Anything over a million viewers would have been acceptable, but Channel 4 were ecstatic to hear that 2.3 million viewers watched the first episode of The Hotel – and that it was the most viewed programme on Channel 4 in the entire week. I got a call not long after the programme ended to say that I must log on to #thehotel on Twitter. It was amazing to see the torrent of tweets – most of them favourable. Two things were obvious – all of the girls loved Amos and everyone loved Wayne, except for the girls who thought that he had been mean to Amos. For a while on Sunday ‘The Hotel’ trended No1 in the UK on Twitter and No2 Worldwide.
One thing is certain, the exceptional cold this winter hasn’t harmed our bee population. The garden today is alive with the buzz of bees and insects of all kinds. I pointed my Flip video at a thorn bush which has just come into flower and counted five bumble bees, plus honey bees, wasps, hover flies and numerous other flying insects which I can’t name. And- amazingly for the middle of April- two kinds of butterfly- a tortoise-shell and a tiny little thing with pale blue wings.
In the background countless small birds are chirping away. Today is the middle of April- in a couple of months it will be the longest day. This Slow Life is ebbing away before we know it.
Although the Damson Dene Hotel has been the main sponsor of Damson Day for several years now we can take no credit for the fact that it has blossomed into one of the best events in the spring calendar. “Blossomed” is the appropriate word today, because the damson orchards in the Lyth Valley are all in full bloom. There can’t be a prettier sight in the whole of England.
I think we can be pretty confident of a bumper damson harvest this year. Although the warm days which have brought out the blossom have been followed by clear nights there hasn’t been any frost or other adverse weather which might have prevented the fruit from setting.
There was a happy festive atmosphere today and it looks as though, once again, Damson Day has attracted record crowds, which will give the Association some of the funds which they need for the good work they do in encouraging damson growing.
This video gives a taste of what a fun day it was.
“The first time I heard about people in the Lake District raising money for us I cried for ages, I was so moved. It is really wonderful to see how people are standing with us.”
- Atsuko Tamura
As soon as we realised the extent of the disaster in Japan, Kirstie Sobue and I resolved to do what we could to raise money for the relief fund. At the second of our fund raising events today we enticed business and professional people from the Lake District to a lunch at the Holbeck Ghyll Hotel. When I asked Andrew McPherson, the manager, whether he was willing to help he said “Yes” without a moment’s hesitation and he very generously provided us with a Michelin Star meal with Champagne and wine at minimal cost, so that £65 from each £75 ticket has gone to the charity. An auction and raffle boosted the total amount raised to £4,350, easily exceeding our target of Yen 500,000. Much of the credit for this goes to Atsuko Tamura, a Japanese journalist, who made a very moving speech about her experiences during the disaster. The money is going to an appeal set up by Mr Mitsuyama, the leading representative of Japanese tourism in London.
My special thanks to Tony Jackson from Lakeland Vintners, who supplied the Champagne; to Val Altham of Altham’s Butchers and Stephen Ellis of Temple Heelis, solicitors, for being so generous in buying tickets and bidding so fervently for the auction prizes; and to the Holbeck Ghyll Hotel for donating a weekend for two, as well as providing the lunch.
When I thought about how many proposals, marriages, honeymoons and anniversaries are celebrated in the Lakes it occurred to me that the Lake District might be called the romantic heart of England. This idea gained force when I heard that there had been no fewer than 13 proposals in one week at a boutique hotel in Windermere. So I took the opportunity of my Chairman’s speech at the AGM of the Lakes Hospitality Association to announce the launch of a PR campaign to promote the Lakes as the Romantic Heart of England. Sometimes people think of the Lakes as a place where old fogeys come to walk and admire the countryside, but if there’s a whole lot of loving going on we might as well tell the world about it.
First they deceive, then they destroy. Not so long ago the supermarkets looked with envy at the thousands of independent bakers on the High St. The supermarkets, with their factory produced sliced wrapped loaves, had no chance of competing against bread which was freshly baked by a master baker who worked through the night to make the real thing. Then someone at head office had a bright idea. Why not create in-house bakeries to make fresh bread right there in the store? The accountants pointed out that this was a complete non-starter as it would mean employing skilled craftsmen to work unsocial hours. But what, said the bright spark, if we continue to make the bread in factories, but give the impression that we are making it on the premises? All we have to do, they said, is bring it in frozen, dress up some assistants as pretend bakers, and re-bake it in our own ovens.
This brilliant idea caught on. Soon they were all at it and soon thousands of independent bakeries up and down the country were forced out of business. The only ones who managed to survive were in places like here in Grange, where the supermarket hasn’t yet arrived.
This week, the sham bakeries have been exposed because of a proposed new rule, which will force the supermarkets to own up when bread has been re-heated from frozen. We had the ludicrous spectacle of one of their PR people saying that the proposed rule will harm the environment because the customer will throw away unused bread rather than freezing it if he has been made aware that it was previously frozen. Of course, what he is really frightened of is the possibility that the customer might not want to buy his rubbish in the first place if he is told the truth about how it is made. Then, perhaps, we might get some of our artisan bakers back.