A Capital day
I spent all morning in bed making phone-calls on behalf of others.
Then after abluting, transcending, adorning and scent, I climbed into the Jackmobil and headed off to Prospect Pictures.
I haven't properly been back there since April, but I'd been invited to lunch and hugs by one of my old team.
I was still bloated from yesterdays culinary exertions, and to be honest, just a smidge apprehensive about going back to my old stomping ground.
9 months has passed since the demise of GFL. It takes 9 months to gestate a baby. It takes 9 months for a body to decompose - give or take a preservative or two- so I figured it would take 9 months before I could face my dressing room, the corridor, the make-up room, the canteen, the studio, the camera ops, the producers, director, PA and all the other assorted grafters who I had grown to love.
April through December, exactly 9 months, time to face my demons.
I drove into the car park and Brian,the general do-gooder-handy-man, let me have my old parking space. I parked as badly as ever and entered Capital Studios. Gulp.
The journey, the geography of the building, each table,chair and lavatory are imprinted on my brain. I could literally do it all with my eyes shut.
The two young receptionists were new to me.
That helped, things were the same but ever so slightly different.
Biggy Small, a delectable cameraman, grabbed me and steered us out of the building to the pub on the corner. I still don't know it's name. I had two double tomato juices, the fake coal fire pretending to crackle, as we chewed the fat. I told him about LBC, my lunch in Charlotte Street and my two excessive parties.
Charlotte Street is full of bijous eateries incuding; Gennaro Cantaldo's, 'Passione', 'L'Etoille', an old fashoned French bistro and 'ROKA', the most exquisite Japanese Restaurant I have ever been to. Head chef, Nick Watt is a small Kiwi, with tasty tattoes, short hair, a beautiful wife and daughter, and one of the best Japanese tecniques in the business. ROKA won 'Best Oriental Restaurant' 2 years ago.
My guest and I went downstairs to a comfortable bar where the food aint scampi in a basket. I had Plum Plum cocktail, vegetable tempura, seasoned chicken wings and lemon grass tea. My guest and I chewed on edamame beans whilst we were waiting for our crispy vegetables to arrive. We finished with strawberries, raspberries, lychees and Honeycombe Shochu - a distlled spirit.
The upstairs dining room has a coal burning grill in the centre of the room which is surrounded by huge Irish Elm trees sliced into the most beautiful table tops I have ever seen. The swirling grain, the knotty holes and the different coloured veneer surround the grill. Its a very swanky Japanese conveyor belt, only it doesn't move.
Sous chefs, built like Samarai warriors, topped and tailed asparagus tips, laced lemons onto skewers and placed them onto the hot coals. The smell - well you can imagine.
I had never seen anything like it. I had booked a table for 5.30 but hunger over took me having sat through a screening of 'The Valley of Elah' with Tommy Lee Jones, ( he was in it not my cinema buddy) a seriously good anti-war film.
I left ROKA at 6.15, in the New York cold air, hopped into a black cab and arrived 15 minutes later in Bloomsbury Square. I quaffed champers with all the other actors in my voice over agency. Once a year we all catch up. 'Anglian Windows' talking to 'Gaviston Heartburn Relief', 'Heat' yakking to 'L'oreal', because we're worth it. Having polished off all the mini smoked salmon wraps, and 5 tiny jam tarts I made my exit.
I left early because I had pushed the boat out on Monday night at LBC's Christmas party. My body was still recovering from ice cold fizzy wine and very loud disco music. We guests were invited to wear black, white or red and turn up after 7.30 at Shoreditch House bang in the middle of trendy East London. The view from the fourth floor took my breath away, The Gherkin, banks of windows, and a skyline that belongs over the pond made me heady,not to mention the green lit swimming pool on the roof. I'm told it's not uncommon for the drunk to dunk.
Back in Wandsworth I told Biggy all my stories, then 2 other camera-ops joined us; Saff and Gay Lord Houser. Rabbi Burns, the director, came and hauled us back to work.
I went onto the studio floor, hugged Gino De Campo, hugged Anthony Worral Thompson, hugged Ali Day, the floor manager. Kissed so many people that by the time I bumped into Barry and Louise (The management) my lips were all puckered up like a Chinese lantern.
I stood and looked at 'my' cameras, my big curved, caramel, leather settee. I watched John Christoff Novelli read his autocue, and for one tiny second it felt so familier and yet utterly foreign. Interlopers had moved into my kitchen.
I wanted to sit down in my rightful place but recording started so off I went to the canteen. After sausages and lentils, broccoli and good conversation B and Nat arrived and it was time to go.
A tear came to my eye but it was absolutely clear that I had moved on. I visited the lavatory where I'd counted the tiles more times than I'd tasted hot dinners. The hot, little cubicle had got me through five years of live television. I walked down the blue carpeted corridor, out into the car park, turned on the ignition and left my past behind me.
I came, I saw, and without a doubt I conquered.
I know in the scheme of things my little drama is wet, weedy and not a little ridiculous, but pain is unquantifyable, and whilst I haven't lost a relative, my pain was real.
Saturn goes into retrograde today so, for them what knows, its about more lessons, I certainly learnt one today, that whilst that lovely lot are still chopping, stirring and cooking for a living I've moved on. I kissed goodbye to all my lovely chums and the last vestiges of hurt.
HIP HIP HURRAH for change.
Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes
You're right. The familiar/alien teritory is so utterly weird, as thought you'd never left/seen it.
As you say, your pain was real. Now and then it's all too real, isn't it? Ever hears George Harrisons 'Just For Today'? Have a listen, if you get the chance.
Take care, eh? Look after yourself, Jen.
What a good, strong, positive blog!
How good to return and have the feeling you now can leave it all behind. The fact is, you have moved on - when I hear you on LBC nowadays, you sound like a seasoned broadcaster. Also, don't forget, all those other folk that are "still there" will also have their day of having to leave it behind them too.
I lost my Mum in March this year, and it's been hard dealing with the loss.
Also on the work front there has been lots of change this year. I will be glad to see the end of this tough year and hope hope the next one is kinder to us.
Stay sane in the madness of the pre-Christmas season.
luv from Hamburg,
I'm really glad you feel you've moved on. You had a tremendous effect on people though when you left because there are STILL "bring back Jeni" posts on the UKTVFOOD messageboard (don't go there Barnett Bloggers and Leaderene - it's badvibesville).
As Glenn says New Year New Start for us all.
And as my other hero Keith Richards would say "Hi guys - it's good to be here, hey it's good to be anywhere!" (Said in a true Keef drawl).
Love Fee xxxx
I've been one of thoes "bring back Jeni Bloggers" I'd love to see you back as a TV Foodie somewhere. Food TV is so dull and lifeless without you. You'd give Gordon Ramsey a run for his money any day.