state.

The mayor of Windsor and the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire acted as hosts for the walkabout and tea party at the town’s Guildhall. At the Guildhall, the Queen and Prince Philip met several nonagenarians. The Queen then cut her birthday cake, made by last year’s Great British Bake Off winner Nadia. Another Bake Off contestant from the same series, Martha, also baked cakes for the party guests.

After spending time at the Guildhall, the Queen and Prince Philip stepped into a brand new custom Range Rover which has a large open-top roof, allowing both of them to stand and wave to the crowds as they were driven down streets in Windsor town centre. Someone dubbed it the Queenmobile.

This evening, the Queen will celebrate her birthday at Windsor Castle with 60 people, family and friends. Entertainment will be laid on.

A discussion took place as to whether the Queen knew what was being planned. Those in the know said that she probably did. She does not like surprises. She likes an orderly plan for everything.

They also said that while Queen Elizabeth presides as head of state, Prince Philip is the head of the household. He gives the orders for everything, including when to clear plates from the table. Servants watch him for the cue.

Commentators said that Windsor Castle really is the nexus for the Royal Family. Everyone feels comfortable there. They also consider Windsor as their home town. They know a lot of people there and feel an affinity with all the residents.

In closing, RMC (French talk radio) announced the walkabout on their morning news broadcasts. One of the talk show hosts also mentioned the new Royal website. He added that part of the job description for the site’s community manager, who also is in charge of tweets, is to have lunch with the Queen whenever she is in residence. How wonderful!

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