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(More) evidence that Fran's performance in the kitchen has been inconsistent

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'What are you cooking for dinner?' my daughter asked on the phone one evening last week.  'Mince,' I said.  'Savoury mince?' she said.  'Don't call it savoury mince,' I said. 'That makes it sound like something that you'd serve in an old people's home, or perhaps feed to a dog.' Awkward pause, then she said,  'You called it savoury mince all through my childhood.'  'I did?'  I nearly asked, 'And was it? Savoury?' But I dared not, because when my husband and I look back we realise that we subjected our three children to a wide range of poor cuisine as they grew up.  We overcooked meat, leaving roast chickens in the oven for hours until they'd have made credible weapons for hand to hand combat.  We overcooked fish, wrapping it in foil and baking it for so long that all moistness fled for its life and the white fish turned grey as though in despair at what had happened to it.  We overcooked vegetables so that

Reasons why Fran isn't applying to appear on The Great British Bake-Off

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When the grandchildren came round last week, we made Welsh cakes.  Two years ago, we made them on holiday in Wales and they were so delicious that the children requested this repeat performance.  Unfortunately, the aspect of the performance that did not get repeated was that, in Wales, I didn't transform the cakes into slabs of inedible charcoal by frying them in a cheap, thin-bottomed pan.  Nevertheless, the children tried to be optimistic as, one by one, I lifted the burnt cakes from the pan with a fish slice and layered them like pieces of soot-black roof tiles on a blue flowered plate. The plate looked highly offended, being more designed for delicate cup cakes than a pile of incinerated carbohydrate.  When the Welsh cakes had cooled (and hardened even more) we tried them. 'They're nice, Grandma,' the children said, biting into them gallantly but with true alarm in their wide eyes like those facing a zombie invasion or firing squad.   The only consolation is that ap

Evidence of Fran's near-death experience

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It's Saturday evening as I write. This time last week my body still comprised one-fifth woman and four-fifths pudding. I was so stiff with starch that I couldn't bend at the waist to take off my socks at bedtime. I felt as though all my internal organs had been re-upholstered.   Despite all this, non, je ne regrette rien.  I had gone with two friends to The Pudding Club. It was their 60th birthday treat to me and - well - what an experience!  I'm aiming to go again on my 70th, 80th, 90th and 100th or should I ever tire of life as it could do what Dignitas does but with added custard.    Have you heard of the Pudding Club? It was started by people who felt that the traditional British pudding should be saved from extinction and celebrated. Because of this, the evening is full of ceremony and ritual as guests make their way through seven puddings, all paraded in regally, applauded and cheered.  Seven puddings? Yes, you heard correctly.  Puddings are in the news. There's a

Evidence that a 60th birthday has Fran musing on change (and decay)

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I am forty fifty  oh-all-right-then sixty today.  'You're entering your seventh decade,' my (younger) sister wrote in my card, because that's what sisters are for: to cheer and encourage you.  Some things belie your age, though, don't they, however hard you cling to your youth? The down-turn of the mouth; the crows-size-11-feet around the eyes; the appearance of elasticated trousers in the wardrobe due to the baffling disappearance of what used to be your waist but now appears to be spare cookie dough.  Where do waists go? Are they with all the lost socks? I found something else which illustrated the passing of time recently. Our holiday list.  I was packing for a mini-break with a friend: the first time I've been away for aeons.  'Where's the holiday list?' I asked my husband.  'What's a holiday?' he said, glumly. (Imagine Eeyore just after he's stubbed his toe.) Over the last 40 years, we've compiled a list so that our family di

Evidence that Fran may have learned to identify a sparrow at last

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Here's a poem about nature that I wrote this morning although my observations were made from the warmth and safety of the indoors as regular followers will not be surprised to hear.  A morning in March   The neighbour has frisbeed stale slices of bread across his scraggy lawn beneath the apple tree, its branches winter-bare save forgotten Christmas lights. But the birds can take incongruity with more grace than I do.   First come the pigeons, plunging in like gossips to a whispered conversation. One triumphs away a whole slice which hangs uncertain from its beak, wondering if it will survive the journey.   The sparrows arrive next, flitting up down up down as though on the end of a conductor’s baton. They peck-kiss at the slices, checking left and right for rivals, then dart upwards as though caught thieving.   Last, a robin, a lone actor. It observes from a branch until the sparrows have flecked away, then hops to the middle of a sli

Reasons why you might find Fran eating with her eyes shut

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I don't know about you, but I'm not keen on unnaturally-coloured food. My gardener husband is always experimenting with new varieties such as purple carrots or white strawberries and I make a big fuss. I want my carrots orange and my strawberries red or not at all, thanks.  Likewise, if he puts beetroot into a dish and it dyes everything crimson or bleeds onto the plate, I lose my appetite, having anticipated dinner, not a Tarantino production. For me, beetroot has to be kept in a dish of its own at a safe two metre distance and wearing full PPE. I could only eat this while wearing a blindfold   'I've cooked you some tuna with mash and veg,' my husband said earlier this evening when I emerged from the front room having tutored three students in a row. I was ready for dinner.  I went into the kitchen.  'Where is it?' I said. 'On the plate,' he said. 'Where you're looking.' All I could see was a flat slab of what looked the colour of putty.

Reasons I now want to be called the Franfluencer

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Apparently, a 'binfluencer' is that person in your street who puts out their rubbish and recycling first, leading to a rush of activity as all the neighbours follow suit. That must mean that a chinfluencer starts facial hair fashions, a ginfluencer leads others in trying new alcoholic flavours and a drive-in-fluencer is that chap at the head of the traffic queue at McDonald's.  Let's not stop there. (I am ignoring you at the back, shouting, 'Yes, let's!')  Is a pigeon-fluencer a bird which struts ahead of the flock in the search for crumbs?  Does a Boleyn-fluencer lead the campaign for posthumous justice for beheaded second wives?  Are enough break-in-fluencers convicted?  Do rolling-pin-fluencers hate everyone who uses ready-prepared pastry?  Do has-been-fluencers jolly middle-aged B-list celebrities along?   Do puffin-fluencers try to persuade other bird species to paint their beaks in bright colours? I mean, who's going to ignore him?   Is a therein-f