Some people watching The Great Sport Relief Bake Off last week will have done so because they like baking, others because they wanted to do their bit for charity, but I suspect that most of us wanted to rubberneck at the Prime Minister’s wife. We don’t know that much about Samantha Cameron, really, given that she’s been grinning gamely for the cameras on her husband’s behalf for a decade, so a chance to get her on her own and find out a little bit about what makes her tick, (and ideally grab a little dirt on Dave) was not to be missed.
There were other contestants there too, but I can’t remember who they were. I spent the entire time transfixed by Sam’s (they called her Sam so I can too) every hair flick and giggle. I was a sort of Sam Cam cam, attention trained solely on Sam Cam, jotting down everything she said and putting it through a mental mouli for its political, historical and socio-cultural import.
What then, can we glean about our quasi-first lady and her husband through only the prism of cake? Well, her very first pronouncement was that ‘David’ had said to her that he was ‘really worried about the technical.’ Note, ‘the technical’. Not, ‘Jeremy Corbyn,’ or the Chinese bond market. Cake and in particular high-level, technical cake is what gets our Prime Minister properly spooked.
In addition, we learned that Sam Cam is a massive swot and yet, infuriatingly, at the same time modest and really rather nice. She wiped the floor with the first vol au vent challenge, cleaving to a Cornish theme, whopping in some black mustard seeds and fresh chilli and generally being 100% head girl. Anyone who can knock up a tray of vol-au-vents like that could definitely run the country, and most probably is.
David, she revealed as she did some folding, “is an enthusiastic and good cook.” Parse that and she means David is a terrible cook and anyway he’s always in Davos or Brussels being cooked for so what would he know? “But,” she added, “he has not mastered the clearing up as you go along.” David, in other words, leaves a trail of destruction in his wake. Here, Sam Cam was expressing her disapproval for Dave’s penchant for over-ambitious policy launches and the subsequent fall out (see: hug a hoodie). If George Osborne was watching I bet he was shouting about how it’s always him who has to come in afterwards and do the metaphorical washing-up.
By far the most telling moment in Sam’s career-redefining ‘bake off’, however, came in her showstopper. She went for another Cornish link with a pair of surfboards sticking out of a blue sea of buttercream. Inside the sponge was blue, too – Conservative HQ would have called that right on message.
But there was a surprise. At the centre of the whole thing was an arms cache of strawberries that caused wild delight on the judging panel at the sheer audacity of the woman. To me, however, she couldn’t have made herself clearer if she’d launched in to ‘The Red Flag’ – Sam Cam is not only a star baker but a closet Labour supporter. The tragedy is she is only able to express her true leanings through the medium of cake.
Dazzled by this revelation, which no one else seemed to notice, I found myself less astounded by Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur, even though it’s whole mission was to astound.
The programme told the story of how a couple of years ago a shepherd in Patagonia stumbled upon a rock. Except it wasn’t a rock, it was a bone so big it could have been The Flintstones’ sofa. In came the archaeologists; it turned out that this was the thigh bone of a Tyson Fury of a dinosaur, a total Humonganoid. (They settled on ‘Titanosaur’; I’d already written down ‘Whoppadon,’ ‘Gargantanaut,’ and ‘COR!-osaurus.) A further 150 bones were unearthed, and the process of piecing together what this thing was, and what it looked like, began.
Though the CSI Paleo Edition computer graphics were fun, in the main this was a hymn to bigness, with Attenborough going through several phases of mock disbelief as the stats and the analogies rolled in. Titanosaur weighed 70 metric tonnes, had a heart 6 feet in circumference and was four times as long as a London bus and twice its height. Yet the need for these analogies highlighted the programme’s signal weakness – TV, being largely a 2D medium generally shown on a smallish screen, is poor at giving a sense of scale. Although they mocked up how big Titanosaur was, it was never quite as impressive to the viewer at home as it was to Attenborough, standing next to the reconstructed skeleton. Even when Titanosaur was brought to life by CGI and beamed through your screen he was never any bigger than a house cat. I would like to see the programme again in IMAX.
The Real Marigold Hotel was based on the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, asking what would happen if you took a group of 70-plus famous-ish people to India and got them to stay there for a bit.
Initially I thought this was just going to be the Miriam Margolyes show, as Graham Norton’s show is whenever she’s on it, and Margolyes was indeed hilarious (“I do fart. And they have to accept that. But I’ll always say when I’m going to.”) The rest of it was founded on a pretty paltry premise, yet somehow The Real Marigold Hotel was a cut above the usual fish out of water reality fare. I think it was as simple a matter as having older people on camera. Their worldview was wider, they were less self-obsessed and they seemed better able to express how they were feeling than some of the younger reality contestants on gaudier programmes. Who knows, old people on television may just turn out to be the latest thing.