Vicky has asked me to pass on her thanks for all your kind thoughts and condolences. She’s not feeling up to posting anything just now. She says it’s been a terrible year and Eric’s passing was the cherry on top of a particularly horrible cake. (Are you sure that’s right? – Mavis)
She promises that she’ll be back as soon as she can, and in the meantime respectfully asks you to stop pestering her about offers at the shop. Please go ask Mr Derawal yourselves. You’ve got legs, haven’t you?
They’ll all be down at the community centre now for the big Get Baking, Britain! final watch-along and Cake-Off. Mr Richardson is setting up the big screen and Mrs Evans is in charge of teas and coffees. Everyone is baking something and bringing it along to share. There’ll be prizes for Tallest Tiers, Neatest Fondant, Most Imaginatively Shaped Pancake and Best Use of Marzipan in an Historically Accurate Scene On Top of a Cake.
I settled down to watch here with Eric. He’d had a better day today; a bit brighter, but still off his food. I got a cup of tea and a slice of Battenburg and set them on the side table, then spread my blanket over my knees and helped Eric up on to my lap. I couldn’t reach my cup then, of course.
Not wanting to disturb Eric, I let the tea go cold and we watched on as the finalists did their thing. I chatted on to him, as I usually do. Felt very emotional, thinking this was the last episode ever – but I tried not to let it spoil my enjoyment of the whisking and folding, baking and decorating. Very soothing it all was, in a funny sort of way. You forget that it’s a competition and get lost in all the jokes and conversations, and end up being swept along by the little triumphs and disasters and the lovely lovely people. When it was all over and they’d announced the winner, and all of the contestants were celebrating with their friends and families, I did shed a small tear.
‘Well, that’s that, Eric.’ I stroked his head, just between his ears, just how he likes it. ‘Eric?’ He was small, and still.
He must have slipped away during the very last showstopper, my sweet boy.
We sat in the darkness for a long time, with just the flicker of lights from the television screen.
Mr Derawal is having a Get Baking, Britain! sale. Everything on the special shelf is half price.
‘Got to clear this lot to make way for Christmas,’ he said, as I paid for my milk.
Get down there quick and grab yourself a bargain. Lots of marzipan and French Fancies, from my quick assessment of the shelf.
Mrs Evans popped round this afternoon to see how my Eric was doing. I’d moved his bed into a sunny patch on the carpet – he was curled up tight; everything tucked in. We watched the rise and fall of his furry old chest.
‘You could take him to the vet,’ said Mrs Evans, gently.
I shook my head. ‘I don’t want them prodding him. He’s happy enough for the moment.’
‘You know where I am, if you need me,’ said Mrs Evans. She turned down my offer of a cup of tea as she was off to a meeting at the community centre about the Get Baking, Britain! final. ‘You will be there, won’t you?’
Something strange happens at this time of year. It’s the beginning of the end, isn’t it, with the leaves falling off the trees and the night-time coming earlier and earlier. My world gets a little smaller. I’ve found myself less and less inclined to go out on my morning walks round the park. It has a something to do with Mavis walking out with Mr McGhie, though perhaps not as much as you’d like to think. I said no to him, after all.
Got a postcard from my nephew today. He’s travelling with his girlfriend. Off-peak Ibiza, apparently. “Nobody sends postcards any more,” said the message on the back. I stuck it to the fridge with my Elvis Presley (the jumpsuit years) magnet.
The clocks will go back, soon. And Get Baking, Britain! is nearly over. Finally, really and truly over. I sat in with Eric this afternoon and watched the raindrops crawl down the front window. I think Eric might be losing weight again. I pulled a blanket up over us both and gave him a bit of my cheese sandwich. He used to love a bit of cheese sandwich. Today he just licked around the edges and went back to sleep.
There are some things in life, aren’t there, that you just depend on? The sunrise each morning, old friends always being on your side, the Christmas and New Year edition of The Radio Times. My goodness but my faith has been shaken this week.
After last week’s not-so-mysterious offering of Jaffa Cakes and Viennese Whirls, I had taken to sitting just behind the curtains in my front room in hopes of catching Mr McGhie in the act. Of course, I didn’t see anything at all untoward, but the time didn’t go to waste. I have finished quilting a comfortable little cushion for Eric, who is studiously ignoring it in favour of the sofa. But he’ll come round. He usually does.
But, I was dusting round my dado yesterday morning, standing on a chair by the front room window, who should I see slipping out of Mr McGhie’s front door but Mavis. Mavis, of all people, too early to be dropping in for coffee. Mavis, with her stockings askew.
And who should I see hanging a little bag on my door this morning? Yes, Mavis. Guilt offerings. As soon as she’d gone up the road I nipped out, quick as a flash, and brought the bag in. A box of Mr Pipkin’s Very Delicious Mini Bakewell Tarts, if you please. I sat at the kitchen table with the room going a bit spinny, and decided to turn on the radio for a bit of comfort. But no comfort was to be had. Get Baking Britain! is to be dismantled. My favourite programme. My favourite people. My Wednesday evenings will never ever be the same.
Jaffa Cakes are still like gold-dust round here. Along with Viennese Whirls. So I was very surprised to find a bag containing both hanging on my front door handle this morning when I opened it to pop Eric out for his morning constitutional.
Of course, I knew exactly where they’d come from, and marched straight over the road to knock at Mr McGhie’s. ‘It’s very kind of you,’ I told him, as he opened the front door a crack. ‘But let’s not start all that again.’ I thought I saw a flicker of something in his eyes, which I took to be regret. ‘Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t be able to accept these,’ I told him, clutching the bag to my chest. ‘But needs must.’ Mr McGhie still hadn’t opened the door fully – to let me back into his home would be to risk letting me back into his heart. I fully understood, and was just about to say so, when he said, ‘I’ve got something on the boil,’ and closed the door, quite firmly, in my face.
Very strange behavior. I went straight back home to put the kettle on. It was nearly half past ten after all, and time for a little something.
I really fancied a Jaffa Cake with my cup of tea this afternoon, and walked up to the corner shop for a chat with Mr Derawal and a quick shufti round the baking shelf. No Jaffa Cakes. Not a single one, and even the cash and carry have run out. National shortage, apparently. How long until the cash and carry had another delivery, I asked Mr Derawal. He’s been advised that there could be a considerable wait, and would I like some Custard Creams, instead? What is the world coming to, when a lady can’t have a Jaffa Cake with her Sunday afternoon cuppa?
Of course, now all I can think about is that delicious sponge, and the dark chocolate topping… and the lovely lovely orange bit in the middle. Custard Creams, indeed.
I might even consider making some from scratch, if my arm wasn’t aching so much. But, as Mavis says, who on earth would make Jaffa Cakes from scratch when they are so delicious straight from the packet? I am doing my best to assuage the cravings with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange and a box of sponge fingers.