Ground Hog Day

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 18 August 2015

Well it aint Baton Rouge, but my next gig is Brighton and Radio Sussex.

Up at 6.00. Stumble into the bathroom. Stick out my tongue to see if I'm getting better, seems my body is beginning to slough off the toxins of the last month.

A bad back, that is being treated by Brian, is finally settling down.

Out of the bathroom, slip into my clothes, down the path to get the car, in the driving seat and at 6.21 I leave the comfort of my own garage.

A slow - no more than 45 miles an hour - drive. Through Lewes, into the tunnel, out the other side and 20 miles an hour into Brighton.

By the time I reach the pier, the clock tells me its just after 7.00.

Down the front, right at the traffic lights, up past the clock tower. Park outside the BBC. Knock on the door and the lovely Steve Cranford gives me his fob.

A trickle into the car park, that is so narrow I have to breath in when I attempt the 23 point turn to get my car in one of the parking bays.

Into the studio, and we're off.

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Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 13 August 2015

The rain came. It was warm but the rain came down and I feared I wouldn't get a train.

In the event the 11.39 trundled into the station. I had on a little waterproof jacket which revealed itself not to be proof against any kind of precipitation.

'A' level results day and the mother of two daughters, sitting opposite me, spent the whole journey talking about options, cousins and jobs in Germany.

Coming home I had to sit with the family from Hell. Their very loud entitlement included teeth braces, hockey tournaments, pierced ears and enough plum-speak to irritate a full carriage of tired commuters. I fell asleep reminding myself not to veer to the right, which I've never down in my life.

So on the train I snoozed until Charing Cross. Two stops on the Piccadilly Line to Oxford Circus, then a very damp walk to the Beeb.

I shouted at the security guards inside our British Broadcasting foyer since they wanted to check the contents of my bag before allowing me to use their Public facility.

I called the producer I was working with to let me in so I could have a less harrowing micturition.

Then me, Hewete Haileselassie, and Lizzie Mabbott, shared our foods of love.

Enjera and shirro from Hewete.

Congee from Lizzie.

And chicken soup from me.

I made the chicken soup last night. A perfect little free range organic chicken in a huge pot with a big, fat red onion, 4 carrots, two squashy tomatoes, a stick of celery and parsley from the garden.

Brought the chicken and water to the boil, skimmed off all the impurities, added the vegetables, a tablespoon of salt and a flash of white pepper, then on to the stove it went for at least five hours.

This morning I strained the veg and chicken out of the soup, and boiled up the broth for five minutes. Poured it into a thermos flask and took it into London.

Four of us in a dark little studio, the hot soup emptied into mugs, the aroma of my grandmother's cooking, and all the women in my life, permeated Portland Place whilst the rain lashed against the window. It was a delicious moment to savour.

The enjera and sheera was spicy and filling. A kind of flat bread with hot curry. Whilst the congee, although looking like congealed tripe, tasted absolutely delicious.

A lovely thing to do, and my debut for the World Service.

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Wheel in the Smoothies

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 10 August 2015

Change of clothes in my pink suede bag

Olly went driving round town and the rest of us went to a side road.

Parked up was a stall with two bicycles. Nailed to the floor.

Inside the roadside arrangement was a handsome young man.

He filled a goblet with kiwi fruit, apples, and some other green things, put it on a fitment on the bicycle and told me to pedal.

With a slow start the goblet blades turned. I pedalled faster and the green ingredients changed before my very eyes. By the time I was pedalling like a lunatic my goblet was filled with an icy green smoothie.

The taste? Divine.

My thighs. Wobbly.

We did it again with red ingredients.

On you marks, get set, go. My little legs pedalling as fast as they could go. And there, before my very eyes, my icy berry smoothie. A group of dedicated customers came to the open window.

The cycling smoothie truck was the best thing yet.

I drunk my weight in Kiwi and changed, in the blacked out truck, for a piece to camera by the water.

Wrong clothing so I changed, in the blacked out truck, into my old clothes.

Took me back to my early days as an itinerant thespian.

And then my last change. Underwear in the outside zip of my suitcase. Into my travelling dress, the one that lets me breath and sleep and does no harm to any bits of my body. Bags in the hold and it was off to Seattle, for a four hour wait.

Then the plane that would take us back to Blighty.

And before you could say 'stop the circling just land already' we were back at Heathrow.

I got back to my home by 3.30 in the afternoon.

The garden green. The husband there. The cats all furry and feline. The husband, the home, the kitchen, the clean bed and - after all that time in America - I was finally back in my own home.

JENI AND OLLY'S WEST COAST WINE ADVENTURE airs on our screens in September. But then you've read all about it, you won't need to watch it now, or will you?

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Waffle on

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 10 August 2015

Another early start.

All of us tumbled into the two SUV's. Kit packed and we were off to Eugene.

Two hours later we arrived everybody needing the REST ROOM. After which we talked, into camera, in the car park. My piece was about the universities track coach, who wondered why his running team weren't the best on show.

He went home, and staring at his wife's vintage waffle maker, had an idea. He poured some kind of concoction into the machine. The Waffle maker cooked his idea. He had running shoes made with the waffled sole and before you could say Mo Farrer, the NIKE running shoe was born.

Billions of dollars later Eugene is now known as running city. A pleasant, green filled city, with a university, restaurants, and visiting film crews all wanting to tell the story.

We drove to a restaurant owned by a father and two of his sons. The restaurant was airy, the kitchen busy, filled with trendy cooks, and us.

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Mount Hood

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 10 August 2015

The heat continues. We drove, en masse, to a location that was suitable for our needs.

Two and half hours to film me getting in and out of cars. Olly in the open topped Mini, me climbing in and out of a personell carrier driven by an ex Minister. Beard, glasses and the inflection of somebody who has such a close relationship with the Redeemer that he could make even George Osborne look good.

So my impending speed fines in England meant that I could only ever be a passenger, not one tiny little Mini drive was I allowed.

This meant the Minister had to learn to be a television driver very quickly. Up the road, down the road, open the door, drive to the mark, start the car, drive off, turn around then off into the distance. We took the same shot from different angles, me very nearly eating my own eyeballs.

The Minister did well.

Then we sat altogether and took lunch under awnings in the sun. Too much to eat and not enough time to digest. The Minister wanted to talk. The one thing about filming is that when lunch does arrive the last thing you want to do is talk about life, art and television, Olly and I were very polite and did all three. Then Olly went off to a Vineyard and me and the big crew set off to Mount Hood.

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The Grumps

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 10 August 2015

Up early. The cough lingers. My energy level is less than perfect. I am in a bad mood.

Have that scratchy feeling you get when you want everything done for you, that feeling of irritation when everything you have to do takes longer than it should. When knickers hurt, waistbands catch, shoes feel tight and you cant even be bothered to wash your hair.

That's me. Even though its a Sunday I do not feel like a child full of Grace, I feel like a woman out of place. Get up at 6.00 and call Jim. He's at home in the garden, new fences put up by the neighbours, he shows me on FaceTime, looks lovely. Wooden and inviting. At home with the dawter. At home. ah! The word Home. I know that within ten minutes of being there I'll wish I were back in Yountville.

My phone has been playing up, so I assume the call is for 8.30. Well you know what assume did - it makes an ass of you and me.

Got down to the massive plush, dining room. Breakfast was only just being laid out. The tureens were being filled with sausages, onion gravy, scrambled eggs. Servers, like JCB diggers, emptied bacon and tomatoes, mushrooms and hash browns into the open metal mouths. Food to feed the five thousand. Fruit laid out in Vermeer type patterns. Bread, cereals, cheese and umpteen different types of milk. I was so grumpy all I could eat was a banana and yoghurt.

I waited, my two red bags packed. I sat in the gargantuan foyer and waited. Nobby no mates. Then I saw the sound man and the camera man saunter in. They sat at one of the big empty tables. I had got the wrong time, it did nothing for my mood.

I was 'pissed' as the Americans say. I left my red bags in the foyer and slumped down next to the crew and ordered a big breakfast. Caution to the wind.

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Gott up and went

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 10 August 2015

Being on the road time takes on a completely new dimension.

Long days, interminable nights, loadsa travelling, but however you cut it, you arrive home in the end.

It's like the man who meets Death, terrified he jumps on his horse and gallops to the furthest point North.

Ties up his horse, walks into an Inn at the top of the world and who should be sitting next to the fire but Death. Peeping out from under his hood Death says to the rider;

'Didn't expect to see you here.'

It's a bit how I feel at the end of a shoot. However interesting, however packed, arriving home is inevitable - if you're lucky enough to survive it.

So we are coming to the end of the run., New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and all stops in between. And now we arrive in YOUNTVILLE, pronounced, YONTVILLE. San Fran's contribution to Michelin starred nosh.

Feels like a one horse town till you see the white flowers and the well heeled tourists.

The French Laundry, home to celebrity chef Thomas Keller, is the centre piece to the culinary capital of Napa valley.

The day we arrived it was hot. People were queuing round the block for a fancy breakfast.

We set our camera up in the Bouchon Bistro and Bakery. In the kitchen the chefs danced around each other with precision. The tall guy, Chef Ross, from England, set up his waffle machine. Filled it with batter, cooked those babies then cut off the corners and set them on a plate. A roasted chicken was sliced, and laid alongside the waffle, a jug filled with maple syrup and another with some kind of jus, was placed on the table. I sat outside and slowly sliced through the meat - guests arrived by the minute and supped their Mimosa's ( bucks fizz ). Waffles and chicken. Chicken and more waffle.

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Cookie Monster

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 5 August 2015


Caesar Salad

Artichoke soup

Caramelised onions


Some of the delicacies that I ate, in one day, and not necessarily in that order.

You cant make an omelette without breaking eggs. You cant make a food show without breaking rules.

So off we drove, Roll B and Roll A to the food market, at the Ferry building. Where we shot the last frames of the last series.

Olly and I tried bespoke ice-cream. Creamy breakfast in a scoop.

Then shooting by the water we were told to stop filming, by the maitre d' of the restaurant we had booked for lunch, as a famous sportsman was eating outside, he complained we were filming him.

When we sat down for lunch apologies were given to us, since she was only doing her job.

Huge plates of food dampened the bad vibes. Bill paid and off we went to China Town.

'Best custard tarts in town' said the owner of the bakery. $1.65 for the sweetest little tart. I opened my mouth, and like a hungry pelican, I downed it in one. I had just eaten my weight in lunch, where was the custard tart going to go? The same way as the second one. They were delicious.

Then up a little alley and on the left was an open fronted room. Dark, bags of fortune cookies lay on shelves. An old contraption with pipes and blue flames, pumped out discs of biscuity dough. Two mature women sat all day curling the discs round a hot pipe, discarding the dough when it went cold. All day they curled the disc and put in little paper fortunes. I noticed a bag of fortunes with adult themes, but it was a little too late to buy the unfortunate cookies.

The second woman was on a mobile phone, we suspected she may have owned half of San Francisco on the back of a full day of cookie curling, we left as queues were forming to see the cookie curling cuties.

Eddie took us to a tea shop. Shelves of tea caddies containing the elixir of life. The propriator gave us samples of hot tea, poured from a great height into little bowls. The best tea shop outside of the Orient. I left with a gift of Angel Green tea, apparently good for diabetes. Steep for 30 seconds then pour. One teaspoon can make 60 little cups...

San Francisco was gearing up for Gay Pride, we were there on the very day that Gay Marriage was made legal in the States. We were going out on the razz but by the time we hit the hotel my get up and go had got up and gone.

2 White Russians - thats cocktails not guests - accompanied me to my bed.

Set my alarm and slipped into bed. Fortune cookie monsters passed before my eyes whilst custard tarts danced the Fandango. Outside the hotel proud Gays took over the streets. Good for them.

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