Monday, November 06, 2006


Time demands that we catch up with all the programmes stacked up ominously on Sky Plus. Which this weekend included the BBC Four play Fear Of Fanny.

This was not a study into extensive research proving that a fear of fanny is an affliction suffered by at least eighty per cent of men who regularly use the internet. Heh heh. After all, everybody knows that already.

Nope, it was a black comedy based on the life of one of the first stars of British television, Fanny Cradock. Between the 1950's and mid 1970's she was a precursor to the celebrity chefs who annoy us to the back teeth today.

Not that I ever saw her on television. Cookery shows were unwatched in our house. As I've explained, er, somewhere else in the archive, my mother was not a keen cook, a "fault" she has passed on to me. What's the point of spending all that time in the kitchen, amassing loads of ingredients, chopping, grating, stirring, whisking, kneading, all the tedious minutiae of cooking? Yawn. Plus, you end up eating loads more food and turn into a huge lumbering sweatbox who dies of a heart attack at fifty! Great.

I seem to remember seeing her being interviewed on Jonathan Ross's show in the late 1980's, talking about the death of her husband. "I probably finished the old bugger orff. Good riddance, too" she declared. Tut tut, hardly the sort of thing you expect to hear from a sweet little old lady, is it?

Fanny was indeed known as something of a dragon, on and off set. On screen she was constantly nagging her unfortunate assistants and amiable, henpecked soak of a partner Johnnie. In some ways, they may have been the prototype for another couple who turned up at the end of the 1970's ...

Hmm ...

She had two illegitimate sons and sent them to live with their grandparents. She seems to have severed relationships with all of her family at some point or another. I don't know how much artistic licence was involved in the storyline, but it seems pretty true to life, judging by the Wikipedia entry which is well worth a read.

The dramatisation was quite good, all things considered. Still, there were one or two annoying points.

The play was attempting to show the "vulnerable" side of a hard, bossy woman. Well, what a surprise. All women who are considered to be a bit *frightening* in the public eye are subject to this kind of consideration, as they are obviously "damaged". Otherwise they would have put aside all their ambition to get married at the earliest opportunity and have half a dozen children, where they would have found true happiness.

How many times has it been "explained" to us that the reason Madonna has been so driven, singleminded and hardfaced is that her mother died at an early age? She may be powerful but there is obviously a, ahem, "damaged little girl" behind the fiery persona.

Funnily enough, aggressive, controlling men in the public eye are rarely subjected to such an examination. We're unlikely to see a play opening in the West End exploring the "vulnerabilities" behind Robert Maxwell's empire, imploring us to understand why he was a vicious, bullying cunt.

At the end of the play we see Fanny resident in a nursing home, eccentricities magnified to the power of ten, running amuck in the kitchen attempting to re-arrange the dreary food being prepared for lunch to her own ends, acting as if she was still on camera. It seems horribly like gloating to me: look how this ferocious woman has ended up! She rejected her friends and family and has ended up alone, unloved and completely mad!

Underneath it all, perhaps there is the same old moral to the story. If you are a woman who can't fit into the role of sweet, uncomplaining, demure housewife, mother and nurturer all sorts of terrible fates await you.

Not even being able to serve stuffed goose with all the trimmings will be able to save you.

Well, I just think she ended up as a bitter old Fanny with a foul taste in her mouth. Cantankerism (nice word - if it exists) applies to blokes who behave in this manner aswell. Maxwell got away with it 'cos he had the cash (although it wasn't his apparentley).
Fantastic review Betty, well for me it will be the preview as I've not got space aged telly yet waiting for it to turn up on BBC2
There was a play in the West End about Robert Maxwell. It starred John "I said, I said I am not gay, please do not stab me" Savident off of Corrie.

Unfortunately, before it ended, Maxwell's sons put an injunction on it, because it prejudiced their trial, by making them look like cunts as well.
*tries to think of amusing "fanny" joke*


Nice review Betty.
Istvanski - I can only guess that the foul taste in her mouth was a result of all those dishes she used to prepare containing lots of vegetable dye ;)

Jane - I bet it will turn up on BBC2 eventually. Mind you, I think it's worth looking into getting Freeview because BBC4 puts on quite a lot of good stuff. Most of the rest of stuff on the Sky package isn't up to much.

Tim - I think I remember the controversy about that at the time. Of course, if you've got enough money you can buy your way out of anything. Even if, as Istvanski said, it's not your own money in the first place.

Billy - well, I pitched in with the title of the post.

Apparently Johnnie once commented on the food she'd just prepared during a programme and said “I hope all you doughnuts turn out like Fanny’s”.
Watched first half but not a bloody recipe in sight. The Vegetable Expert with Glasses on "Masterchef" would have made a better Fanny.
Murphmeister - you missed one later on, a boiled egg dyed blue (I think) with a blob of mayonnaise on the top and an anchovy draped over it. Eggs ... mayonnaise ... anchovy.

Best blog post title I've seen all week anywhere.
I was, of course, referring to Fanny's advise on how to prepare pancakes.
"ADVICE". Looks like I should get someone to "advise" me on spelling.
Do people still call their children Fanny? I haven't met one.
Did you see the Mrs Traske thing on BBC4 Betty? I'd never seen it before, but the channel reshowed the very documentary which cost Fanny her fame and fortune. I can't see what the fuss was about really. She sat there like a drag queen pulling apart the housewife's menu (which did sound awful) rolling her eyes and pulling her mouth so tight it all but disappeared. If she were still around now, she'd be sitting in Sharon Osbourne's place on 'The X Factor' and no doubt doing it with a whole lot more class than her too.
From memory, Johnny and her weren't actually married, were they? Used to like Benny Hill and Bob Todd
Realdoc - judging by the children around here, the only names allowed at the moment are Lewis, Jessica, Ellie and Rhys. No Fannies, hem hem. Come to think of it, there haven't even been many well known Fannies from the last century. Aunt Fanny from the Famous Five books is the only one I can remember, and she wasn't real.

Lost Boy - I didn't see the actual confrontation with the housewife who'd won that competition, but there was a mock-up of it in the play. I should imagine she and Johnnie could have been raking the money in if they were around today as a kind of extreme version of Neil and Christine Hamilton, doing the rounds of the reality shows.

Richard - no, they weren't married, although the play seemed to indicate that they wed later in their lives (it wasn't confirmed). She used to be a favourite for comedians to parody, from what I remember.
I've got a battered paperback Fanny and Johnny Cookbook. It's wonderful - she is leaning over some awful dish with something equally awful in it with her slash of a mouth and head cocked slightly to one side in annoyance at Johnny who is standing there like a shop mannequin holding two big schooners of Amontillado sherry (or a nice Armadillo as my Aunty Laura used to ask for). Priceless. Perhaps I'll put up one of her most dreadful recipes such as devilled kippers up on my blog for you Betty.
Here, I've been rifling through your stats because I'm nosy. It seems the key to getting 17 thousand hits a day is to display a picture of Sophie Ellis Bextor with legs on. I had a similar experience for a while when I linked to a picture of Jose Mourinho spewing water except that for some resaon, my hits have dried up. My oh my.
Rockmother - maybe her unique vision of cookery will have a revival. It all seemed to involved a lot of game and stuffed animals, judging by what I saw in the play. Mind you, there were one or two old recipe books hanging around in our house and in those days stuff was always cooked in half a pound of lard and, if you wanted to add an exciting exotic touch to a dish, you drowned it in cheese.

At this point, Molly would say "yummers, as Billy would say".

Richard - yeah, that Sophie Ellis-Bextor picture ... kind of proves what I said in the post about eighty per cent of men who use the internet, doesn't it?
I was out on the evening this was on and, not yet having decided to shovel more funds in Sky's direction, I intended to "tape" it (ask your grandma). Then forgot.

Great review and commentary, thanks very much. What were the performances like? Julia Davis seemed such a good piece of casting, in principle. I will be joining Jane in quiet prayer for a re-run.
hg - I bet that it gets repeated on BBC4 pretty soon, or turns up on BBC2 in the near future. That's one good thing about telly these days - you don't have to wait around for a year for something to be shown again once, if it's deemed popular enough.

I'm not really a fan of Julia Davis to be honest but she was pretty good in this (and a lot less Julia Davis-like than normal). Nicholas Burns (um, Nathan Barley) was pretty impressive as one of her sons too.
Doughnuts? Is that with jam? Armadillo? My grandmother liked her soup with cretins. I like the Neil and Christine Hamilton comparison, pretty spot on.

I thought all kids were Joshua and Jacob, 'cause Old Testament names are really trendy. Having said that, I haven't come across many Japhets or Jeroboams, though there is a Shadrach in 'Emmerdale', er, I understand...but then they also had a Seth and a Cain, although nobody in the programme seems very Abel.

I digress, so I'll fuck off.
Rockmother, battering the cookbook seemed a little excessive. Did it improve the flavour?
Your juxtaposition of our former PM with Ms Craddock is excellent Betty. I hope the BBC commission a series where the senile old twat is the star of a cookery show. Preferably skewered over an open fire with a turnip up her arse.
Krusty - no Old Testament names round our way, this being Saaaarf Laaahndan. Names which sound like towns or boroughs are popular (Lewis and Chelsea). As for Emmerdale, I'm sure whoever decides on the names for characters probably has themes like that running as a way to combat boredom. Same happened on Coronation Street, when Peter Baldwin started dating Shelley Unwin ... Pete ... Shelley ... see what they did there?

Vicus - I'm sure if something like that happened there would be such a big audience demand that it would be a pay-per-view programme. I'd certainly pay to see her being basted in boiling oil at medium heat for several days after a sage and onion stuffing has been applied.
Fabulous title Betty.

Did you see the thing in the Guardian Guide the other week where some poor fucker lived off her recipes for a week? I know we all have to slag off the Guardian all the time, but this feature was really very funny.
Spinsterella - yeah, I went away to read that article again. Dear God, fancy preparing meringue swans, aranging them on a "lake" which was really a looking glass, then sprinkling them with icing sugar which is supposed to be snow ... who needed to be on drugs with stuff like that on the telly?

The article's at http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguide/features/story/0,,1920583,00.html
if anyone's interested.
Cor! Meringue swans? As Betty would say Molly would say Yummers as Billy would say! Hee hee.

I might have to make some meringue swans. I know that they would probably end up looking like small squashed snowmen floating on a lake of milk.

Have you ever studied Fanny's eye-shadow and eyebrows? They are fantastic. Can you get another colour picture of her face.

She was viscious to the bloke though. I remember the blue eggs as well. EWWWWW!
Molly - meringue swans floating on a mirror with mounds of "snow" on - sounds like some kind of elaborate cocaine ritual, probably happening at a party hosted by Freddie Mercury. Perhaps Jamie Oliver should take that cooking direction rather than forcing kiddies to eat spinach.

Her approach to make up looked as if it was based on Andy Warhol's prints of Marilyn Monroe, doesn't it? Acid green eyeshadow and scarlet lipstick. Yummers, as Danny La Rue would say.
"Her approach to make up looked as if it was based on Andy Warhol's prints of Marilyn Monroe, doesn't it?"

I'd say it was more Jackson Pollock.
Strange thing is, women did wear loads of brightly coloured make up in the '60's and early '70's from what I remember. It's just that in her case it was, shall we say, a bit more extreme than the norm.
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