At least my campfire baking didn’t have a soggy bottom Mary

A tirumphant Mary Berry off to collect her award.
A tirumphant Mary Berry off to collect her award.

I once baked a Campfire Twist, a rather yukky concoction from the Boy Scout Book of Iffy Recipes; if I had eaten the horrible specimen I’d probably have been rushed to hospital to have my stomach pumped.

A fellow Boy Scout dib-dib-dibber (name of Sam) and I were on a ‘survival night’ for a segment of our First-Class Badge (which I never achieved coz I couldn’t complete the required swimming section).

Our project entailed a 10-mile trek through the woods of darkest Tyrone, sleeping in a sturdy tent, cooking our meals over an open fire and returning home to our worried mums. (Dads weren’t all that anxious).

Sam, a rustic son of the soil, was a Godsend - a clone of the legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone and could have survived indefinitely out in the open on Mother Nature’s bounty.

I’d wanted to join the Boys’ Brigade, but my elder brother (then 12) had been ‘lost’ on the way home from a BB camp in Castlerock and had to make his own way to Portadown. The officers hadn’t even noticed until mum laid into one of them after church the following Sunday. Thus, I was consigned to First Portadown (College) Scouts – The Troop became untenable when the Dickson Plan for Education was invoked, but that was well after my time.

The Campfire Twist consisted of strips of dough, twisted around a Scout staff and held over a campfire until it was golden brown, which our Assistant Scoutmaster Bert assured us was nutritious and tasty.

Sam laughed out loud at the idea – “They taste like (un-Scout-like words rhyming with ‘grit’), and if I were you I wouldn’t bother.” With that, he gathered his fishing equipment and went off down-stream to catch a few trout.

Stupidly, I DID bother. To be fair, the dough (a mixture of flour and something else) turned out fine and twisted nicely round the staff, but staff and dough caught fire during the process, and were transformed into a burnt offering.

“I TOLD you,” Sam chuckled, as he returned from his angling expedition and popped four silver trout onto the pan. We had a lovely meal, after which we slept like logs. Sam kept quiet about my baking disaster and Scoutmaster Bert later ticked off the wee box that confirmed we were Super Campers.

That was my one and only sortie into baking. It came back to haunt me last week when the TV awards (ITV) were being handed out. It was really an Ant and Dec Appreciation Show, with the brilliant Geordie duo picking up three awards.

The awards were The People’s Choice, and what pleased me most was that the elegant Mary Berry (81) received the Judges’ Award, for her exploits on The Great British Bake-Off. The show sadly has been sold off to Channel Four, and with typical principle, Mary isn’t transferring.

She beat the erudite Len Goodman of ‘Strictly’ and the annoying Simon Cowell to the silverware. “I don’t mind beating Simon Cowell,” she later quipped, speaking on behalf of the entire nation. Mary looked so radiant, and is an icon for us golden oldies. We become “invisible” once we cross the 70s threshold and are often interrupted in mid-sentence by super-rude younger fry. (Oh, I enjoyed that rant).

In her acceptance speech, the courteous Mary (I think she’d even be kind in her judgement of My Twist – or maybe not) observed that she loved the Bake-Off. No doubt the Beeb is lining up another hit show for her, which will give the C4 offering a roasting comparable to The Campfire Twist. (At least my baking didn’t have a soggy bottom).

Mary took pride in the fact that Bake-Off often topped the TV ratings without the hint of a swear word – and just when old fogies like myself concurred, wouldn’t you know that the awful ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ took the Comedy Award.

When you think back to classics like ‘Only Fools and Horses’, ‘Father Ted’, ‘Morecambe and Wise’ and ‘The Two Ronnies’ (all not averse to the odd innuendo), it shows that comedy on The Box has sunk to the depths of a certain ship that struck and iceberg in 1912 and lies many fathoms deep in the North Atlantic.

‘Mrs Brown’ isn’t worth getting annoyed over. Like the iceberg, a man in drag, swearing his/her way through a programme, bedecked with his family members and digressing into sentimental clap-trap, leaves me freezing cold.

Maybe the Beeb could sell it off to Channel Titicaca, high up in the Andes, where the TV signals are trapped among the mountains and the stupid laugh and silly scripts are lost forever.

FOOTNOTE – In 1959, I left the Scouts and became a BB officer. I finally learned to swim at camp in Portrush - in the old Northern Counties Hotel pool, but Scoutmaster Bert refused to tick the box that would have given me my First-Class Badge, as I’d moved over to the opposition, just like ‘The Great British Bake-Off’.

Still, I deserved the snub, having gained my Super Campers Segment through chicanery. A case of - ‘Be Sure Your Singe Will Find You Out’…