Dusty Springfield – another name I could have added to the list of women who shaped my idea of feminine allure. She had a big TV show when I was a kid and I would sit close to the set studying her eye make and working out how I was going to achieve that look when I grew up.
Now I have a new poster girl who I aspire to be like when I grow up a bit more into an older woman – so for those readers outside the UK, may I please introduce, Mary Berry.
In the UK these days, she’s a Living National Treasure. We LOVE her. She’s been a television food presenter for years, although she’s only come to big fame (and on to my radar) in the past couple as one of the judges on the Great British Bake Off.
It’s hard to convey the traction that this programme has in the British heart right now. We love it as Aussies love Masterchef (and we love our version of that too), but there’s something about BAKING and CAKES and BUNS and PIES, which makes bake off particularly cosy and heartwarming.
The skills of the amateur chefs – including the kids – on Masterchef leave me astonished, but with bake off, I feel a little bit closer to the action. I can make a cake and, thanks to Mary Berry, I can now also make a treacle tart.
I’ve read that an Aussie version of the show is happening this year, so I’ll be interested to hear what it’s like.
The UK one is staged in a very British marquee, complete with jolly bunting, in the grounds of some heavenly country house, with the garden in full summer glory. But the real triumph of Bake Off is the four presenters.
The hosts are warm and witty comedians Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, but the glacé cherries on the top are the two judges, Mary Berry and professional baker Paul Hollywood. Also known as Paul Hubbahubbawood.
He’s middle-aged, quite stout around the middle, with a grey beard – and the most devastating blue eyes since Paul Newman. You really need to see him assessing a Chelsea bun, the killer blues thoughtfully narrowed, to appreciate his appeal, but I don’t know a woman who wouldn’t like his strong hands kneading her dough. I know I would.
But while we all fancy Paul, it’s Mary we adore. She’s just so lovely and funny and warm and wise and chic, with such a twinkle in her eyes (she sometimes tips male competitors a cheeky wink).And best of all, she’s never harsh or negative in her comments; she always finds a positive way to critique the most collapsed of meringues.
On the Celebrity Bake Off which was recently shown in aid of the Red Nose Day charity appeal, TV presenter Claudia Winkelman had a totally disaster with her lemon meringue pie, which arrived at the judges’ table in several pieces.
Paul Hollywood openly laughed at it. Mary Berry smiled warmly and said: ‘Now this one’s been on a journey…’ She’s the Dalai Lama of baking.
As well as her wonderfully positive outlook, the other thing I love about Mary Berry is her style. She wears gorgeous bright shades which bring out the colour of her eyes – a slightly deeper shade of astonishing blue than Paul Hollywood’s.
When I first saw her I thought she was a bit scarily slim for someone who bakes and eats cakes for a living, but have recently discovered that she has the telly presenter’s ideal body shape. She’s a classic British pear, so she looks very slender from the waist up and can hide all her Victoria sponge bulges behind the counter.
But my latest realisation about Mary Berry is the cleverness of her eye make up. Like darling Dusty, she wears false eye lashes all the time, which is what helps to makes her 77 year old face look so bright and appealing.
Of course it’s mostly bone structure and her attitude to life, but the false lashes make her eyes – which get steadily smaller as one ages, I am discovering, to my horror – stand out as they do when we are young. (Sob.)
This could be the answer I’ve been looking for to solve my current ageing eye make up dilemmas, more of which in my next post.
Meanwhile here is a Youtube link to the episode of Celebrity Bake Off featuring Claudia Winkleman’s lemon meringue.