Lotteeeee, Shelina and Wayne

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 25 September 2014

So I climbed out of bed at 7.00, walked into the wet room, used up the little bottles of Miller Harris, put in the lenses, creamed the old visage and arrived into reception at 7.45 to meet the taximan.

Day two and I was about to meet Shelly Constant-lav, which was the only way I could remember SHELINA PERMALOO's name, the Mauritian Masterchef winner.

She had arrived with her mother and aunt, armed with three killer recipes.

Whilst mounting the stairs to makeup I was approached by Sally, the production manager, asking me whether I had remembered to bring in my luggage.

Tuesday? Why? Luggage?

Even now I don't know what day it is. I hadn't remembered. But I had asked for a hotel with a pool, I was being moved to the Winchester Spa so that I could swim after the shoot.

Little did I know that when Joe raised his eyebrows at the mention of the Spa, it would be my hackles that would be raised later in the day.

It was decided I would make Constantlav's programme, cooking her tropical Christmas, then at lunchtime I would be driven back to HDV to collect my baggage, and check into the Spa after the shoot.

We knocked off most days at 19.00 hundred hours or thereafter. What I didn't know was that the Spa closed at 18 hundred hours. The pool, a public domain would be full of people, packed with Winchester's hoi polloi.

Shelina made Asian Prawn Cocktail.

Let me tell you that the combination of Chinese cabbage, green beans, cherry toms, Thai Basil, coriander and crushed cashew nuts all mixed in with massive Tiger Prawns and a slither of smoked salmon then doused in a dressing so pungent had me caterwauling so loudly they could hear me in Port Louis.

Shell looks like she cooks, a little bit hot and a little bit tropical. Have to be careful here because she was with her mother. Shelina then set about her main course.

A massive feck off Sea Bass was whacked in front of us. I say 'us' because Wayne Collins remained to ply us with banging cocktails that we hid from Shelina's relatives.

The big bad Bass was encased in a salted herb crust. Trust me when I say that smashing through that salty layer revealed a fish so divine, so tender that even a non-fish-eating-vegan would have plunged themselves into this Mauritian blowout. And that was served up with carrot, orange and pistachio salad.

Okay not the kind of thing you present when the mob have asked for a fish supper but a fabulous festive dish.

For pud the Mauritian maiden served up a tropical meringue cake so rich, so magnificent that my girdle groaned.

Shelina shertinly knew her schtuff.

So it was a wrap and I left with Anna, a novitiate on the shoot, who attempted to drive us to the Hotel Du Van to collect my bags. We did have a Sat Nav but I can't read a paper map let alone a technological contraption. The bloomin' thing popped off the windscreen so we drove round Winchester's one way system until we resorted to shouting at passerbys.

Finally a man with compassion and local knowledge told us to park. He pointed to the traffic lights and told me to turn right. So I changed my shoes and jogged to the hotel. Packed in a jiffy and thats as in a speedy pack not a padded envelope - and bid farewell to my garden room with wet room attached.

Going back was easier Anna and I knew some landmarks and we had stopped panicking.

Arrived back in time to flop into Kathy's chair, whilst me and the Lotte Duncan girl caught up on 7 years of gossip.

The Duncan dish then served up three offerings worthy of a portmanteau of Michelin stars

No.1: Mulled wine and pear sticky ginger cake....don't ask.

No.2: A pork and chestnut terrine with home-made plum chutney. There was not an empty gob dry eye in the house.

No.3: Lottee's Christmas morning bread. You know that song 'Easy on a Sunday Morning', makes you think of clean white linen sheets, and a geezer with money in the bank and a nice way with words. Well that was what the bread tasted like.

Toasted even better she told us.

All the while the mad mixologist Wayne Collins was making a jazzed up Christmas Snowball.

Let me tell you by the end of day two my blood sugar was so high I could have floated up to the top of Everest and I'm not talking windows.

Day two's shoot over and Joe piled me and my bags into his car and drove us to the Winchester Spa. Now I have a history of touring. I have been on the road more times than TOTP has been repeated. I get claustrophobic in hotel rooms with no personality. When I can't remember where I am I go loopy. Too many years on the road.

We walked into the foyer and I could smell stale smoke. The piped music turned my synapses and the decor was like a DFDS advert.

The receptionists were young, as helpful as they could be, and totally unaware of my request to have my bag taken with me to my room. In fact Joe had requested a porter. I noticed his eyebrows hit the roof....

I navigated through the hotel lounge to the first lift. Up to the second floor. Circuitous corridors till I found the lift to take me to the third floor.

More circuitous corridors. By now I was waiting for Jack Nicholson to come careening round the corner calling 'Wheeeere's Jeeeeni.'?

Got to room 339 and my two little plastic key cards didn't work. It had taken me forever to get to the room and now I couldn't get in.

Found an emergency phone on the wall and the receptionist came up a good five minutes later.

'Sorry.' he said.

Got into the cupbaord - sorry room- and dumped my case on the floor. Took out my lenses. I had asked whether there was a view. 'Yes' said the receptionist with zeal. The view was the canopy of a lime tree. I did not need my lenses for a handful of lime leaves.

I went to the mini-bar. As you know I dont drink but my nerves were going. l felt like I was back in 1995 driving on anonymous roads to Nylon encrusted hotels. Way before Lenny Henry had slept in all the beds of 'The Premier Inn'.

I called down to reception.

'Where is the mini bar?' I asked curtly. I really needed a mini bottle of brandy.

'We don't have a mini bar.' said the infant. 'Its a fridge.'


Okay I thought I'll have a bath using their less than salubrious bath products, and wrap up in a cosy towelling bathrobe and watch telly.

I called down to reception.

'Where' the bathrobe' I asked curtly.

'We don't have them in the room.' Said the female receptionist.

'It will cost you 5 for the pack.....'

How was I to get to the swimming pool without a perishing bathrobe? Although by this point the thought of going down in two lifts, up endless corridors and across a car-park did not feel appealing.

I hung up, so I never found out what the pack contained.


The tears came in rackshaking sobs.

I had not signed up for a box on the third floor with nothing but a telly and a bed with only two pillows. And I had nobody else to blame I had asked for a Spa. The production company had tried to accommodate me but I hadn't calculated on such long days and the delight of the garden rooms at HDV.

I walked round the bed, into the bathroom, round the bed again, looked at the lime leaves then called my producer.

I swear I have never been this kind of Diva before. I couldn't speak through my sobs.

'Dont worry' said the producer gently 'You've clearly had an allergic reaction to the room.'

I was adamant I would stay the night if only they could get me back into my garden room at HDV . But they insisted I needed to be in a good frame of mind for Wednesday's shoot.

Now here's a thing I would have stayed at the Spa but them gels insisted I was transferred to somewhere that George Bush Junior stays in for his golf and wedding receptions are held in the walled gardens and fields.

I had had a kind of mini panic attack. Those rooms feel like being in prison. The team understood so I packed my bags again. Went down the way I came up, handed over my plastic cards and left. The receptionists did not bat an eyelid, although Joe's eyebrows would have hit the top of the Shard.

I went to stand outside in the air.

The 'oosbind was sympathetic when I told him what had happened, I felt vindicated.

I was collected and driven to the fanciest place this side of the A3. LAINSTON HOUSE. So big and beautiful was my room I didn't know where to begin. The huge bed, the desks, the brocade curtains. The bathroom.

Well the bathroom was like Baden Baden, huge, clean and covered in tiles. Two sinks. Loads of towels, bathrobes, slippers. A stand alone Victorian bath with claw feet, so big was that bath I did half a length of backstroke. And a bidet so wide I nearly couldn't arrange myself, even with my yoga practice.

A mirror big enough for the 'Strictly' crowd to see their reflections. Set between two showers. With rain bars and a shower head even bigger than the one in my garden room at the HDV.
Two people standing ten feet from each other as if in the Eacudorian rain Forest could not have touched finger tips.

I ran a bath. Bubbles and foam, I paddled and lay, lay and paddled. Then I had to get on all fours to get out of the bath.

I gingerly climbed over the high edge, repeating the mantra 'BE MINDFUL, BE MINDFUL'. Successfully on the floor I walked to the door and mid mantra I slipped. BANG I went over like a cartoon Tom and Jerry. My foot slid under me and I landed on my sacroiliac. I thought I had smashed something, in the event it was just a slapstick pratt fall.

I cried and cired and cried. The fall had unlocked all the panic.

Room service brought me meusli and a Japanese tea, after which I fell into my supersized bed.

My alarm went at 7.00 I stood in the shower, the rain bars pelting me from side to side. I had to cover my face the spray was so fierce. Packed my bag again and found my way back to reception.

Arrived at work for day three.

The team had managed to get me back into the HDV. I was heading back to my garden room but not until I had filmed The Christmas Tukey with Matt Tebbitt and an 'American Christmas'with DJ BBQ otherwise known as Christian Stephenson.

It was only Tuesday and I felt like I had been filming on location in Transyllvania for two months.

With the turkey marinating in brine and Peter Richards providing the fizz all was well that ended well.

Or was it?

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At September 27, 2014 8:26 PM June wrote:

Hi Jeni

Lovely to read all about your return to TV.
Hope you are enjoying it all.
TV, radio, you make it all look easy. It's always like listening to a best friend or a favourite sister, you have such a warm way about you and a great sense of humour.
Good luck darling girl.

Love June

2. At September 29, 2014 10:48 AM Allie Stewart wrote:

You deserve the right Royal treatment!! xxx

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