Perfect woman? She doesn"t exist, say men

Perfect woman She doesn't exist: Survey of 2,000 men find not a single one thinks his partner is flawless
Survey finds not a single man who thinks his partner is perfect80% believe the perfect woman doesn't existBut only a fifth said they want a perfect partner

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UPDATED:

01:46 GMT, 23 November 2012

Women striving for perfection might as well give up now. Men actually prefer ladies with flaws.

Researchers found there wasn’t a single man who rated his partner as perfect.

And of the 2,000 chaps quizzed, four out of five said they liked it that way.

In fact 80 per cent of men are convinced the perfect woman doesn’t exist while half of them say their current partner is ‘the one’ for them.

The research, for the Remington electrical firm, found that most men rate their other half as just 67 per cent perfect.

Bliss: But most men rate their partner as just 67% perfect

Bliss: But most men rate their partner as just 67% perfect, while half say she is 'the one'

They say their loved ones most common shortcomings include having a bad temper, disliking sport and being obsessed with cleanliness.

Other grumbles which stopped men from seeing their partner as perfect were a tendency to make a big deal of things, criticising their driving and an insistence on watching soap operas.

Taking too long to get ready was also a big feature on men’s list of imperfections as well as women’s need to always have the last word.

Shape up: Among men's grumbles with their partners was the fact that they try and change or improve them

Shape up: Among men's grumbles with their partners was the fact that they try and change or improve them

Some braver men even complained that their partners needed to shave their armpits more.

Six in ten men complained that their lover deliberately tries to change their dress sense and diet. A quarter of men also grumbled that their wives or girlfriends attempt to influence who they choose to socialise with.

Some men felt their other half had let themselves go, while a few men even complained that their partners needed to shave their armpits more

Some men felt their other half had let themselves go, while a few men even complained that their partners needed to shave their armpits more

However, more than a third thought that, when their partner does try to alter things, it’s usually for the better.

If men were to change their partner, the first thing they would do is to try to make them more relaxed, while getting them to enjoy football and be more adventurous featured highly on their wish lists.

One man in four also secretly thinks their partner has let themselves go a bit after they settled down into their relationship.

Just four in ten men were confidently able to say that they fully understand their partner.

A puzzled seven in ten said their partner often confuses them with mood swings that they didn’t see coming.

But while perfection may not be real, British men do appreciate their other halves – a quarter admit that they are ‘punching above their weight’ in relationship terms and 45 per cent would readily admit their partner is the more attractive person.

Just a fifth of men said would actually want their partner to be 100 per cent perfect, while 47 per cent are convinced that their current partner is the person they want to live with forever.

Twiggy”s Christmas collection for M&S: LBDs, sparkly party tops and the return of the sell out sequin jacket

First look at Twiggy's Christmas collection for M&S: LBDs, sparkly party tops and the return of the sell out sequin jacket

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UPDATED:

15:58 GMT, 23 November 2012

Twiggy turned her hand to designing as well as modelling clothes for Marks and Spencer earlier this year and her range has been such a success, a new collection has been released in time for Christmas. Her latest womenswear range for the High Street brand includes garments perfect for the festive party season including Little Black Dresses and sparkly tops. There's also shoes and accessories to glam up any outfit such as a bronze chain mail necklace and copper clutch bag.

Twiggy, 62, has stuck to her motto that fashion should be 'stylish and fun' with the new range, which will be available in sizes 8-24, by using bold colours, flattering fits and patterned styles. She's also kept current trends such as lace, Peter Pan collars and chunky belts in her designs.

Fans who were disappointed to miss out on buying her popular silver sequin jacket, which quickly sold out when it went on sale in April, will be pleased to hear it has been re-stocked online ready for Christmas party wear.

Scroll down for a first look at a selection of the new collection…

DRESSES
Strapless black dress with feathering

Teal and black patterned with long sleeves

Blue v-neck dress with sheer sleeves

Party pieces: Twiggy's new range for M&S includes, from left, this strapless black dress with feather detail, teal and black patterned number with long sleeves, and blue v-neck dress with sheer sleeves

Black lace sleeves, 59

Pink patterned with hourglass figure panels

Smart black dress with chunky belt

Black dress with tribal print panel

On trend: From left, 59 LBD with lace sleeves, pink patterned dress with hourglass figure panels, black dress with chunky belt and black dress with tribal print panel

TOPS
Black sheer top with Peter Pan sequin collar

Red blouse with sheer sleeves and frill front detail

Grey sequin embellished top

Glam: From left, black sheer sleeved top with Peter Pan sequin collar, red blouse with sheer sleeves and frill front detail, and grey sequin embellished top

Blue blouse, 35, worn with leather pencil skirt, 69


Green blouse with sheer sleeves and frill front detail worn with slim fit trousers

Sparkly bronze cardigan with black waist belt

Fun and fashionable: The stylish 62-year-old wears, from left, blue blouse, 35, with leather pencil skirt, 69, green blouse with sheer sleeves and frill front detail worn with slim fit trousers and hat, and sparkly bronze cardigan with black waist belt

SUITS

Red blazer with matching trousers

Blazer and matching trousers in available in red, left, and black

Smarten up: Blazer and matching trousers available in red, left, and black and sizes 8-24

COATS

Navy shimmer mac, left, and cream fur trimmed wrap jacket, right

Navy shimmer mac, left, and cream fur trimmed wrap jacket, right

Winter warmers: Navy shimmer mac, left, and cream fur trimmed cuff and collar wrap jacket, right

ACCESSORIES

Bronze chain mail earrings, 12.50

bronze chain mail necklace, 17.50

Add the final touch: From left, bronze chain mail earrings, 12.50, and matching bronze chain mail necklace, 17.50

Copper clutch 25.00

Gold star clutch

Bags of style: Copper clutch 25.00, left, and gold and black art deco style clutch, right

AND THE RETURN OF THE SEQUIN JACKET

Get it while you can: It quickly sold out when it first went on sale in April, now the silver sequin jacket is available to buy again online for 79

Get it while you can: It quickly sold out when it first went on sale in April, now the silver sequin jacket is available to buy again online for 79

Get it while you can: It quickly sold out when it first went on sale in April, now the silver sequin jacket is available to buy again online for 79

Visit www.marksandspencer.com

Black Friday sales 2012: Are you a Trend-Hunter, a Lone Raider or a Family Pack?

Are you a Trend-Hunter, a Lone Raider or a Family Pack: The three main types of shoppers hitting the Black Friday sales

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UPDATED:

17:24 GMT, 23 November 2012

The prospect of hitting the shops after a huge Thanksgiving dinner might sound like hell to many people.

Now new research has revealed exactly what kind of person is prepared to defy the tryptophan-induced exhaustion and stand in line for bargains in the early hours.

Groups of teens or young women, 'hardcore' solo women and families on a tight budget are
the three main types of Black Friday shoppers, according to a new study of 460 people, conducted
by Marvin Traub Associates for WWD.

The most prominent type of Black Friday shopper is the teen or young woman, who will hit trend-led fashion chains as a social experience with a gang of her friends

Trend-Hunters: The most prominent type of Black Friday shopper is the teen or young woman, who will hit trend-led fashion chains as a social experience with a gang of her friends

Each group has a distinctly different approach to the sales too, all intended to make the process as efficient as possible.

The largest group – the 'Trend-Hunters' – is made up of teens or young women, who target fashion chains like Hollister, Urban Outfitters, Victoria's Secret and Forever 21.

They shop in packs, the survey reveals,
and treat the experience as a social one, rounding out the day with a
restaurant meal or even a spot of clubbing.

THE THREE MAIN TYPES OF BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPER
TREND-HUNTERS

Who are they Teens or young women, shopping together. Though it is a social experience, they have done their research. They shop largely for themselves, and favor fashion chains.

Where do they go Hollister, Urban Outfitters, Victoria's Secret and Forever 21.

LONE RAIDERS

Who are they Women aged 25-40, usually mothers, often with a child or two in tow. She knows exactly what she wants and will hit stores early for the best bargains.

Where do they go Kohl's, JCPenney, Target and
Wal-Mart.

FAMILY PACK

Who are they New to the U.S., on a
tight budget, and with several
children. They
spend a large portion of their disposable income and
will be stocking up on gifts for Christmas.

Where do they go Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy.

Cynthia Cohen,
president of Strategic Mindshare, a strategy consulting firm, says this group will spend plenty of time researching stores' deals and offers in advance.

'They’re really on a scavenger
or a treasure hunt,' she told WWD. 'They know the stores. It becomes a badge of honor.'

The second most significant shopper is the 'Lone Raider', who is usually female and described as 'hardcore' by the researchers.

She is aged 25-40, and might be accompanied by one or two of her children.

She knows exactly what she wants and will hit major retailers such as Kohl's, JCPenney, Target and
Wal-Mart, typically on Thanksgiving night or early
Friday morning to secure the best possible bargains.

WWD describes her as 'part of a blue-collar or pink-collar demographic', and says she will choose 'low to moderately-priced' items.

The third major group of Black Friday shoppers is the 'Family Pack. The research shows that they are typically new to the U.S., on a tight budget, and as they cannot afford a babysitter, will have several children in tow as they line up for doorbuster deals at Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy.

They will spend a large portion of their disposable income on Black Friday, and will most likely be stocking up on gifts for Christmas.

The study found that 68per cent of Black Friday shoppers will research prices of specific products in advance.

Fifty-seven per cent consider the Black Friday sales a fun activity, it found, with 42per cent stating that they like shopping on Black
Friday more than any other day of the year.

Black Friday deals 2012: The sales tricks of extreme bargain hunters revealed

Lying to rival shoppers, hiding must-haves the day before, and using sign language to communicate across the store: The tricks of extreme Black Friday bargain hunters

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UPDATED:

17:08 GMT, 23 November 2012

Black Friday’s extreme shoppers are coming up with such conniving ways to thwart the competition that some people decided to forgo their Thanksgiving feast
altogether.

The biggest consumer spending day of the year isn't what it used to be; with retailers now opening earlier than ever, day-long lines, and watchful policemen, so shoppers have revised their strategies for the ultimate trip in bargain hunting.

Taking friends to divide and conquer, camping out for days prior, using sign language to communicate across the store, lying about fake sales, and hiding merchandise before the sale even starts are just some of the strategies that extreme bargain hunters are employing.

Planned and prepared: Black Fridays extreme shoppers are coming up with such conniving ways to thwart the competition that some people decided to forgo their Thanksgiving feast altogether

Planned and prepared: Black Fridays extreme shoppers are coming up with such conniving ways to thwart the competition that some people decided to forgo their Thanksgiving feast altogether

One 21-year-old college senior admitted to tricking other customers into thinking they could get a better deal elsewhere so that she can cut the queue.

Amanda Willis, who was in an hour-long line at J Crew told Today.com that she secretly made her phone ring, before yelling into it: 'Are you kidding Yankee Candle is giving away those big candles for free for the next 10 minutes!'

Most of the people in front of her fled the store at Jersey Shore Premium Outlets to run over to the candle store. Miss Willis then made her purchases in under 15 minutes.

/11/23/article-2237444-162CEB54000005DC-325_306x545.jpg” width=”306″ height=”545″ alt=”Tricky plans: This five-year-old struggled to hold a basket full of DVD players as she followed her grandmother to the check out” class=”blkBorder” />

Planning ahead: A Best Buy general manager speaks to his employees to prepare them for the store's Black Friday shopping frenzy

Tricky children and a counterattack: While a grandmother employs her five-year-old granddaughter to thwart other shoppers (left), a Best Buy general manager prepares his staff for the Black Friday shopping frenzy

In Salt Lake City, Utah, Chace Cannon, 26, waited outside all night in six degree temperature so he could purchase a-40 inch Westinghouse HDTV for $299, usually $600.

He explained that he and his friends
put eight televisions in their shopping carts, and on the way to the
checkout, a swarm of latecomers tried to take the boxes. The team raced
to a corner and protected their shopping carts until reinforcement
friends and family arrived.

And
now that Black Friday is quickly getting supplanted by Grey Thursday
with retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Sears opening their doors
yesterday at 8 pm and Target at 9pm means that the rush to get in first has intensified further.

Melissa Rush from Florida said she is 'hooked' on the 'adrenaline high of getting all these great sales.'

Patient and methodical: People wanting to get in first gathered outside of Target last night as they counted down the minutes to 9pm, the beginning of the store's Black Friday sales

Patient and methodical: People wanting to get in first gathered outside of Target last night as they counted down the minutes to 9pm, the beginning of the store's Black Friday sales

Research and coupons: Using a bevy of coupons, price matching, and manufacturer's rebates, some shoppers get all their Christmas gifts for under $10 per person

Research and coupons: Using a bevy of coupons, price matching, and manufacturer's rebates, some shoppers get all their Christmas gifts for under $10 per person

Traveling in packs: In order to fend off swarms of latecomers that try to take items from carts, people use reinforcement friends and family to shop in groups

Traveling in packs: In order to fend off swarms of latecomers that try to take items from carts, people use reinforcement friends and family to shop in groups

The 24-year-old's aim today was to buy a present for each of her 30 different family members, without spending more than $300 total.

Using
a spreadsheet on her phone that she synced from her computer, a bevy of
coupons, price matching, and manufacturer's rebates, she says it is all about meticulous research.

She
says it is most important to look at the catalogues from the week
before, as well as Amazon.com, to make sure the Black Friday 'deals' are
actual savings – and to make sure you go with at least one other person
who can get into the checkout line as soon as you enter the store.

She admitted: 'At first people thought I was crazy. Then they saw the receipt.'

And Holden Hanson, who won't take any chances in missing out of his must-have products on Black Friday, said he goes to Walmart on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to hide the items on his list so other shoppers won't find them.

Addiction: Many people say they are 'hooked' on the 'adrenaline high of getting all these great sales'

Addiction: Some people say they are 'hooked' on the 'adrenaline high of getting all these great sales'

Good advice: Some people say it is important to look at stores' catalogues from the week before, as well as Amazon.com, to make sure the Black Friday 'deals' are actual savings

Good advice: Some people say it is important to look at stores' catalogues from the week before, as well as Amazon.com, to make sure the Black Friday 'deals' are actual savings

The more sinister elements of Black Friday shopping are still prevalent however.

After a Wal-Mart worker was
trampled to death in 2008 by uncontrolled crowds, some shoppers such as David Galloway from South Carolina, said his Thanksgiving will be spent with family and watching the great American tradition of football.

He told The Huffington Post: 'I think greed is winning out over family but I think [stores] will get enough of a backlash to make some change next year.'

Call The Midwife"s Pam Ferris has spent her life trying to prove her father wrong

Before he died, her father said acting's no way to earn a living. But Call The Midwife's Pam Ferris has spent her life trying to prove him wrong

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 23 November 2012

Pam Ferris was 17 when her father died suddenly from a heart attack on a Sunday morning.

It was a devastating shock. He was 60, lively and energetic. ‘My father was fine on the Saturday. He painted the roof. Then on Sunday morning he had a minor heart attack,’ she says.

After the ambulance arrived, her father suffered several more heart attacks in quick succession and was dead within four hours.

Pam Ferris is part of a generation that abhors the modern cult of celebrity and rarely speaks out about her private life

Pam Ferris is part of a generation that abhors the modern cult of celebrity and rarely speaks out about her private life

Pam has since buried her mother, who died from complications of Crohn’s Disease [an inflammation of the intestine] almost three decades ago, but this is the first time she’s spoken about the enduring impact of her father’s death. It is, as she says, ‘relevant’.

‘I realised that big, solid things are fragile and your interior, physically and emotionally, can be quite different from your exterior, because he just looked so strong and fit. It’s that double thing – that split that I find very exciting as an actor.

‘Grief is a terrible, painful place,’ she continues. ‘You can’t grind away on grief in a solid way and say, “I’m going to work on this until it’s over” because it will be with you for the rest of your life whatever you do. So, you deal with it and move on.

'I didn’t know this phrase until very much later, but what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger if you’re able to use it. There’s a joke among actors on set, where if something has upset you, you wink and say, “Just use it.” That’s what we do – use whatever has stirred us physically.’

Pam rarely speaks openly about herself. She’s part of a generation that abhors the modern cult of celebrity, so much of what we know of her is the emotional intelligence she’s brought to the many parts she’s played on the stage, on television and in films.

Indeed, the day before we meet she was up until goodness knows what hour working on the next series of the BBC’s Call The Midwife. She is, she says, ‘knackered’, but appears fresh as a daisy. In fact, at 64 she could knock many actresses half her age into a cocked hat with her lust for life.

Actually, make that a wimple because that’s what she was wearing in her role as Sister Evangelina when she set about making mischief on set the day before with her co-stars Miranda Hart and Jenny Agutter.

She is 'knackered' from her days in Call the Midwife

She is 'knackered' from her days in Call the Midwife

‘We were sat on a bench yesterday in a highly religious atmosphere with two of us dressed as nuns, and Miranda’s naughtiness said, “What would be the most inappropriate song you could sing at this point” We had a think. I came up with Sex On Fire. So we sang that.’ Pam roars with laughter. This is the way she is: blunt, funny and wondrously irreverent. Well, that’s the exterior anyway.

‘I’m old and happy to be old,’ she says. ‘I’ve been doing this for 47 years and grew up in an era where we’d rush from the theatre to the pub. Those were very happy days – certainly not celibate. There was probably a bit too much booze. That was before this alien world of celebrity I find myself in today. I’m a professional actor not a celebrity.’

But she is, of course, hugely famous too and has been since she endeared herself to viewers throughout the country two decades ago as the irrepressible Ma Larkin in the ITV comedy drama The Darling Buds Of May, which attracted 18 million viewers and launched the career of Catherine Zeta-Jones. ‘We were a phenomenon,’ she concedes.

‘/11/22/article-2236830-16258DB8000005DC-645_306x345.jpg” width=”306″ height=”345″ alt=”Pam in the Darling Buds of May in 1990″ class=”blkBorder” />

Pam in the Darling Buds of May in 1990

She began acting professionally in monthly rep in Auckland within months of her father’s death, then left New Zealand to return to England at 22, hugely driven and desperate to succeed.

‘I feel bad about that now when I think what it must have been like for my mother to lose a husband and then, five years later, for her young daughter to leave her behind.

'She was always so worried for me heading off to the British theatre. But I never fell into any of the pitfalls she saw – being used in some way. I guess I was Pollyanna-ish and tiptoed through everything.’

And so began her fun, heady years on tour and nights spent drinking with ‘lots of lovely friends’. She didn’t think once about marriage until she was cast to play Roger Frost’s wife on stage at London’s Royal Court Theatre.

‘We met on a Monday morning and discovered we lived near each other so that evening we went home on the number 22 bus together,’ she says. ‘On the third morning he was waiting at the bus stop for me and we were a couple by Friday evening.’

They married in 1986 and an astonishing body of work in television and film followed, but not children, which seems ironic when she made her mark in so many family films, notably as the horrid headmistress Miss Trunchbull in Matilda and nasty Aunt Marge in Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban.

‘Of course I’ve thought about it but every time I play a part I love it then have to give it away, which is ultimately what you do with children,’ she says. ‘I don’t feel any regret at all.’

Then, apropos of nothing, she says, ‘I remember my dad saw me in an amateur production and I was good. He was so thrilled, he thought it was a fantastic performance, but said, “It’s no way to earn your living.” About three months later I got my first professional job. Maybe I’ve been forever trying to prove to him that I can earn a living.’

Which isn’t really very jolly at all, but goes, I suspect, right to the serious heart of this truly brilliant actress.

Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger is in cinemas now.

This week TV"s Great Escapes star Monty Halls goes diving with sharks in South Africa

This week, the star of TV's Great Escapes Monty Halls takes a break from the eco-tours business he runs on the Devon coast to go diving with sharks in South Africa

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 23 November 2012

Monty has left Dartmouth for South Africa, a place that keeps drawing him back

Monty has left Dartmouth for South Africa, a place that keeps drawing him back

Despite having done a great deal of travelling, there is one place that draws me back again and again.

We all have this, of course – a single location where somehow our personal ley lines intersect, somewhere that holds a real magic you can’t quite put your finger on. Whatever it is, it means that you return there year after year, drawn back like a moth to a flame.

My personal Eden lies under the warm and violent waters off the south eastern coast of South Africa – a place called Aliwal Shoal.

It has often been said that Africa
has been tamed, that the heart of the Dark Continent beats at a slower
pace now. Wildlife is observed within fenced parks, passing sedately in
front of the manicured lawns of game lodges.

But
you can still find real wilderness relatively easily by slipping off
the side of a boat into the sea, or more precisely into the warm
conveyor belt that is the Agulhas Current as it sweeps down the coast of
Natal. Think of this current as a great undersea river, moving
inexorably south, passing over obstacles and barriers on the sea bed
beneath it.

One of these is a mountain of sandstone called Aliwal Shoal, and if ever there was a shark heaven then this is it.

Sharks have taken a terrible pounding round the world, caught in their millions for their fins. The fishing has been on an industrial scale, with a truly precipitous decline in numbers over the past 30 years.

The knock-on effect of removing an apex predator from an environment such as the sea remains to be seen – what is certain is that the changes will affect all of us in one form or another.

There are last bastions though, pockets around the world where sharks are revered and protected, and Aliwal Shoal is a haven enshrined in South African law as a protected area for most (but not all) of the resident species.

And so, yet again, I find myself on a fast boat pounding through the swell out to the reef, to bob and pitch above the dark shoulders of undersea ridges and caverns where sharks flick and twist in the gloom.

Monty loves watching them pass within inches of his face to observe their power and grace up close

Monty loves watching them pass within inches of his face to observe their power and grace up close

A baited container is lowered over the side, allowing fish oil to drift on the current, calling lithe shadows from deeper water.

When there are enough sharks around the boat, you roll over the side and enter a primeval scene. Or rather ‘we’ roll over the side, as my girlfriend Tam has come along to film and frolic with me. She’s a shark fanatic, so this was her equivalent of diving into something approaching heaven.

Ever present on these dives are black tips and duskies. The black tips are the most boisterous, all fast, twitchy energy; indeed, there’s strong evidence emerging that they hunt in packs and show a genuine ability to adapt their behaviour to their surroundings.

Among them are dusky sharks, more calculating and cautious, but commanding all the more respect precisely for that reason.

It says much for our misconceptions about these animals that the next hour is spent with up to a hundred of them in very close proximity to our twitching fins, and yet the only sensation you feel is a slightly dumbfounded sense of admiration.

To watch them pass within inches of your face is to observe their power and grace up close. This environment is all about boundaries and respect, and this twisting explosion of energy and predatory intent involving many, many sharks is actually a carefully choreographed ballet.

It’s an unwritten pact – if everyone takes their turn, gives everyone a bit of elbow room, then we can all rub along fine.

This is particularly apt as it’s us in their world – we’re there simply because they tolerate our presence. It’s a sensation and a scene to sear itself on your retina, never to be forgotten while there is breath in your body.

Tomorrow I fly back to Dartmouth, home and hearth. But even as I drive down the steep hill into town, delighted to be back, there’ll be a part of me that lingers in Africa, lost forever to the shadowy sentinels of Aliwal Shoal.

While Mary Berry and co take a break, the search is on for Britain"s best bakery

While Mary Berry and co take a break, the search is on for Britain's best bakery – and it's going to get heated!

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 23 November 2012

For those left with a gaping hole in their lives after John Whaite’s magnificent Heaven and Hell cake brought the curtain down on the latest series of The Great British Bake Off, there’s reason to rejoice.

Hot on its heels comes a new baking contest, a cross between Bake Off and The X Factor, which sees 36 bakeries from around the country putting their shops, their signature buns and their speciality cakes up for inspection by two judges in a bid to be crowned Britain’s Best Bakery.

But Peter Sidwell, the Lake District baker who first starred in Lakes On A Plate on Channel 4 two years ago and shares the judging duties with celebrity cake-maker Mich Turner, is keen to stress that although the show’s all about baking, Britain’s Best Bakery is dealing with people’s livelihoods rather than their hobbies.

Judges Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell join an epic search to crown one British bakery the best in the country in a brand new national baking competition

Judges Mich Turner and Peter Sidwell join an epic search to crown one British bakery the best in the country in a brand new national baking competition

‘We’re different to Bake Off in that our bakers throw every hour of the day into their work and, with their reputations on the line, were desperate to win.

'We visited different regions of the country to pit three local bakeries against each other, judging not only the contestants’ skills, but their businesses too. We marked them on appearance, atmosphere and produce, and then asked them to bake their speciality for us.’

His co-judge Mich Turner runs couture bakery Little Venice Cake Company, which has created cakes for the Queen, Madonna and the Beckhams, among others.

‘When Mich and I met we instantly hit it off,’ says Peter, ‘but we have totally different styles of baking. She works in London’s posh Marylebone at the very high end, decorating cakes for privileged people. She’s very methodical and delivers a perfect product, whereas I’ll open a cupboard, grab anything I can find and throw a new dish together on the spot.

'So we didn’t always agree with each other’s verdicts and some of the closest calls ended in hours of fierce debate, because we knew just how devastating it would be for some of these bakeries not to win.’

Peter, who lives in Cockermouth, Cumbria, with school teacher wife Emma, 35, and children Poppy, four, and Thomas, nine months, might never have been anywhere near a muffin tin if it hadn’t been for a near tragedy at the age of 15. ‘I was playing rugby for my county and dreaming of a professional career.

Shaun and Chrissy Bryant of the Broughton Village Bakery

Shaun and Chrissy Bryant of the Broughton Village Bakery

'Then I fell off a balcony on holiday in Germany and fractured my skull so I had to give rugby up. I was utterly lost without it, and to be honest I could easily have gone off the rails, but my mother stepped in and made me ask for a job in the local pub kitchen. It turned my life around.’

He now runs his own cookery school and restaurant, and full-blown TV stardom beckons as the nation falls in love with baking. ‘It’s the new rock’n’roll,’ says Peter.

‘With more people learning how to do it, expectations of what they want from their local bakery are higher. Bake Off has had a huge effect on people. We met several bakers who’d never baked before they saw that show – then threw in everything they had to start a bakery.’

One such couple are Shaun and Chrissy Bryant, who decided on a whim to sell everything and open a bakery. ‘Shaun worked in the prison service and I worked in a school, but we both felt our jobs were going a little stale,’ says Chrissy, 44, without a hint of irony.

‘Then we heard about a bakery and caf for sale. Shaun once read a book about baking bread, so we thought, “Why not” We were living in our dream house, a beautiful three-bedroom bungalow in Kendal, but we had to sell it. We came down to Broughton in Furness last October to the Broughton Village Bakery and Caf – and I remember thinking, “What have we done We’ve sold our entire lives!”’

The couple moved into a tiny apartment above the bakery and set about learning how to bake. ‘To begin with we worked 16 hours a day, with Shaun throwing himself into the baking and me learning to manage the books,’ says Chrissy.

‘We went from dabbling with a couple of loaves at home to suddenly producing hundreds of loaves and cakes every day. We had a few disasters, but no matter how exhausted or disheartened we feel, we wake up the next day and look forward to baking.’

Another Best Bakery hopeful is Duncan Glendinning, 30, from Bath, who was a successful web designer when he baked his first loaf five years ago. ‘I haven’t looked back since,’ he says, ‘I became hooked on trying to cook the perfect loaf. I had a 30,000 salary and lots of spare time, but I realised baking was what I wanted to do so I gave it all up to work six days a week, from 5am every day, setting up the Thoughtful Bread Co.’

So why didn’t he simply apply to The Great British Bake Off ‘The contestants on Bake Off are amateurs who’ll simply go back to their day job if they don’t win. We’re an established bakery with everything to lose if we don’t come across well.’

As for Peter Sidwell, with his TV profile set to rise faster than one of his loaves, how would he feel if Britain’s Best Bakery started to earn him the sort of admiring female attention Paul Hollywood’s been getting

‘I’ve met Paul and I don’t think I’m anything like him,’ Peter says flatly. ‘I’m no heart throb. I’m just passionate about food and baking.’

Britain’s Best Bakery, Monday to Friday, 4pm, ITV1.

Richard Eyre: "I was a chronically shy child but I"ve developed mechanisms to deal with it"

Sir Richard Eyre: 'I was a chronically shy child. That kernel of my younger self is still there, but I've developed mechanisms to deal with it'

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 23 November 2012

We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: film and theatre director Richard Eyre
British film director Sir Richard Eyre opens up about young love and his mother's dementia

British film director Sir Richard Eyre opens up about young love and his mother's dementia

The prized possession you value above all others… An upright piano from Discovery, the ship Captain Scott sailed to the Antarctic for his 1901-04 expedition. It’s a legacy from my grandfather Charles Royds, Scott’s First Lieutenant and the ship’s main piano player.

The unqualified regret you wish you could amend… That I can’t play piano! I had a few lessons as a boy, but in a futile act of defiance I refused to carry on.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions… I’d have boiled egg and toasted soldiers at Balthazar in New York, then head to a country villa near Saignon in Provence with my wife Sue, our daughter Lucy and her two children [Evie, three, and Beatrix, four months]. I’d go for a long walk, then swim in the pool. Sue and I would have fantastic fish for lunch at Corte Sconta in Venice, then I’d visit the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. I’d enjoy the sunset over the Avening Valley from the garden of our country home in Gloucestershire, then have dinner with lots of friends at London’s River Caf, before flopping into bed with the latest Ian McEwan novel.

The temptation you wish you could resist… Smoking a Cohiba Panetela cigar accompanied by a large vodka and tonic. I’m 69, so neither is wise.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance… The Faber Book Of Modern Verse. I came across it when I was 15 and it gave me a lasting love of poetry.

Sir Richard wishes he could resist smoking a Cohiba Panetela cigar

Sir Richard wishes he could resist smoking a Cohiba Panetela cigar

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day… I’d tickle every officiating religious minister so they looked ridiculous and couldn’t scare people. I resent all organised religions.

The pet hate that always gets your back up… I find the Today programme’s Thought For The Day sanctimonious.

The film you can watch time and time again… Singin’ In The Rain with Gene Kelly. It never ceases to make me happy.

The person who has influenced you most… The theatre director Peter Brook. He gave me lots of encouragement when I started directing, and at 87 he’s still a dear friend and inspiration.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint… Shakespeare. Many of his great characters are soldiers, so I’d love to know how he got his military insight.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child… Don’t ever be afraid to ask any question.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity… Steeplechasing. My father was an amateur jockey, and to watch beautiful animals ridden by brilliant and brave men is magical.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again… A journal I’d kept for four years. It was like a second brain but I left it on a plane in 2009.

The unending quest that drives you on… To do a piece of work that I’m entirely satisfied with.

The poem that touches your soul… Vacillation by WB Yeats. It expresses exactly what I believe is right in life – that you should always act in good faith and do things for the right reasons.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase… That, because I am a director, I am socially confident. I was a chronically shy child. That kernel of my younger self is still there, but I’ve developed mechanisms to deal with it.

His father was an amateur jockey

His father was an amateur jockey

The event that altered the course of your life and character… Becoming artistic director of the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre in 1972, aged 29. To suddenly be responsible for a little world with 120 people working for you made me grow up and transformed my career.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it… I’d steal Henri Matisse’s The Snail from Tate Modern. It is full of energy and joy – but I’d need a very big wall to put it on!

The song that means most to you… Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours [What Remains Of Our Love] by Charles Trnet, from the 1940s. A French girlfriend played it to me in my early 20s, so it’s very tied up with young love.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever… The three weeks I spent with Sue in Gloucestershire after she nearly died from peritonitis in 1996. I so appreciated having her in my life and realised how lucky we were.

The saddest time that shook your world… My mother Minna being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 55. I remember four years later opening a door for her and her simply not knowing she was meant to walk through. I wrote that scene into Iris [the 2001 film he directed based on author Iris Murdoch’s descent into Alzheimer’s] and Judi Dench re-enacted that moment.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you… To be able to speak perfect French.

The philosophy that underpins your life… Every action has a consequence, so always try to be good.

The order of service at your funeral… I would like my ashes to be scattered under a tree in our garden in Gloucestershire and for people to drink great champagne and wine – and lots of it!

The way you want to be remembered… Simply with love.

The Plug… Richard Eyre directs Nick Dear’s The Dark Earth And The Light Sky at the Almeida Theatre until 12 January. For tickets call 020 7359 4404 or visit www.almeida.co.uk.

BBC reporter Fergal Keane Return To Forgotten Britain

Bravo for Britain! BBC reporter Fergal Keane says revisiting the deprived families he met for a series 12 years ago filled him with hope

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 23 November 2012

Nearly 13 years ago I set out on a journey around Britain for the BBC, filming some of the most hard-pressed citizens of the nation.

Back then somebody far up in the management chain had decided it might be a good idea to get a foreign correspondent to cast a stranger’s eye on the Britain of the struggling and poor.

‘A fresh perspective. Do what you do abroad, but here in the UK,’ as it was put to me. I was intrigued.
I knew middle-class Britain well enough. It was my base for flying to the world’s trouble spots while working for the BBC’s World Affairs Unit. But the Britain of the margins was foreign to me.

Nearly 13 years ago Fergal set out on a journey around Britain for the BBC, filming some of the most hard-pressed citizens of the nation

Nearly 13 years ago Fergal set out on a journey around Britain for the BBC, filming some of the most hard-pressed citizens of the nation

This was the early years of Blair, when the country was entering one of the longest economic booms in modern British history. The official narrative was of hope.

But the people I met felt forgotten by the Westminster elite. There was Gwlithyn Roberts, a young mother with three daughters living on an isolated sheep farm in North Wales while her husband worked all the hours God sent to stave off bankruptcy.

The Roberts family was drowning in debt as farm prices collapsed. In Glasgow I met John Brown, a shipyard worker, who fought hard to save the jobs of hundreds of men at the Govan yard. I’d never met anybody who could express the dignity of a working life with such clarity.

‘I’m not a pawn and I’m not a number. I’m a man, I’m a human being, and they will never, ever take my dignity from me.’

On the Lincoln Green estate in Leeds a grandmother called Liz Craig spoke of her struggle to raise her grandchildren in a place where heroin addiction was rife. Her own sons had been caught up in the crisis that was claiming the lives of hundreds of young people in Britain at that time.

Over the years, when I thought of these people, it was their resilience that stood out. Still, I often wondered what had become of them. And then last autumn, out of the blue, a producer in BBC Current Affairs called with a suggestion. ‘What would you think about retracing your steps and going back to see those people’ I didn’t need to be asked twice.

Today they are clean and occupied families

Today they are clean and occupied families

In Glasgow, the metalworker John Brown described the extraordinary roller coaster of his life in the intervening years. At first his job had been saved, but two years later he was made redundant. There followed two years of job training schemes until the big man from the shipyard got a job as a teaching assistant in a class of ten-year-olds.

John got on with the job. But as Britain joined the US in military interventions across the globe, there was a change in the fortunes of the yard. One day he was called up by his old bosses and asked to come back to work. There was much to do: a multi-billion pound contract to help build two new aircraft carriers. ‘It was like pulling on an old pair of drawers,’ John recalled. ‘It was as if I’d never been away.’

On the Lincoln Green estate in Leeds I learned with sadness that Liz Craig, who had dreamed of recreating a community in a place of drug dens and fear, had died five years ago.

‘I might be grasping at straws, but I think we could be a community again like we used to be,’ she’d once told me. Liz would be encouraged by the new Lincoln Green. Millions have been spent on housing. The police and council targeted the heroin dealers and addicts. Community policeman Tony Sweeney, a well-liked local figure, took me back to flats where we once saw floors festooned with needles.

Today they are clean and occupied by families. ‘I think it’s testament to everybody, not just the police and the local council but also the community as well… they’ve all had to turn round and say enough’s enough, this has got to change,’ said PC Sweeney.

In Cornwall and North Wales I traced my path back to the tenant farmers whose lives had been upended by the farm crises of the late 90s: BSE, foot and mouth and falling prices had all had a deep impact on rural life.

When I met Gwlithyn Roberts at the turn of the millennium she was undone by worry. With three young children and mounting debt she wondered if the farm could survive.

Going back into the crowded kitchen I found the girls had nearly grown into women and had been joined by a younger brother. Gwlithyn was smiling. The Roberts family had survived. They had tightened their belts to the last notch and stayed in business long enough to reap the benefit of rising food prices.

Of course, not all is happy. For the tenant farmers there is an endlessly precarious financial situation, the steady decline of rural communities as more young people leave for the cities. In Glasgow the future of the Govan shipyard is threatened once again by more defence cuts and the debate over Scottish independence.

But the big story of my return journey – too easily ignored in the daily flood of bad news – is of a resilient Britain. It’s a nation where the values of family and community are not at all forgotten. Far from it. They’re stronger than I ever expected.

Return To Forgotten Britain, 8pm, Sunday, BBC2.

Strictly Come Dancing"s Lisa Riley has dropped four dress sizes but says it"s love she"s after

She's dropped four dress sizes on Strictly and won an army of fans. But after a string of disastrous liaisons, Lisa Riley says it's love she's after

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 23 November 2012

Lisa Riley is the first to admit that she is more Matalan than Manhattan

Lisa Riley is the first to admit that she is more Matalan than Manhattan

When Lisa Riley says she once lived – ‘I mean really lived’ – the Sex And The City lifestyle, the mind boggles.

This is a woman who, before Strictly Come Dancing, was most famous for her role in Emmerdale. She’d be the first to confess her image is more Matalan than Manhattan.

But which one of the famous singletons did she model herself on ‘I was Carrie and Samantha rolled into one,’ she says. ‘Or I thought I was.’

So how did Lisa, 36, find the SATC
lifestyle Less glittering than you might imagine, it seems.

‘It’s all a
fairytale, isn’t it’ she says. ‘I mean, it’s a brilliant TV programme
and all that, but the reality of living it – it’s not good. I did all
the one-night stands stuff, but I don’t want it any more. I’m too old
for it now.’

Twenty minutes
into our chat, I’m starting to think of what a blast of a show SATC
would have been had our own Lisa Riley from Bury been part of the
line-up.

What this
girl doesn’t know about single-girl dilemmas isn’t worth knowing, and
her musings on men, money and motherhood are funny and sad in equal
measure.

Whether
she’d be a more healthy role model than Carrie, Miranda et al is
debatable, but it would be hard to find a more super-sized example of
womanhood. We’re not talking simply physique here, either, but
personality. Everything about Lisa is big: laugh, voice, ambition,
heart, life story.

Let’s start with that physique, though, because everyone does. When she signed up for Strictly, it was assumed she’d be the resident ‘chubster’ (her word), clumsy of foot but potentially a comedy classic. How could a woman of her size (24 at the time she signed up) resemble anything other than a gyrating hippo on the dancefloor

In the event she surprised everyone by being a firecracker, and somehow graceful with it. Overnight she became the poster girl for groovy, non-size-10 movers everywhere, and is chuffed with her role-model status.

Overnight she became the poster girl for groovy, non-size-10 movers everywhere

Overnight she became the poster girl for groovy, non-size-10 movers everywhere

‘I didn’t know I’d be able to dance, but I knew I could move. I’ve always been bendy. And if I’ve challenged perceptions that fat girls can’t be fit – good. It’s about time someone did.’

Ironically, the physical exertion of Strictly has made her drop four dress sizes – and led to four invitations to bring out a fitness DVD of her own. Will she do it ‘Will I hell! Why would I want to do that What do I know about aerobics DVDs I’m an actress. Who am I to preach at women about what shape they should be’

Given her over-the-top personality, it comes as no surprise that Lisa’s love life reads like a soap opera script. There was the boyfriend who went to jail for defrauding residents at the care home where he worked.

Then there was the stagehand who left his wife and children for her – I first met her back then, eight years ago, when she spoke about how she’d found the love of her life. Two weeks later he went back to his wife. She’s tried to find the right man, but has somehow always failed.

‘I’ve been properly in love three times, but it hasn’t worked out,’ she sighs. ‘Am I still looking for a man Yes. I’m desperate!’

So what’s gone wrong ‘Have you got all day’ she jokes, but it turns into quite a sorry – and familiar – tale of having given the time of day to completely the wrong men. She seems to have acquired the idea that the fact she owns her own house means she’s destined to be single.

‘Blokes don’t like it when you’re independent. They have this great British provider thing, and I’m not someone who needs to be provided for. I say, “I can pay for my own supper, thank you very much.”’

She chats away about wanting it all – career, husband, family – and concludes she’s being greedy. ‘I’ve got to realise you can’t have it all. If one thing has to give, it has to be men, I suppose. It’s not fair of me to expect a relationship to be on my terms, which I do because of my work. I’ll say, “You’ll have to come to London next weekend,” or, “I’m in Oldham that week”. Men can’t handle that.’

Some men can’t handle her, full stop. ‘I was always popular with boys at school. The fact I was fat didn’t put them off because I had confidence. I was the one girls wanted to be and boys wanted to be with.’ But having a laugh and getting married are different things. She seems frustrated that none of her liaisons led to more. ‘I’m thinking christenings and weddings are good places to meet men, but it still hasn’t happened. Maybe it never will.’

Does she want children She has a clutch of godchildren and revels in being ‘mad Auntie Lisa’, but seems less than certain about the sort of life children would take her into. ‘I have friends with, on paper, the perfect life.

Her big TV break came with Emmerdale, where she played Mandy Dingle for six and a half years, winning Best Newcomer at the British TV Awards in 1996

Her big TV break came with Emmerdale, where she played Mandy Dingle for six and a half years, winning Best Newcomer at the British TV Awards in 1996

'The husband, kids. But some of them feel imprisoned.’ Would she be a good mum A heavy sigh, followed by, ‘My worry is I’d be the sort of mum who leaves her kids in Asda’ – which rather kills the subject, if only through hilarity.

A ‘born entertainer’, Lisa attended drama and music lessons from the age of nine, and was signed by an agent three years later. Her big TV break came with Emmerdale, where she played Mandy Dingle for six and a half years, winning Best Newcomer at the British TV Awards in 1996.

She’s also appeared in The Bill, Fat Friends and Holby City, and had a stint fronting You’ve Been Framed. Unsurprisingly she’s a panto favourite and has clocked up roles in 14 of them.

Her parents married young, were together for 40 years ‘and were still holding hands until the day Mum died’. That day was just a few months ago. Cath Riley – ‘who was just like me, but more so’ – was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago, but appeared to beat the disease.

A 'born entertainer', Lisa attended drama and music lessons from the age of nine, and was signed by an agent three years later

A 'born entertainer', Lisa attended drama and music lessons from the age of nine, and was signed by an agent three years later

When it returned earlier this year, however, it was fatal. Lisa was performing in Calendar Girls – ‘Watching someone die of cancer on stage every night. How is that for irony’ – when she got the news. She dropped out to nurse her mother in her final weeks, moving her into her home.

Listening to her talk about it is heartbreaking because the tears flow freely. She didn’t just lose her mum, she says, she lost ‘my best friend, my cheerleader, my everything. I could have stripped off and done a dance in Trafalgar Square and she would have just looked at me and said, “OK. But I still love you.” If I was embarking on a doomed relationship, she’d say, “Is this a good idea”.

'I’d say, “Mum, I know I might get burned but I have to touch the iron.” She always lets me. She’s like that. Or was.’

Her tenses are muddled; her grief raw. She wrote a 20-page eulogy for her mum’s funeral but had to get someone else to read it because even she couldn’t perform for that one.

She’s at pains to stress that her mother’s last months weren’t miserable, though. ‘We had to have the conversations, you know, about the paperwork and insurance policies.

That was hard. But mostly we had a laugh. One day I dressed up in the hospital stuff – the bandages, dressings, all of it. My mum was sick laughing. And her attitude – well, she had the same attitude she had through life. She said, “S*d the b*****ds”, and did it her way.’

Cath died in her daughter’s arms, and has been much missed, mostly on Saturday nights after Lisa’s survived another week on Strictly and wants to share the news. Ironically, she thinks her mother would have been the one person not surprised at her dancing skills.

‘She would have said, “I knew you could do it.” It’s why I’m here in the first place. She’s the one who made me believe in myself.’

Strictly Come Dancing, tonight, 6.40pm, BBC1.