The Great British Bake Off is over and gone for ever from the BBC. It is the only cookery programme that has ever made me dare to bake something and mostly succeed. It has made national heroes out of ordinary people, non-celebrities who we can genuinely identify with, and perhaps is the only programme that was genuinely worthy of the name ‘Reality TV’ (a term which seems to be an oxymoron in relation to the programme formats it usually describes).
The Bake Off has also been valuable for another reason: it has wonderfully embodied the Great British national conversation at so many levels. (For comparison, when the format has been sold to other countries, such as Holland for example, their versions have reflected their national conversation in all kinds of ways, and the Bake Off Italia – Dolce in Forno certainly has something about it that is all its own.) In the British Bake Off, the mother/son chemistry between Mary and Paul, the bad jokes of Sue and Mel, the idyllic country house setting in verdant Berkshire, and the wonderful range of accents and attitudes in the mix of contestants all came together to flavour this rich pork pie of British culture. In so doing, they have all helped to shape the national conversation.
What do I mean by a national conversation? It is hard to define easily, but it is a uniting conversation that typifies and expresses the life of that nation and embodies its shared life together. For it to be more than just a social conversation among a few friends, however, it needs to have some key elements.
First, a national conversation requires a common language. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but this is important. When the English nation was forming in the days of Alfred the Great, it was King Alfred’s commitment to spreading the English language across the nation he sought to govern that defined England. He was committed to education, and to translating parts of the Bible into Old English. Continue reading “Cherish the national conversation”
There lies in the ocean, turned towards the north and west, the island of Niatirb, which is reported to be cold and wet in winter. The islanders, surpassing all the peoples of whom we know in patience and endurance, have traditionally responded to the cold and dank by the interesting pastime of baking. This has happened since ancient times, though it is said that their great king may have been responsible for burning the cakes, so greatly did the unfair dominance of Europe (mostly the Danes) over his native England weigh upon his mind. Others minded their baking skills much the better, so that the Niatirbians have become advanced beyond any other nation in their baking, and in so doing have developed extraordinary delicacies, such as the cheese scone.
With the advent of the supermarket, and the slow decline of the traditional baker, it was agreed among the chief vision-meisters that the wireless picture box should address the decline in the baking skills of the Niatirbians by showing a series of baking parties. The meisters pondered holding this in a grungy warehouse, as they so often did when making modern shows involving dragons, but decided instead to plant a tent on the lawn of a stately home, to install pastel shaded worktops and to festoon the walls with bunting, since such bunting expresses in a unique way the joy of the Naitirbians. Each party would be hosted by the Twins of Innuendo and Laughter, together with she who is the Mother of all Apple Pie, and he who would be proved to be the Rising Prince of Darkness. And where the Mother of all Apple Pie shone with the sunshine, charm and pristine niceness of The South, the Rising Prince of Darkness came from The North, and so many could identify with his sense of lostness. Continue reading “The Niatirbian Bakeoff”
Sally Phillips’ moving BBC documentary ‘A World without Downs’ amazed me. (Those outside the UK can watch it here. Watch it – the best TV you will see all year) It amazed me because it was so refreshingly direct and against the grain of the prevailing liberal elite . It amazed me because I just didn’t think the BBC would ever commission a programme like that. (Compare and contrast Michael Palin’s interview with Jan Morris, for example) It astounded me for the sheer brutal and inhumane way in which scientific and healthcare professionals talked in such austere was of screening out anyone with Downs Syndrome. They were self-evidently incapable of admitting the humanity of the unborn child, while in the lab next door other medical professionals will be spending huge budgets to try and treat massively disabling conditions (such as cancer, MS, MND and Huntingdon’s Disease) among the born. How can there be such a vast gulf between before and after birth? How can the system institutionalise murder and dress it in a white coat? The scientific amorality of some parts of the medical profession shown in this programme demonstrates in the boldest colours possible the terrifying moral hopelessness of the post-modern generation.
I have been hugely impressed by the blogs of Glen Scrivener and David Robertson on this subject, and cannot express better the arguments that they have expressed. Go and read them. They are both brilliant. Here, I want to look forwards and to ask a question: in this debate, how can we ever counter the ‘women’s right to choose’ argument and protect the rights of the unborn? (The only part of Sally Phillips’ argument that failed was that she defended a mother’s right to choose. Possibly, this was the price of getting the programme aired. Has she considered its implications?) In a liberal society the ‘free choice’ argument is used to undercut almost any argument we might make, whether it relates to marriage, sexual behaviour, abortion, the broadcasting of pornography, gambling, or the recreational use of drugs. But there is one argument that still holds sway with the liberal elite: defending human rights. If we are ever to make any progress in protecting the unborn, and indeed all the vulnerable, it must be Continue reading “Downs Syndrome and Wilberforce’s long march”