ON SUNDAY MY MOTHER IN LAW CALLED ME A COW But I can't really blame her. I'd just told her (unasked) that I've already bought all my Christmas presents. Even I think I'm a cow.
THERE SHOULD BE A WORD FOR IT That feeling you get when you spot somebody in a soap opera wearing a top you have in your wardrobe. There is the thrill of recognition, the Oooh! of your velvety thing from Top Shop being on the TV, then the horrible realisation that you are, in some small way, like Sam Mitchell or Gail Platt. Even worse is to spot Kevin Webster sitting on your sofa on Corrie, but perhaps the most pitiable victim of this syndrome is my friend who had to live through seeing her wallpaper on Hollyoaks. Hollyoaks!
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MAVIS Just now she barked in her sleep and woke herself up.
THE WRITING PROCESS I doubt that you'll hear Martin Amis admitting this, but I just can't write properly if my hands are unmanicured. As my fingers flit over the keyboard I am distracted if the nails are ragged, and the cuticles are unseemly. Trivial, I know, but if my nails are neat scarlet ovals somehow the prose improves. Or at least flows.
THIS MUCH I KNOW John Travolta has a big face
Telly It's all about Strictly Come Dancing for me from now until Christmas. I won't refer to it too often in case you're allergic to it, but I'll be savouring the 'journeys' of the various slebs with the delight of a connoisseur. So many questions were posed by the teasing taster show which paired up the couples. Will dead eyed Patsy Kensit wake up before the final? Can Ann Widdecombe get down with her bad self? Will Felicity Kendal combust with sexy older ladiness? And is Paul Daniels not a magician at all, but actually a horrid little squirrel? All this and Claudia Winkelman on It Takes two every evening as well.
FUDE A grape is just a grape. Until he's been in the freezer, whereupon he becomes a Frozen Grape. Small, frosted, atypically hard and a lovely eau de nil colour, your cold little friend will effortlessly tickle your guests' jaded palates after a heavy meal, provide a diverting snackette at your desk, impress and surprise people who have never imagined a world where grapes are frozen (happily there are plenty of these people around).
No recipe is necessary for this beguiling little wonder. You really do just pick the grapes from their woody stems, jostle them into a freezer bag, tie them up tightly and freeze them. (My daughter likes these for breakfast.) (But she's weird.)
ENCOUNTERS WITH THE FAMOUS It's another biggie this week. It's George Michael. As a cake with a file in it sits cooling on my worktop (prison is no place for him) my wind wanders back to an evening in the last decade. I was sitting in a louche club, yawning beside my trendy male friend. He was very trendy, very very trendy, the kind of uber-trendy that could be mistaken for Care in the Community: hats indoors, school blazers, occasional use of a monocle. I was probably in black, with very high heels and just too much make up.
A George Michael track came on – the coyly titled I Want Your Sex (one day we'll be singing it feebly around a Bontempi in the old folks' home) – and I perked up no end.
'Ooh, I love George Michael!' I said.
'He's rubbish,' said my over-styled companion.
'I love him,' I said.
'I love him.'
'He's rubbish. And look at that fat idiot dancing to this rubbish.'
I followed the line of his pointing finger. Both our pennies dropped simulataneously.
'That's George Michael!' we said together.
I simpered and sat up straighter. My friend said 'I dare you to go and dance with him'.
Up I jumped, wearing the hyper-casual expression that means I am dangerously excited, and insinuated myself dancily into George's clique.
And, Reader, he danced with me.
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MAVIS Quite a week for our small hairy correspondent. We threw her an impromptu birthday party, long after the big day itself has passed. (She seemed unaware and she doesn't read this blog, so I think we got away with it.) We gave her a chewy stick hidden in a toilet roll and made her a pretty hat. She seemed ungrateful.
It's (yet) another occasional series!
IRISH-ISMS I'm made of Irish stuff, all the way through. But – and it's a big but – I was born in London. I'm definitely not London Irish (that conjures up images of thick necked rugby players high on Guinness, weeping their way through Danny Boy); nor am I West Briton (a contemptuous Dublin term for Irish people with a posh English tinge to their accents). I'm English to the naked eye and ear, but sometimes, just sometimes, some fruity Irish turns of phrase slip out and expose me as the Celt that I am. I'm going to share some of the ones I grew up with. I have no pretensions to accuracy, but you didn't really need to be told that, did you?
A useful one, this. It's a not altogether complimentary nickname for a woman who pays too much attention to her wardrobe, your smug, over-groomed acquaintance who has a new outfit for every occasion and who always seems to be wearing something new (and slightly naff). Think Mother of the Bride. “She's a right Forty-Coats”, my Grandmother would say about the woman next door, swanning off to mass in yet another foxfur stole. In modern times, Vanessa Feltz is a Forty-Coats, as is Carol Vorderman.
I LIKE HER Sue Perkins. Does everybody like Ms Perkins? Jaunty and flip, she has a tomboyish glee that is contagious. Prettier the older she gets (a good trick: how does she do it?) and dead clever with it. And she holds her own against the mighty self-love of Giles Coren in The Supersizers.
I DON'T LIKE HER Kylie Minogue. There. I've said it. Come lynch me, Minogue fans, I'm prepared to die for my beliefs. And one of my core beliefs is that women with faces like shrink-wrapped civets shouldn't claim to have had a mere touch of Botox now and then. Her expression is the same whether she's on stage, having an orgasm or attending a funeral. And enough already with the corsets and the feathers and the Manolo's, Kylie. She's obviously a pro, probably very nice, but I have a strong suspicion that without the auto tuning she sounds like Gordon Brown.
FAVOURITE QUOTE OF THE MOMENT Outside a shop on Regent Street in W1 I saw a hoarding that read Where there's tea there's hope. And I cannot disagree. (Although I would add a Mr Kipling Bakewell slice for good luck.)
THE WRITING PROCESS Some days, nothing happens. Nada. Not a single decent idea, no snappy dialogue, no nothing. What do I do on those days?
(a) Panic. This can be small scale (if I don't finish at least a thousand words today I'll be behind on my [frankly nuts] schedule) or on a more impressive scale (that's it! My career is over! I'll have to sell my hair and pimp out the spaniel to survive!). It's best to get stage (a) over and done with early, so as to move on and…
(b) Rearrange The Things On My Desk. I move the pen pot just so, a millimetre to the left. I twiddle the lamp. I restack the notebooks, in strict order of size. I might punch the gonk. Then I...
(c) Eat. A biscuit, a sandwich, or a whole hog on a spit. I eat when I'm blocked. And when I'm not. I wipe my lips daintily with a starched napkin and I...
(d) Work On Something Else. This shakes the brain cells up, stretches muscles that have been inert for a while. But there is a danger – if the Something Else goes too well, then returning to the blocked work can seem like a chore. As a last resort I can always...
(e) Watch Daytime TV. A desperate measure, but oh so moreish. Like Smarties, or heroin. Half an hour of Jeremy Kyle seems like a good idea at the time, but I always need a shower afterwards.
FUDE Do you know what you need? I'll tell you what you need. You need a foolproof chocolate mousse recipe. I know, because I needed one for years and couldn't find one. Everybody likes chocolate mousse (yes, alright, except for you there at the back who is poised to email me – I accept that it can't be actually entirely true that everybody in the whole world likes chocolate mousse, but go with me here). But chocolate mousse is usually very dark (children don't like that, and neither do I). Chocolate mousse can be a bit of a bitch, 'forgetting' to set properly when you have company. So here is a milky chocolate mousse, suitable for children and the inner child. I make it in one big bowl and grown women have been known to cry when they realise they can take as much as they want and not have to pretend to be delighted with a sodding ramekin.
This is a Jamie Oliver recipe, but I substituted elderflower for cognac . As it contains raw egg, don't offer it to pregnant women or the elderly: it's a dinner party, not Russian Roulette.
Melt 225g milk chocolate and 70g butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. (You know how to do that, don't you? Good.) Whip 350ml double cream to the point where it's floppy and cloudlike: stop before it becomes clenched and pre-menstrual.
Whisk together 2 eggs and 2tbspns runny honey. Fold in 1tbspn of elderflower presse to the egg mixture. Then fold the chocolate and the cream into this mixture. Be gentle, don't rush, and keep folding until there are no streaks.
Pour into 6 ramekins or one large bowl and chill in the fridge until you need it.
Share it if you must.
I am Bernadette Strachan, but please call me Bernie or I’ll assume you’re telling me off. I am an author of romantic fiction, with added funny bits. Six books are already out there in the world (WHY DO WE HAVE TO LIVE WITH MEN? came out in October 2010) and number seven is coming to life under my fingers at the moment.
I live in Kingston, Surrey with my husband, my daughter and our dog. The husband is Matthew, a composer. The daughter is Niamh, she’s six years old. The dog is a spaniel called Mavis. She is quite thick. As Niamh might put it, I superduper love them all.
I’m mad about books, and consider it a privilege to be paid to write. I love to cook, I overeat, I feed gangs of people as often as I can. I’ll be your friend forever if you offer me Pavlova but I may avoid you if you insist on giving me fish. Just can’t be doing with fish.
I can’t bear txtspk, I love bad television, I think Johnny Depp should be available on the national health. I’m rather shy, although I can be horrendously extrovert when the spirit moves me, I do yoga once a week, I have a stationery fetish, I love it when Niamh puts on shows for me in the kitchen.
Err, that’s all really.