This week’s post is a little late in coming, in large part due to my birthday celebrations which I managed to protract into a whole week of lunches, dinners and catching up with wonderful friends. Needless to say, cake featured heavily.
One of the key topics for debate over the past week has been the “Diana-Gate” scandal that is Great British Bake Off. Twitter was awash with shock, horror and things very close to threats following the debacle involving one semi-liquid Baked Alaska and the Air Max wearing pensioner who was said to have caused the whole thing by taking a fellow competitor’s dessert out of the freezer while it was setting. Iain, the victim in the piece had a meltdown of his own, hurled the pudding into the bin and marched off before he combusted.
The whole thing was shocking! I even took to twitter myself as I was incensed that Iain was summarily dismissed from the show for failing to offer up his now soggy pastry and meringue. Would the BBC announce that they had had a change of heart and he would be returning to the show? How edited had the programme really been?
I accepted that it was bad form to not present what he had, although I praised him for not throwing Diana under the bus which I would have done – and frankly I would probably have snapped the neck of the meringue swan which adorned her own creation. The poor chap could have kicked off on camera but decided that it would be best that he take himself off to a quiet corner, close to weeping – from sadness or anger we can’t be sure but I’m sure more than a helping of both.
Since then the UK press has been awash with accusations and retaliations. Some of them are ludicrous. Diana has now left the show – the Alaska incident being blamed across the media – although the show was filmed in April and she rather sadly has bowed out due to a medical condition. Not nice for anyone I’m sure. The BBC have retaliated to the torrent of complaints they have received by stating that the soggy Alaska would not have melted during the short period it was out of the fridge – followed by various reports of the temperature being anything between 25 and 35 degrees, and the dessert being out between 20 seconds and minutes. The lack of fridge/freezer space has also been revealed, suggesting that Diana really should have been more considerate about sharing space in her fridge, rather than the dismissive “he’s got his own fridge” comment which incensed the nation. After all, it has become clear that it was common knowledge and indeed discussed amongst the contestants that the facilities were very poor and ill equipped.
Of course, it is entirely possible that Iain’s dessert would have been a disaster anyway – we just don’t know. We will also never know whether this was done maliciously or not. What I do think, however, is the thing that we do know and what has probably incensed people the most – the utter thoughtlessness of it all.
The Great British Bake Off indeed showcases everything about being British, or at least the qualities we imbue it with.
On the one hand, Mary Berry has already made it clear that she will have no nonsense and carrying-on during this season. Diana herself declared that she had no truck with crying. Essentially everyone should just buck up and get on with it. We love that Dunkirk spirit and there’s a lot to admire in that (although one should note that it’s also why many women with post natal depression were confined to asylums and shell shocked soldiers were sent back to the front in WW1 so let’s not think we are too clever about this).
But on the other hand, we also have our fundamental sense of fairness – of thoughtfulness – of plain old fashioned good manners. I suspect what has really incensed the nation is Diana’s removal of Iain’s baked Alaska without the common courtesy of telling him. Frankly, it’s just bad form. Mistakes of course can happen but the icing on the proverbial cake was her complete lack of remorse. We never had this last year with the custard fiasco – two jugs of custard look much alike but when competitor mistakenly used that prepared by another, at least there was an apology and an appropriate amount of discomfort by all involved.
I love the fact that we detest things which aren’t “cricket” – as I’ve said before our urge to make things better has resulted in all sorts of positive legal and social change over the centuries. But I’m also slightly concerned about how far this can go in a very negative direction. While I am angry that Auntie Beeb’s flagship cookery show did not at least reprimand their contestants (perhaps then drawing a line under it and cracking on, with perhaps 2 eliminations the following week instead), I am horrified at the level of trolling levelled at “Dirty Diana” as she has been labelled. How far will we go? After all, surely there are worse things in the world to get irate about? What about Syria, the Gazza strip, the fact that pensioners are dying of hunger and cold in their own homes? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all channelled our disgust at something worthwhile and generated some sort of positive action – or do we now care more about the state of a baked Alaska than the state of mankind?