Great British Bake Off: Series 7: Episode 2

Thank you for your very kind comments on last week’s episode – it’s lovely to have lots of people enjoying the Bake Off together (and many apologies to those in countries which can’t watch this series yet! There will be many spoilers, I’m afraid.) Sorry that I haven’t replied to comments yet; I will soon, promise.

It’s biscuit week, and for the first time ever – he says, without troubling to check – Mel is flying solo for GBBO. And, to emphasise this anomaly, she is huddled, miserably, in an anorak at the end of the drive.

Oh, hi, I guess.
Oh, hi, I guess.

She isn’t woebegone to the extent of not making a ‘snap’ and ‘crunch’ pair o’ puns (and presumably also quoting the name of a rip off cereal from Lidl). Like some sort of ghostly ancestor, Sue remains on the voiceover. She is lingering, much like the looks exchanged by Selasi and Candice (thought I’d forgotten that? Mais non.)

Our bakers enter to jaunty music, and the cameraman finds ever more unlikely ways to obscure them in the establishing shots. We see Tom or Michael or someone through a cloud of mist, and a concerned Jane from behind a pillar.

Or his finger was on the lens. We'll never know.
Or his finger was on the lens. We’ll never know.

Even sans Sue, we can’t omit Blazer Watch – and we have some lovely pink and – what – cerise? burnt salmon? another pink? – from Mary and Mel. Mary is looking at Mel with “I’m sure there used to be two of them” etched into her eyes.

...no, probably not.
“…no, sorry, I was wrong.”

The first challenge is a fun one – 24 iced biscuits. I’m really enjoying this series’ return to everyday bakes, because it should inspire more home baking – even if we can’t all hope to achieve biscuits “as crisp as Paul’s hair” (Paul stoically ignores Mel, as per). Jane confides that she has practised the biscuits but hasn’t practised icing them, to be honest – we appreciate your honesty, thank you Jane – and Selasi says something calming but irrelevant about taking each day as it comes. I’m 90% sure that he’s lowkey auditioning for a Stop Smoking in Forty Days audiobook.

Mary waffles about consistency, in the garden, huddled in an enormous coat and clearly freezing, while the camera pans in on Louise shovelling some teabags around a glass bowl. The poor thing has clearly lost her mind completely.

They are, I grant, a consistent size.
They are, I grant, a consistent size.

Paul says something provocative about dunking, and we’re over to find out more about Louise’s biscuits. She’s only had a chance to say “Welsh fruitcake” – the joke is too obvious, so I shall leave it to one side – before we see her partner dragging her up an otherwise deserted hill. Yay! It’s hobbies week!

"Hobbies? No, not really. Oh... we HAVE to have one? I guess... well, I guess we sometimes go outside."
“Hobbies? No, not really. Oh… we HAVE to have one? I guess… well, I guess we sometimes go outside.”

It ain’t looking good for our Louise, as she answers the “snap or shortbread” dichotomy with something akin to a halfhearted sigh, and a concession that the biscuits will probably be disappointingly soft. “Good luck anyway,” says Paul.

Quite.
Quite.

Val’s hobby, meanwhile, is shrieking with laughter at her grandson, whose witticisms – couched, as they are, in stoney silence – left me rather cold. She does also laugh at the rather heartrending tale of childhood poverty she tells, though, so perhaps she sees merriment where others do not. Andrew, for his part, is in the world’s smallest musical theatre group.

Who meet, it seems, in Candice's P.E. hall.
Which meets, it seems, in Candice’s P.E. hall.

Kate, having missed my edicts about flower flavours in biscuits, is making a lavender and bergamot array. We get one of my fave ever Mary Berry Reaction Faces:

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Kate is, of course, a Brownie leader – but it looks rather like the only members of her brigade are her daughters.

Selasi, poor boy, is putting hot peppers in his biscuits. I mean, why? Tom, meanwhile, has made 300 practice biscuits – which smacks of a dangerous and debilitating obsession, if anything. Early fave, at the design stage, is Benjamina’s chocolate orange biscuits, which wisely note that flowers should only be seen as an inspiration for decor, not as a flavour. Colouring Pencils Man has done a lovely job of drawing them, though his arrows remain vague at best.

How he must love M & P's love of layers.
How he must love M & P’s fondness for layers.

Rav – who, for some reason, I keep forgetting exists – was apparently inspired by a visit to Goa for his daring and unusual combination of… coconut and lime. Guys, I’ve made coconut and lime biscuits before and, as far as I know, I’ve never been to Goa. He’s looking closer to home for his decor, as he’s directly ripping off the tent bunting.

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Disaster strikes for poor Louise – as her biscuits take something of a tumble:

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She is clearly one of those who deals with difficulties by resiliently and silently continuing – and Candice helps her as she scoops away the debris and starts again. It’s a better response to disaster than Val’s – of deciding that she can probably just use the floor biscuits anyway.

In no time at all, the ovens have done their magic – and 24 biscuits are coming out of everybody’s ovens. Except for Candice’s, as she’s made 48, to sandwich and double up. “24 on the top,” she notes, pausing for an extraordinary length of time before adding the second half of the sentence, which can hardly be considered a thrilling denouement: “24 on the bottom”. She does also, however, confirm that she will be wearing a different shade of lipstick every week – which is enough to warrant a high-five with Mel. Mel responds with the desperate uncoolness of the schoolgirl who can’t believe the popular kid is talking to her.

Look, I empathise.
Look, I empathise.

Everybody is icing, except Val – who, with supreme unconcern, announces that she hasn’t done any yet. Mel flutters around her in a panic, and Val considers a quick nip to the end of the garden to see how they’ve got their delphiniums so hearty.

Various bakers are furiously counting their biscuits – something you’d think they’ve had considered earlier in the process – and Val stalls around 19 including, I believe, two which remain in a dispiriting state on the floor.

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And – the icing is over. I think special mention has to go to the impressive uniformity of Michael’s flagons of ale.

Which, of course, he is staring at with the mournful eye of a mistrustful parent.
Which, of course, he is staring at with the mournful eyes of a mistrustful parent.

There is no crime so great as a soft biscuit, it seems, and Andrew, Louise, and more get penalised on those grounds. I stand by my admiration for Benjamina’s decoration – and Paul approves of the chocolate and orange. Well done for inventing that combination, Benjamina.

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Terry who?

Best burn? Mary telling Val “I’m sure you can pipe well”. That’s the sort of cruelty that Paul can only dream of with his overt insults. She comes a second best with labelling Kate’s icing “informal”. As it looks pretty darn impressive to me, I can only imagine she’d describe my icing as straight-up vulgar.

Tom gets… the Paul Hollywood handshake!! He gives the camera a glowing look of pride.

To clarify, this show has no cash prizes.
To clarify, this show has no cash prizes.

Sue wanders into a posh hotel (in jeans) to learn about biscuit dipping. I will avert mine eyes, and we’ll pick it up at the technical challenge (“an afternoon of misery and stress”). And it’s a good’un – I’m quite keen to try it myself. Viennese whirls!

Mel, incidentally, is doing a brilliant job on her own – and I am not the sort of man who’ll fault either her whirl, or her Viennese accent. She does tend to lean in far too close in her conversations with bakers, but we’ll let that slide. She presumably wants the company.

Don’t these look delicious? Mmm. Even Paul doesn’t dunk these, by the by. Oh, and is that a flowerpot shaped like a handbag AND a teapot in the background?

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For the abandoned Margaret Thatcher week.

Everybody’s made jam in a matter of moments, and we’re onto the perennial thrill of being told how to cream butter and sugar. Val jokes that she should probably have the right number – well, perhaps – and we get a shot of Kate that makes me proud to be British.

Mid-piping is, like every moment of every day, a perfect time for tea.
Mid-piping is, like every moment of every day, a perfect time for tea.

Consistency of mixture is an issue for all, and Rav is having rather a hopeless time of it – to the extent that it looks rather as if he is using Viennese whirl mixture to illustrate the shifting shapes of the lunar cycle.

We will gloss over the segment on Mel's warm hands.
We will gloss over the segment on Mel’s warm hands.

Bake or chill? The debate we all face on a Friday evening. Some of the bakers pop the trays in the fridge or freezer before the oven – still more, I suspect, wander around opening and shutting the fridge doors, possibly at the direction of the production crew. Said crew are also very keen this week to give us sweeping wide shots of the tent – perhaps they are proud of its placement, though it does seem to have been erected in rather a curious diagonal.

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The bakers act as though making butter icing were a complete unknown, wander around, open and shut ovens, and… some of the whirls come out looking great, and some rather flat. And then the cream and jam is added, and Selasi’s aren’t looking so great… presumably unaided by the looming voyeurism of the cameraman who (as luck would have it) still manages to find a way to obscure a section of the tray.

Phew! Almost an uninterrupted shot, there.
Phew! Almost an uninterrupted shot, there.

The music ferociously tells us that the climax of the challenge is over, and the bakers mill around with trays covered in whirls while Mel explains the concept of blind judging in the voiceover, for those viewers who’ve tuned in for the first time in the past three minutes (and have previously had only minimal acquaintance with the English language). Perhaps the saddest moment comes when Paul says “broken” and the camera shows Louise, who could be given the same adjective.

Selasi comes last (all the way from winning the Technical last week, if memory serves), and the top three are Benjamina, Jane, and Kate. I will try making these whirls before the series is over, and feed back with my results.

Mezza, Paul, and Mel debrief on the first two challenges while the bakers sidle into the tent, mutter to each other, and – in the case of Candice – apparently put on two aprons.

Well, sure.
Well, sure.

The final challenge is to make gingerbread memories, or something – basically turning those home VTs into gingerbread sculptures. The important thing is that they taste nice, says Mary pointlessly, while Paul illustrates the need for them to stand up with an anecdote about his Christmas gingerbread houses still being standing in February. It doesn’t speak wonders for their mass appeal, does it?

(Everyone presumably laments Lee’s early exit, as we can now no longer make jokes about him having been a builder, or laboured references to the fact that two of the bakers are making churches.)

Val is making various unrelated gingerbread pieces and shoving them together, so far as I can tell. It has all the design cohesion of a pile of rubble from an overturned lorry. She also appears to want to commemorate a precious memory of that time Louise made sheep biscuits earlier that day.

Oh lord.
Oh lord.

There’s not much to say about flavours and biscuit choices this week, since nobody is veering far from a standard gingerbread, and so everything is about the design and construction. They make what they can of Selasi using honey, and a lacklustre conflict about whether or not to include eggs, but it’s not exactly maverick.

Louise is apparently remembering the future, showing her forthcoming wedding, complete with the easiest conceivable sculpture shape, gravestones – all illustrated here in what turns out to be a rather charitable depiction from Colouring Pencils Man.

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Candice is compiling a whole pub – Mary’s face lights up – while Michael (Tom? I’m not putting this on, honest; I forget the moment after their names are mentioned) is devoting his gingerbread sculpture to a time he met Santa at Lapland. And, apparently, made gingerbread and created a souvenir… tablemat?

Look, I don't know.
Look, I don’t know.

Over with Kate, she’s making something or other to do with Brownies (for audiences unfamiliar with this, it’s in Girl Guides movement where young girls get together to make trails and tie knots and foist slings on each other – all clear?). Mary and Mel launch into the Brownie Promise and Mary, adorably, has to pause during “…serve the… Queen”, since presumably the last time she had to say it, it was a King. And that King was Harald Hardrada.

It does seem early in the competition for a challenge this hard, and I’m impressed by how all the bakers are rising to the occasion. There’s lots of flatpack construction (Andrew has 37 pieces), while Candice is making a green jelly for a pool table. She fondly recalls times her younger brother played pool, when he could barely see over the top of it – which rings alarm bells to me, personally, and I wonder if social services should be contacted as a matter of urgency.

A couple of people seem to be making the Empire State Building, and Val talks to the camera about trying to get the right number of windows – while cheerily disregarding even matching one side to the other in this shot.

Lady just don't care.
I am mostly aggrieved that nobody has made a reference to how many storeys this story has.

Sue warns us, in the voiceover, that pieces of gingerbread not only have to go into the oven, but also have to come out of it – and Jane confides in the audience that she doesn’t want to overcook them.

Memories of Ugne come to the fore when we get a passing moment of Kate saying “the children are cooked now” – but she loses Ugne points for not laughing maniacally at the same time.

Construction time has come for most, with royal icing or caramel being used to hold pieces together. Meanwhile, Val has opted for an approach of just moving things around the counter.

Helen - will you concede yet that she is a tresjz?
Helen – will you concede yet that she is a tresjz?

Mel stalks her around the tent, adorably shepherding her back to her post.

Now starts the stage of the episode where I was more or less constantly shrieking at the television. Walls are collapsing, glue isn’t setting, and the Statue of Liberty – in what I can only assume is a poignant metaphor – has had her head snapped off.

RIP Freedom.
RIP Freedom.

There is literally a montage of collapsing pieces – my HEART, my NERVES – and it culminates with this heartbreaking moment, just as music and Mel alike signal that the challenge is up: Louise’s church completely falls apart, each wall going in a different direction.

It reminds one, does it not, of the dissolution of the monasteries.
It reminds one, does it not, of the dissolution of the monasteries.

Again, I can’t emphasise enough how impressed I am with Louise’s attitude. She deals with it so well. I would be a sobbing mess, subtly trying to dislodge other people’s creations. Louise, you are a hero.

The bakers are, somewhat cruelly, made to carry their creations to the table – a distinct disadvantage for those at the back of the tent – and Mary and Paul get to judgin’. Here are some of the creations which most impressed me:

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[Not pictured: Tom/Michael’s rather demonic Santa scene. “I wouldn’t give top marks to the actual piping” – Mary in understatement of the episode.]

Winning this week – despite rather clear indications throughout that Kate should have won – is…

Candice, hiding
Candice, hiding

Leaving this week, which is sad but perhaps not a surprise…

Louise. Val lives to see another day - both literally and metaphorically.
Louise. Val lives to see another day – both literally and metaphorically.

I hope you’ve enjoyed it :) Tune in next week for bread week! Here’s something inexplicable to whet the appetite…

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35 thoughts on “Great British Bake Off: Series 7: Episode 2

  • September 4, 2016 at 11:32 pm
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    I rarely see GBBO on its first showing, but assiduously read your summaries. Tonight’s made me laugh immoderately – thank you!

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:19 pm
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      I’m so glad :) Thanks for your comment!

  • September 4, 2016 at 11:41 pm
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    Thank you for making me chuckle again. I do think Val is bonkers. I think I will miss her when she goes – bless her she can’t possibly last long.

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:20 pm
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      Every week is a miracle with that one, but I’ll certainly enjoy her while she lasts!

  • September 5, 2016 at 12:25 am
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    “…since presumably the last time she had to say it, it was a King. And that King was Harald Hardrada.”

    I laughed so hard at this.

    What was that odd moment when the gingerbread constructions were finished and they made the bakers leave the tent, so that, I guess, the crew could clean the workstations? Has that ever happened before?

    • September 5, 2016 at 11:06 am
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      They had to make a tower of something choux one year I believe, and then leave it fit a set period to see if it would still be standing at the end. Harsh but true. I wondered if this was similar but dont think they mentioned it. …

    • September 5, 2016 at 11:47 pm
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      It ties in to what Paul said at the start of the challenge about how they should still be standing two months later — they’d assembled the gingerbread and now had to let it stand to see if any bits fell off (an unnecessary step, as it turned out, because the constructions that were going to fall apart spectacularly had already done so. But they were probably hoping for moments of high drama). They’ve done that before on Constructing Things That Need To Stay Up challenges.

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:21 pm
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      Thanks Kara :)

      And I did think that was odd, but – looking back at past episodes – I suppose they often quietly do that, and leave just the bake on the end of the table?

  • September 5, 2016 at 1:17 am
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    Loving the laughing and the creation of another circle of community around this Bake off thing, and admiring your collection and use of appropriate stills with comments. Thank you. And I might have my first ever go at Viennese Whirls too – cant let that tip about getting the mixture soft and warm enough to pipe well go to waste or be forgotten.

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:22 pm
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      I do love how so many people come together over GBBO! Our office talks of little else.

      Do let me know how your Viennese Whirls turn out!

  • September 5, 2016 at 4:12 am
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    We have to wait for at least half a year before we see this new series over here in Canuckistan, so I love reading your hilarious accounts. Just like being there! I get their names all mixed up too.

    So the pub didn’t win? And there was a complete separation of church and state, poor Louise. Still snorfling about King Harald Hardrada.

    • September 5, 2016 at 7:44 am
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      You don’t mind spoilers then, Tui?

      • September 5, 2016 at 2:52 pm
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        Oh heck no. By time we get to see it, it will be a whole new thing. We’re just watching the Ugne series here now.

        • September 8, 2016 at 9:23 pm
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          Complete separation of church and state! Brilliant. But, yes, the pub did win – quite rightly, I think.

          Enjoy Ugne and her madness!

    • September 5, 2016 at 11:47 am
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      SPOILER – but then, this is at the bottom of a recap blog, so excusable, I’m hoping…
      The pub DID win.

      (while I’m here, Simon, fab work as ever. Top marks on monastery dissolution and Harald Hardrada, esp.)

      • September 8, 2016 at 9:24 pm
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        Thanks so much Ben!

  • September 5, 2016 at 6:40 am
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    Hilarious, as ever! I totally agree it’s good to get back to simpler bakes as it does inspire having a go. Having said that, I won’t be recreating the time my dog got lost on the beach at Skegness in gingerbread form any time soon…especially as I don’t have a dog & I’ve never been to Skegness ;-)

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:25 pm
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      Aw thanks! And yes, I suspect I won’t make any memories out of gingerbread myself… but maybe some gingerbread house or something. (And I have been to Skegness!)

  • September 5, 2016 at 7:43 am
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    Yaye! I got a mention! Thank you! But, no. Val is not a nat trezh. And she should have gone home at the end of this episode. Thankfully, I don’t think we’ll have to suffer through her for very much longer.

    Wasn’t that the most awkward high five ever in the history of high fives?

    Oh, and I loved how Colouring-In-Man included “Fiance Simon” as an ingredient in Louise’s gingerbread church!

    • September 5, 2016 at 8:31 am
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      If she were a treszj, she might be in a waxworks collection somewhere. And that would be amazing.

      • September 6, 2016 at 4:56 pm
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        Looking for a LIKE button, Linda.

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:26 pm
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      Helen! I will wear you down over the series. Well, until Val inevitably goes in a couple of weeks.

      Somehow Mel can make even the most awkward high-five very adorable.

  • September 5, 2016 at 8:26 am
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    Wonderful, as always Simon. :D

    What I learned during my (very brief) sojourn in the Brownies was ‘How to Make Pancakes over a Candle and an Upturned Tin Can and Burn Your Finger Testing Whether It’s Hot Enough Yet’ – which you inexplicably forgot to mention.

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:27 pm
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      Thanks Moira!

      And that one obviously was missed out by the cubs… though we did do something similar with baked beans.

  • September 5, 2016 at 11:07 am
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    We tried VWs last night. Unmitigated disaster. Little blobs of powdery oil was the result. Not cool.

    My fave but was when Mel was so overcome by the high five that she attempted a delayed “Boom” afterwards. Bless her!

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:27 pm
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      Oh no! Is there photo evidence??

      And that boom was so sweet!

  • September 5, 2016 at 12:02 pm
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    Another great recap thanks Simon. Today it accompanied my lunch, you should be very honoured!

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:28 pm
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      Oo, I am honoured Tommi!

  • September 5, 2016 at 1:40 pm
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    The biscuit dunking history was actually kind of fascinating. And N.B., one was the Empire State Building, the other was the Chrysler Building.

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:29 pm
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      I know I can rely on you to put me straight :)

  • September 5, 2016 at 8:55 pm
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    Another great recap- thank you Simon! Tom went to school with my daughter. He’s a really lovely person – I hope you’ll soon be able to distinguish him from Michael!

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:30 pm
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      Thanks Judith! And what fun that you have a connection. Now, thankfully, I think I’ll be able to remember which one Tom is :)

  • September 7, 2016 at 10:51 am
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    Nothing to do with cake, but I know you’re an AA Milne fan and I see one of his plays has just opened at the Jermyn Street Theatre. I haven’t seen any reviews so don’t know anything about it.

    • September 8, 2016 at 9:31 pm
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      Thanks again for this Mary!

  • September 14, 2016 at 1:17 pm
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    You are too funny — the comment about the dissolution of the monasteries had me in fits. And I am CRUSHED to hear that not only is GBBO leaving BBC, but that Sue and Mel are leaving as well!! It’s tragic.

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