Thame Food Festival bursary winner announced

Karen Neville

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Popular food festival runs on September 24th & 25th and this year more than 180 artisan producers are set to take part

Hartley’s Cookery School, based in Haddenham, has been awarded the Thame Food Festival bursary for 2022.

The bursary, reinstalled after sponsorship by Pinkster Gin, was established a few years ago to celebrate and promote newly-formed artisan food business within a 30-mile radius of Thame.

Hartley’s Cookery School aims to offer cookery class and chef table experiences which explore food, why certain ingredients or techniques are used and how to prepare and cook it. While also creating an environment that is fun and appealing for everyone – whatever their ability.

Creating an environment that is fun and appealing for everyone

Simon Hartley, Chef and owner of Hartley’s Cookery School said of the win: “I am delighted to be receiving this bursary and the support of the team at Thame Food Festival. Since opening our doors at Bradmoor Farm in January it’s been amazing to welcome and cook with our first guests at the school. We want to be a community-led business and have so enjoyed building relationships with other food producers and suppliers. Our vision for the school is to share my knowledge and passion for food in a relaxed environment, offering fun-filled courses for all abilities. Whether you’ve never picked up a knife or are a seasoned foodie, there’s something for everyone!”

The bursary includes an award of £1,000, a free pitch at this year’s Thame Food Festival, content in the festival programme, the opportunity to have an interview in the Food Glorious Food marquee and help with PR and social media.

Previous winners have included Ozi Lala, who has gone on to win Great Taste awards for his unique food products and the original winner was Lisa Hartwright of Tess’ Brilliant Bakes. Both of whom are going from strength to strength and still play an active part in the food festival too.

Supporting young businesses that have the same ethics as the festival is an important part of what we try to do

Patron and event co-ordinator Lotte Duncan said: “We are delighted to be in a position to offer a bursary again – thanks to Pinkster Gin. As a Community Interest Company, supporting young businesses that have the same ethics as the festival is an important part of what we try to do. It was such a pleasure to meet Simon and his partner and hear what they are trying to achieve by giving people friendly, fun cookery courses while learning about the provenance of their food.”

What will he spend the bursary on? Simon said: “As we have only been trading for just over five months, we are looking to use the bursary to invest in upgrading our website, signage and professional photography. Plus, use the support of the judges to broaden awareness of us and explore how we can potentially look at supporting initiatives in the community too.”

Find out more about them at Hartley’s Cookery School and to book tickets for the festival go to Thame Food Festival

It’s come home – at last!

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Now it’s over to you… be inspired by our Lionesses and get involved in football where you are, whatever your age and ability

Football has come home, it’s taken 56 years to win a major honour but it was well worth waiting for as England women’s captain Leah Williamson lifted the Womens Euros 2022 trophy at Wembley on Sunday.

The amazing achievement of beating eight-times winners Germany 2-1 was immense and while many backed the Lionesses as the favourites for the tournament on home soil, the result is truly outstanding and the women deserve all the plaudits and honours that will come their way.

One of the key aims for The FA and the England Women has been ensuring that this fabulous celebration of football creates a legacy for future generations and encourages as many women and girls as possible to get involved in the beautiful game.

Whatever your age and ability, football is for all and offers a huge opportunity for women and girls to engage in a healthy lifestyle through football, promoting both physical activity and mental health benefits too.

Follow in the Lionesses’ footsteps there are many options open to you.

Whether you just want to have a kick about with your mates, have a go at walking football or want to join a local club and perhaps follow in the Lionesses’ footsteps there are many options open to you.

There’s never been a better time to get involved in football and with the FA’s Gameplan for Growth aiming to double participation, Berks & Bucks FA has a number of initiatives for you to join in.

Girls aged 5-11 can become a Weetabix Wildcat, non-competitive football for girls who want to give it a go for the very first time or want to play with other girls their own age. Most importantly, Weetabix Wildcats is all about having loads of fun and meeting new friends. Join a youth club or leagues across the counties and further your skills or just enjoy the physical and social benefits for fun.

And it’s not just for girls, there’s a wealth of options for women at club and recreational level too. More at www.berks-bucksfa.com/players/women

Get involved!

As several players and commentators said after the epic win, this has to be the start of something even more special.

Marlow Best Kept Village

Liz Nicholls

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Congratulations to Marlow, Best Kept Village!

Marlow has been awarded a certificate of merit in Buckinghamshire’s annual Best Kept Village Competition — “fully deserved” according to the competition’s administrator.

The judges’ comments included: “Excellent floral displays – strong community effort – in Jubilee colours”, “Areas around shops and pubs were to a very high standard” and“Good evidence of community effort in the town”.

“Excellent floral displays – strong community effort – in Jubilee colours”, “Areas around shops and pubs were to a very high standard” and“Good evidence of community effort in the town”.

Mayor Richard Scott said: “We’re delighted with the merit for Best Kept Village — the competition is fierce. I’m particularly impressed with the judges’ comments about community effort and would like to thank residents, businesses and Council workers for keeping our town clean and beautiful.”

Founded in 1957, the Best Kept Village Competition’s objective is to encourage entrants to work together as a community, involving all age groups, to make villages and towns more attractive places, not only for residents but also for visitors. The winner was Stony Stratford, with Wendover the runner-up.

An American Perspective in West Wycombe

Liz Nicholls

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

This August, at long last, after three years of holding no exhibitions, the West Wycombe Art Group (WWAG) are pleased to welcome you to their popular Annual Summer Exhibitions in August, Trevor Baker tells us.

This year our featured artist, DeeDee Nash Ruffo Nash, offers an American perspective on the local scene.

Where DeeDee started

DeeDee Ruffo Nash began her artistic life in Grade 1 at St Joseph’s School in Norwich, Connecticut USA when she won a prize for one of her paintings. This very early success must have inspired her to pursue a life which has always held art as an important and integral part because she went on to complete a diploma in Commercial Art at the Paier School of Art in Newhaven Connecticut.

Not only is she an active participant in drawing and painting but she embraces music as well being a competent harpsichordist and violinist.

This all developed further when she became immersed in a lively local arts community which encouraged (and actively practised) painting, music and theatre.

DeeDee Nash Ruffo Nash_Paris Night
DeeDee Nash Ruffo Nash_Puffins, colour

DeeDee moved on to carve out a freelance career based on graphic arts in the creative commercial world. She moved from the USA to England in 1996 where her artistic career continued and thrived and she joined the West Wycombe Art Group in 1997.

DeeDee has two favourite media, oil paint and pen and ink – but she also uses charcoal very skillfully to produce lovely, and very convincing portraits.

Her art

When using oils, the main inspirations for her paintings are the mood and atmosphere surrounding dusk and early evening. She loves the dark, sometimes brooding hues of gold and green and the gentle touches of slightly misty blues. Her delicate lightness of touch achieves some remarkable results and her lovely peaceful landscapes offer great serenity and charm. She doesn’t stop there. She is also captivated by the night life of city centres, the bright lights and deep shadows which contribute to the drama of a scene and is then enhanced by shapes and figures which suggest an intriguing background story. Her paintings are a delight.

Her work in her other medium, pen and ink is equally captivating and results in some intriguing pictures. Stark black and white imagery, with subtle nods to Aubrey Beardsley shape and design, are created by the artists in what she describes as “constructive doodling”.

DeeDee Nash Ruffo Nash_Lake Sunset 1
DeeDee Nash Ruffo Nash_Moby Dick

Constructive Doodling

She allows her mind to wander the blank page and almost lets the pen decide the route to take. That route dictates her decisions to move on in an imaginative way to make sense of what could be chaos. This brings the process under control and eventually a delightful design emerges. These designs can exist in their own right or colour can be added to enhance and further the images. “Constructive Doodling” works!

Whatever medium takes the attention we hope that visitors to the exhibition will enjoy the experience of viewing DeeDee’s creations alongside work from 23 other artists.

The exhibition

The West Wycombe Art Group Annual Exhibition takes place in the West Wycombe village hall and runs from Friday, 26th to Monday 29th August. It is open daily from 10am to 5pm on Friday and Monday and from 10am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday

Making massage a regular, guilt-free treat

Liz Nicholls

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

We’re all up to our eyeballs in depressing news about the rising cost of living… But we also know how vital self care is for good mental health… So what’s a stressed out, strapped-for-cash girl to do? 🤔

As far as luxurious treats go, a great massage is top of my treats list. You’re either a massage person or you’re not. For me there is no other wholesome indulgence that quite hits the spot when it comes to topping up that mojo. Being a single mum, prone to life-ruining migraines and living with a non-hugging teenager, the prospect of some no-strings touching always appeals. 💆

So the ethos of The Massage Company, born in Camberley in 2016 and growing ever since while winning a few industry awards, really appeals to me. It’s a subscription-based service on a mission transform massage therapy from a “once in a blue moon occurrence” to a regular part of our wellbeing routines. This brings the costs down, and helps you enjoy a regular top-up just for you, so you can enjoy the benefits (better sleep, reduced anxiety anyone?) without feeling guilty or waiting for another birthday to roll round.

I popped into the High Wycombe branch and shared my goals with the friendly team. Although petite and dainty, Gabi the therapist was happy to indulge my “go-hard or go home” approach. Her Swedish style massage was expert, and incredibly relaxing, along with the calming fragrance ooozing out of the mister. You can also opt for deep tissue if you’re the hench type, or hot stones. I treated myself to an additional scalp massage which involved Gabi focusing on my temples and neck, gently pulling small sections of my hair which unleashed all sorts of weird & wonderful sensations elsewhere.

I wafted out into the real world feeling light as a feather and full of beans. And I was plagued by none of my usual headaches for more than a fortnight (and counting). I hope many more of these franchises spring up and urge everyone to put themselves first and treat themselves. We’re all cancelling treats and direct debits but this one should pay for itself.

*The Massage Company branches include Camberley and High Wycombe. To find out more, visit massagecompany.co.uk

A new lease of life

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

A move to McCarthy Stone’s Jupiter House in Milton Keynes has helped give a retired newsagent a social network and greater peace of mind  

Having spent nearly 40 years behind the till of their family-run newsagents alongside her husband, Jill Lee, 75, was used to the hustle and bustle that comes with being at the heart of the community. 

After the loss of her husband Graham over 10 years ago, Jill and her family decided that it could be a good time for her to downsize and luckily, spotted McCarthy Stone’s Jupiter House under construction, just a ten-minute walk from daughter Katie’s home near Milton Keynes. 

“There’s always someone to have a chat with and I’ve got all of my friends right on my doorstep!”

Katie says: “We decided to move mum into a relatively new house, in a quiet cul-de-sac but after 40 years of living in a busy newsagents, it was just too quiet for her and she was becoming quite lonely and isolated.” 

Jill’s younger daughter, Isobel, lives in California with her two children, and with the pandemic severely impacting travel, being closer to loved ones was something the family felt would be beneficial for Jill. Katie says: “We were driving around one day near to where we live in Milton Keynes when we spotted the hoardings going up for Jupiter House. I said ‘why don’t you move here so you’re closer to us?’ and mum agreed so we registered as soon as we could!” 

Jill and her daughter Katie

After so many years being surrounded by people, this was an important factor in Jill’s decision to move, as she explains: “Our life was the newsagents, we used to open at 6am and close at 8pm at night, meeting and talking to people – that’s what we loved to do. When my husband died and I moved, although I had neighbours, they were always out at work, and really, I led quite a lonely life and I missed having people around me. Now, there’s always someone to have a chat with and I’ve got all of my friends right on my doorstep!” 

Since moving into her one-bedroom apartment in May 2021, which she did using McCarthy Stone’s convenient ‘Smooth Move’ scheme, Jill has wasted no time getting to know her new neighbours, and has even started what has become known as ‘The 2 O’Clock Club’ with some of her fellow homeowners. 

As well as offering a much-needed social network it has made a positive impact on Jill’s life and also offered the family greater peace of mind and the safety net of knowing Sarah the House Manager and her team are on hand if needed. Jill added: “We can’t speak highly enough of them; they’re always going out of their way to help.” 

Jupiter House features a selection of one and two-bedroom apartments, built exclusively for the over-60’s. Homeowners can also enjoy a spacious communal homeowners lounge and beautiful landscaped gardens while visiting relatives can make use of the handy hotel-style guest suite. 

Prices for the one and two-bedroom apartments at Jupiter House currently start from £225,000 and £340,000 respectively. Rental and part buy part rent options are also available to make moving even easier. 

For more information on Retirement Living in Milton Keynes, please call 0800 201 4743 or visit www.mccarthystone.co.uk. 

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Star Q&A: Gok Wan

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Television star Gok Wan, 47, talks to us ahead of his dazzling star turn as the Man In The Mirror in Snow White at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre from 4th December to 2nd January

Hi Gok! How did you get involved in pantomime? “I’ve dreamt of being on stage forever. I first began to think about panto some years back. I was fascinated… Then one evening, maybe 2012 or 2013, I was with Lionel Blair and the very naughty Louie Spence. They said I really should give it a try. I spoke with my agent and Channel Four got involved. I first met Snow White then. There have been other pantos since then but it’s really great to be back with Snow White.”

Q. What’s your character The Man In The Mirror like to play? “Man In The Mirror sounds like a piece of furniture! I’m not and it isn’t! The script is amazing. I finished re-reading it again this morning – the tradition has again been tweaked for the 2020s and I’m excited. The mirror has messages. The mirror motivates. The mirror is magic.”

Q. And your costume… do you have a professional opinion about it? “Do I have an opinion? Oh yes I do! I like it. I was encouraged from the start to contribute input, although the designer anticipated so much that my suggestions could be called incidental. There’s a vital aspect, though, and one I insist on. An aspect that’s seen and unseen – the fit! My costume has to fit and over the Christmas period that could mean adjustments… It’s gotta be done.”

Q. Do you have any pre-show dressing room rituals? “Haha! Not only in the dressing room! Yes, I’m superstitious and my rituals – as you call them – go on throughout the performance; I don’t leave them to lurk alone in the dressing room. What can I tell you? Ahh, there’s ‘first on stage.’ Of course there is going to be stage crew but I like to be the first cast member on stage before a performance. What else? This year in Snow White I am required to fly and when I’m up high, without fail, I whisper a hello to my Mum. I love the flying bit. Love it, love it!”

Q. What is the secret to a great pantomime? “Three ‘secrets’: the first is definitely the audience; the second is likely to be the audience and the third, in my experience, is probably the audience. I like to open the show, to greet and welcome everyone and I can predict within 20 seconds
just what sort of evening it will be. People
have probably had tensions at work, frustrations with traffic, delays or hold-ups – it’s important to me that everyone feels wanted.”

Q. We’re enjoying your new TV show Bling… “I believe you can get a lot from the series. Jewellery can mean so much more than ‘an accessory’ – so often there is special significance attached to a piece. The series sparkles with stories, memories and emotion, as well as amazing technical skills and explanations. It is fascinating. I learned a lot.”

Q. Do you know this part of the world well? “Not really. My home’s London so I’ll commute. I like town and city life. The hustle, the bustle, the noise, the rush, the dirt, energy, sweat, the crowds. I am a absolutely a city boy! I was brought up and lived over a restaurant so it’s what I’m used to.”

To book, call 0333 009 6690 or visit atgtickets.com

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Star Q&A: Samantha Womack

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Actress, singer, model & director Samantha Womack tells us about festive feelings as she stars as the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre as part of its UK tour

Q. Hello! We’re celebrating Christmas shows. Did you go to many of these as a youngster? “I loved all shows as a child. My grandmother was a choreographer and often had friends in shows. She was a great friend of the theatre manager at the Palladium and so I remember going to see Michael Crawford in Barnum countless times which was an incredible performance.”

Q. What is it about this production of the CS Lewis play that will really make Christmas sparkle? And why should we all book a seat? “This production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is directed by Michael Fentiman whose work I’m a massive fan of. With this production he brings a similar vibrancy and originality that he created with his award-winning Amelie. It is a magicial, spellbinding show with Narnia being revealed in earthy pagan magic and musicians on stage whose physical talent is breathtaking.”

Q. Any favourite hang-outs or places to visit while you’re in town? “Aylesbury is an area I’ve performed in over the years, in South Pacific, Guys & Dolls… so I have many fond memories of here. I always bring my dogs with me as there are so many beautiful walks around Thames Valley.”

Q. What’s your go-to snack or food or drink you could never live without? “I try to eat healthy food as I eat a lot. Avocados and kimchi is my current craving and homegrown veg. Having said that, Lidl does dangerously good ice cream…”

Q. What’s the best meal you’ve ever had & choice for a last supper? “The best meal I’ve ever had? Tricky! Anything my grandmother cooked. She did a mean Welsh rarebit and roast tatties.”

Q. Who would be your six dream dinner party guests, alive or dead, real or fictional? “My six dream dinner guests would be Oliver Reed, Richard Burton, Nick Drake, Edith Piaf, Sidney Poitier and Kathryn Hepburn.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? And your favourite song or album? “My first memory of music was my Dad playing Cat Stevens on acoustic guitar. I miss that sound.”

Q. Do you love Christmas, and what especially are you looking forward to this year? “Christmas is special to me. My father Noel was born on Christmas Eve so that feels bittersweet but I always have a house full of people and music over the Christmas break.”

Q. What other highlights are on your horizon? “I have just bought a retreat business with my partner in Valencia in the mountains and so we will be working on that next year.”

Q. If you could be a real white witch for a moment and make one wish for the world, what would it be? “My wish for the world would be environmental awareness so we stop any more species and plants from being wiped out. And it sounds corny but… to be kind and love one another.”

For tickets please visit atgtickets.co.uk

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Star Q&A: Timmy Mallett

Liz Nicholls

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Broadcaster, artist & dad Timmy Mallett, who turns 66 this month, tells Liz Nicholls about family, football, art and his new book Utterly Brilliant – My Life’s Journey

Q. Hello Timmy. It’s wonderful to speak to you & I’ve really enjoyed your book, in fact I cried reading it! Are you pleased with it? “That’s very kind of you, I’m pleased it resonates. I’m proud of it, yes. You don’t know when you write a book how it’s going to go down. I wanted to combine the story of an adventure, a big personal challenge, with memoirs of Wacaday and my radio days and career and things I’ve done over the years, and my love of history and art. How do you do that? And I remember my editor saying: ‘you start at the beginning and crack on and see how it goes’. Haha!”

Q. I loved your drawings at the start of each chapter. “Part of that is to stop and look at where you’ve stopped. I say it in the book: work on the assumption you’re only going to do this once, you’re not going to come back and do it again with more time. It’s not every day can you devote masses of time to drawing so give it all you can in the moment. Sitting down and drawing or sketching or painting is a way of thinking about at the place you’re at and absorbing it. And that’s the nice thing about taking the bike, because you have to think about what you’re going to take. In a car you chuck everything in, but on the bike, you have to be quite precise. It seemed to work.”

Q. Your late brother Martin sounds so inspirational. Do you still talk to him, as you do in the book, and feel he’s still with you? “Thank you. Yes I do, it happens every day, Liz. Every day I have those little conversations with him. He pops up in what we’re doing. I remember when I was planning the adventure I was thinking about Martin and how he reached his potential. It takes the pressure off, in some ways. You haven’t got to be the best or the fastest… you’ve just got to be the best you can be. And Martin, with his language and learning difficulties, showed me how to do that, just by being absorbed and interested in everything he was doing. As brothers sometimes it was a little bit annoying that it wasn’t at the same speed, but he was always in the moment, he lived his life in the moment and his time scale was different. We often judge things as ‘life will be good when… lockdown’s over or when I get the new job, when I move house, when I go on holiday, get the new outfit…’ Well, what’s wrong with now? Now’s the moment. Everything’s got a time limit hasn’t it? We think everything’s going to carry on forever, like this lovely warm hot sunny day. Tomorrow we will need a jumper on!”

Q. What do you love about living here? “I moved into this house 30 years ago this Christmas and my son Billy, who’s grown up here, and was born here, is a gardener in the neighbourhood; he speaks with a Berkshire burr. The thing I love about it is the people; it’s great for families. It’s a lovely place to live. I’m passionate about my cycling and there’s some great cycle routes, either out southwards to Windsor or north into the Chilterns. I’ve got good friends here, I play five-a-side football, tennis. There’s good pubs and restaurants. I ring the bells at Holy Trinity church; I like the involvement. The fact I’ve put down roots, haha! This is the longest I’ve lived anywhere and it’s got something special about it. Then seeing the way Billy has taken to being a gardener. He knows the Latin names, the nicknames and the proper names of every plant in the garden as well as every football team in the country. I like the fact that when I’m out and about people say ‘hello Timmy!’”

Q. And Oxford United? “I love Oxford I’ve been a passionate fan of them since the 1990s when I worked at Radio Oxford when they soared. I watched how when the football went well, the town did well, there was a bounce in the air and people were inspired. I have two teams now – I have Oxford and also Maidenhead Utd who have the oldest football ground in the world. With both my teams, I like the ambition at the start of the season. Pre-season in these friendlies, new players are coming in you’re thinking ‘are they any good? Are they going to be better than the last lot? Are they going to set us alight and entertain us?’ Then, 45 minutes in, they’re 3-0 down and you’re like ‘arrrgh where are my hopes and dreams?!’ It’s about enjoying the ride. I don’t judge the season by whether they get promoted. No: it might be a great season if they stay up! If they stay in the midst of it all with great games or a great run. All those things are to be celebrated and you’re seeing players giving their best and trying their hardest. All these ups & downs are to be celebrated.”

Q. What are your favourite songs? “Anything by the Beatles. I often have Band On The Run by Paul McCartney & Wings playing loudly in the house, and The Stranger by Billy Joel. Lovely haunting melodies in there. And The Bluebells’ Young At Heart. Pop music is your personal diary isn’t it?”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “My mum playing the piano. Pop music was always really important, too. Listening to Alan Freeman on Pick Of The Charts each week. The charts mattered – whether they went up or down. How they did in the league. We used to love that. When I was at boarding school my brother used to send me lists of the charts and what he thought they should be. We had a little pop group, me and my brothers. Paul couldn’t remember the words, Martin couldn’t say the words so I made them up. We were called the Kettleholders. Singing and pretending to be pop stars!”

Q. Which artists inspire you? “I really like the impressionists – I like Dutch 17th century artists like Vermeer and modern artists like David Hockney who rejoices in painting the seasons.”

Q. Do you have any favourite local galleries? “Nova in Marlow, Lemongrove in Henley and Whitewall galleries have all supported my art. I like going to visit some of the weird and wonderful museums we have in the Thames Valley – the chair museum in Wycombe! Wow! Bizarre! Reading Museum in the old town hall which has a copy of the Bayeux Tapestry. I like the Ashmolean museum in Oxford. I like the Bodgers exhibit in the Turvill Church, in the vestry. The Bodgers lived and worked making chair spindles in the 19th century. I like the Heritage Centre in Maidenhead. And if you want to see more of my art look at Mallettspallette.co.uk

Q. Who would be your dream party guests? “Eleanor of Aquitaine, an impressive woman in a man’s world. Tom Hanks, particularly because I love his character’s line in Castaway; ‘all we have to do is keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise & you never know what the tide will bring in’. I’d have Gareth Southgate. Also, I’ve been watching The Kominsky Method on Netflix and Michael Douglas seems like good value. And my mate Michaela Strachan who makes me laugh.”

Q. Do you get any weird fan mail or attention? “Fan mail is interesting because I get it just as regularly now as in the Wacaday days. It doesn’t surprise me when a message comes via social media or actual letters. Everyone has their memory of Wacaday, like you Liz, when you said you and your sister used to watch it. I was in the British Museum and someone shouted ‘Tony! You’re Tony Robinson, wow!’ I reminded him of Baldrick, obviously. Some people want a pinky-punky mallet, so I brought out a 30th anniversary edition which people can buy.”

Q.  If you had a magic wand, as well as your mallet, what would you wish for the world? “I feel as though climate change is fixable, all we have to do is put our minds to it. I’ve done this in a small way in my own house. If I could have a domestic wind turbine on the roof, I would do. I’d find a way to make where I live work harder. I reckon it’s doable in the bigger picture. I’m optimistic.”

Q. You’ve done so much in your varied career! Anything in the pipeline? “These are the golden years to make the most of what you’ve got and make it happen. One of the things I was surprised about, researching the Camino, was how much connection there was with the Thames Valley. Santiago de Compostela is where you go to see the tomb of St James the Apostle, where all of him is buried except for his left hand, which is in Marlow, at St Peter’s. Then when I was planning my trip, I contacted my MP who said I want to hear more about this, so the PM came to my house to hear about the camino. Then there’s the Bishop of Oxford who didn’t know about any of it. All these little connections putting people together. Your story is part of the thousands of ‘Camino’ journeys that happen every year. There’s probably another adventure to do on my bike. And there’s another big idea which I’m trying to persuade Mrs Mallett about, so I don’t feel it’s fair to tell you first, Liz, until she’s on board! At the moment she’s like; ‘you’re going to do what?!’  I want to do more cycling and painting – that suits me. Meeting people, hearing their stories, sharing some tales would be a good thing to do. Always take that inspiration of brother Martin, with the smile on his face and a warm embrace.”

Please visit Timmymallett.co.uk & mallettspallette.co.uk

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Star Q&A: Ed Byrne

Round & About

Marlow, Bourne End & Cookham

Liz Nicholls talks about life, laughs & lockdown saviours with comedian & dad Ed Byrne, 49, ahead of his live shows in September, including Oxford, Newbury, High Wycombe, Farnham, Camberley & Dorking

Q. Hello! Which comedians did you like when you were young? “I always liked Dave Allen. My brother had a 12-inch album The Pick of Billy Connollly which I remember laughing at with my Ma & Da. And then repeating the jokes (that I didn’t really f***** get but were still funny), to other kids who also didn’t get it, in a bad Glaswegian accent.”

Q. Have you had to rewrite material for your new show If I’m Being Honest? “I’ve done a few outdoor & drive-in shows, so I’ve been able to tinker as I go, see what works and what doesn’t. Now I am making jokes about the fact that jokes in the show are a couple of years old which really changes the joke. It demonstrates that life has been in suspended animation for two years.”

Q. What were your lockdown saviours? “I had visions of having a nice break, then taking myself off to the Scottish Highlands when the kids went back to school…but no! I did manage to film a show interviewing celebrities while hill walking but people love to accuse you of breaking the rules. At home we did a lot of Dungeons & Dragons and Pokemon battles. We divided and conquered in this house, and I was banished to the garden. I dug a vegetable patch, made raised beds, I laid a patio… all in the first flush of lockdown, obviously, before my get up and go got up and went. I taught myself via YouTube. When it comes to practical stuff it’s better to watch someone who’s only slightly more qualified than you cackhandedly find their own way through it first.”

Q. Is it true you shook hands with David Bowie? “It was more than that! I was in Adelaide and was invited on to an evening TV chat show. It was live, and as I was doing my bit, Bowie and his band gathered opposite me next to the cameras and audience. Then he did his interview & he was easily as funny as I was. We had a chat and, despite the enormous disparity in our standing, he spoke to me like we were contemporaries, like equals, which was very sweet, if mad! The following day Steven K Amos did the same TV show and he got to meet… The Wiggles. So I won that one.”

Q. What’s your most memorable heckle? “To this day the most devastating heckle I ever had was in Sydney when woman just stood up and shouted [adopts drunken Aussie accent] BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! That really was all she was hearing.”

Q. You’re a humanist, right? “Yes. Humanists help people organise things differently. A lot of the big things in life; how we mark marriage, babies, death, used to be controlled by religion but now there’s choice. You can be altruistic and an atheist.”

Q. Any up-and-coming comedians worth a shout-out? “When work was scarce, I watched a lot of short videos. I do think it’s fitting that I’m made to feel old by the app TikTok, which sounds like someone pointing at their watch counting my career down. I have enjoyed Alistair Green, Tom Little and Naomi Cooper who are all very funny.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world what would it be? “Wow; big question! That it be disease free. And if we can’t go for disease-free, can we just make the diseases we have slightly less contagious?”

For Ed’s show details & to book, visit edbyrne.com

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