Here’s hoping you will never be unfortunate enough to find yourself in a supermarket at yawn o’clock…
Imagine me, wandering like a lost waif around the store at the wrong side of dawn. I’m neither bright-eyed nor bushy-tailed, the lights suspended overhead are blinding, and the whole place smells of fruit and cleaning product. Not a perfume combination I would recommend.
I’m buying ingredients for a string of cooking demonstrations for the next couple of days. What should be a simple chore turns into the kind of physical challenge they force breathless, puffing Krypton Factor contestants to complete. After I clamber over packing boxes and sift through crates, I discover none of the tills are working, and the only other people there are the zombies coming off the graveyard shift. Oh, for some unfathomable reason there is a lone granny shuffling down the aisles – quite why this sweet, doddery old lady is doing her shopping so early is a question even Stephen Fry couldn’t answer.
Shortly after, I’m pottering up the motorway to Ipswich to perform the first of several well-rehearsed Aga demonstration. It’s at Orwell’s, a company who makes beautiful bespoke furniture. I cook, amongst other things, Jerusalem Artichoke Soup and Pan-fried Sea-bass with Mango Salsa. I have cooked these recipes so
many times before that they are now second nature to me, but I do sometimes worry that I might not deliver them with as much panache as I would like. There is nothing inspirational about somebody working on autopilot.
One down, the next day I toddle off to Holt, a quaint market town in Norfolk. I would like to say more about its customs and laidback charms, but once again I was confined to the inside of a shop. This time it was for “A Day In The Life Of An Aga”, a demo of Olympian proportions in which I cook twenty-three dishes in an hour and a half – how do you like those apples, Ready Steady Cook?
Holt, or what little I see of it on my way in and out, seems a lovely town. You could imagine that its corners and nooks hum and bristle with tea-scented coffee rooms, leafy parks and traditional pubs.
For now, I will just have to imagine. Note to self: go back there someday soon.
Without drawing breath, I head to Norwich to do the same demo in the evening. Sometimes it feels like I’m living my own personal Groundhog Day.
In the morning, I’m faced with the impossible mission of showing thirty-five ladies how complicated cakes are made easy with an Aga. There are muffins, sponge cake, soufflé, gateaux and, dare I say it, tarts.
(It takes all my willpower to not make childish baking-related innuendoes at this point, so I shall move on swiftly.)
Lastly, by now a little worse for wear, I make the crawl to a little town in Oxfordshire. I think it is Saturday, but the days are blurring so quickly that it’s hard to be sure. I finish off my week with my “Contemporary Classics” demo. Salmon Roulade, Beef Wellington and Slow-Roasted Belly Pork are on the menu, but I’m daydreaming of home, a familiar bed and the comforting quiet of my own bedroom.
Worse, I’m sensing the swift onset of man-flu. I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m irritable and blocked up, but know I need to be professional and all smiles. I focus on the job at hand, and as usual I get lost in the patter and enjoy myself – the connection you make with a crowd always makes it worthwhile.
Job done, I get back in my chariot, the seat now moulded through overuse into the shape of my derriere, aim for London. Arrive home. Drop my bags. Collapse. Sleep. Sweet sleep.