Normality, it appears, has resumed. The two weeks annual leave is all spent and work has spent the past three days whacking me repeatedly around the chops with its cold, cruel ‘you have a mortgage to pay’ reality.
That makes it sound as if I don’t enjoy my job. I do. I completely enjoy what I do for a living. The way the NHS is run occasionally causes mild fits of rage and – on one memorable occasion when an executive director asked me to put my thoughts down in writing – a four-page rant. But I like what I do. I get to spend most of the day nerding in spreadsheets. This makes me happy. Happy-ish, anyway. In an idea world, I’d not have to come to work. This is because I am inherently anti-social. In the office environment, I periodically struggle to join in the conversations about the previous night’s TV viewing (although I can contribute for a while now to Bake-Off Wednesdays and Strictly Mondays – the only two TV shows that I will make every attempt to watch).
The Great British Bake-Off is a bad influence. After this week, I am filled with an overwhelming urge to attempt to bake macaroons. I love baking. I’m rubbish at it, but I love doing it anyway. I think the problem is that I’m impatient. I don’t WANT to wait. I want it to be done NOW. The science of baking is terrifying. A gram over here, a gram under there and you end up with a catastrophic mess in a tin. Bst advice when baking is to follow the recipe. Don’t deviate. If you deviate, baking demons will rise (as long as you added baking powder and bicarb) and mess with your end result. Thus, instead of a perfectly risen sponge cake, you turn out a Frisbee. Instead of your perfectly even-baked muffins, you get one giant one and eleven blobs.
Even Himself has started watching Bake-Off with me. It’s a weekly event, not just a TV programme. It’s comfortable viewing, like a pair of old shoes that you can’t bring yourself to part with. You know that the fashionistas are sneering at you for it, but you just don’t care.
There’s an element of schadenfreude, certainly. When delicate sugar work breaks into a billion pieces. When someone ‘accidentally’ steals someone else’s custard for their trifle. Watching people’s faces as they contort with comedic agony when Paul ‘Silverback’ Hollywood and Mary ‘Jesus, That’s One Scary Lady’ Berry comment on their pie’s soggy bottom (GBBO in-joke), or discuss the ‘even bake’ and ‘crumbly texture’ with the kind of intensity that makes it shamefully obvious that you haven’t got a clue what they’re on about. You feel like an intruder in this dainty environment; an elephant stepping amongst the snowdrops.
Weirdest of all is the fact that you suddenly develop this air of superiority. ‘Well, that’s not a bad genoise sponge,’ you find yourself saying, ‘but I could make it better. And that Sachertorte? Pff. Call that ganache? More like Ganesh.’
And so on.
Strictly Come Dancing starts on Saturday and I can’t wait. This is the only other programme I find myself riveted to year on year. I have absolutely no idea why. But just like GBBO, I suddenly become the world’s expert on ballroom dancing. ‘That,’ I say with unshakable confidence, ‘was a splendid foxtrot.’ Said foxtrot is usually then torn to pieces by the judges, but I stick to my guns. ‘I don’t care,’ I say, snootily. ‘I liked it.’
Those two TV shows really are a guilty pleasure for me. What about you guys? What do you watch without fail that’s just ever-so-slightly twee or a bit naff? (My dad watches ‘Storage Wars’ and ‘Duck Dynasty’, for example. I watched a bit of ‘Duck Dynasty’ whilst I was down there visiting. Holy hell.)