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WHAT WOULD BAKE OFF’S MARY BERRY DO?

As The Great British Bake Off sends the nation giddy with excitement, SW resident columnist Louise Candlish considers presenter Mary Berry’s cool credentials 

After surrendering heart, soul and stomach to sport this past summer, we all deserve, I think, a return to the far less real brand of reality TV that is The Great British Bake Off. No one’s going to bite someone else’s shoulder and fall to the ground pleading a tooth injury in the Bakeoff tent, oh no.

Bewitched for as long as I can remember by box sets of The Wire, Breaking Bad, Nurse Jackie et al, I came late to this televisual ambrosia. ‘It sounds a bit twee,’ I told friends who tried to convert me. ‘I don’t know anything about Eccles cakes.’

‘That’s not remotely the point,’ they said. ‘The point is, the contestants are really nice and sometimes on TV you forget there are nice people in the world.’

It’s true that even Nurse Jackie is compromised.

Well, I can’t speak for Paul Hollywood or Mel and Sue (who my husband persists in calling Mel and Kim), but I feel certain that Mary Berry is not compromised. She is robustly, wholesomely, dutifully herself. Whatever she does, she does in good faith. Not only a bestseller herself with her cookbooks (no voluptuary à la Nigella nor ‘ordinary’ multimillionaire à la Jamie, she aims only to help us cook things properly), she is also the inspiration for a very amusing new novel by Claire Sandy called What Would Mary Berry Do?

You may remember Bridget Jones used to ask, when faced with moral dilemma, What Would Madonna Do? Later, when wondering whether to finish his round of golf or dash to the maternity unit to assist his wife in childbirth, Rob Brydon wondered, What Would Rod Stewart Do?

Well, Mary Berry, unlike the other two, would do the right thing. This is a star who chases no trend, a television presenter who books no Botox. She is 79 and yet, somehow, she is very cool. Maybe she is cool because she is 79. After all, compared to Brucie (86), she is a young gadabout.

As a non-baker, I don’t actually use ‘What Would Mary Berry Do?’ myself as a form of self-help/invocation of celebrity immunity. Instead I have a whole cast of heroes: if working, Maggie O’Farrell or Margaret Atwood (aim high, that’s my motto); if parenting, my friend Joanna in Chiswick; if fancying a cigarette, Lana Del Rey. And so on.

But I do ‘get’ Mary. We all do. She unites us in the getting of her. Like the Bake Off contestants in their floury aprons, we’d all like to be her favourite precisely because we know she would never allow herself to have one.

Yes, we’ve got what we deserve after our summer of sport.

@louise_candlish Louise’s latest novel ‘The Disappearance of Emily Marr’ is out now.

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