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Saturday, 22 July 2017

Piano playing food critic on a rainy night in Buxton


Unlikely guest of piano playing food critic at the Buxton festival

Cheeky illegal photo inside the Pavilion Arts theatre, The Rotunda theatre for small fringe events, the Opera House in the rain and the university dome from the Kings Head



A talented writer, comic, journalist, cook and food critic, Jay Rayner also plays jazz piano. I hate him already. I suppose he did go to Leeds University. We walked into Buxton in the rain last Friday from The Manse B&B which is extraordinarily good. After two Stellas and a meal in the Kings Head we went see Jay and his wife (Pat Gordon-Smith) who is a brilliant singer. The guy on sax (Dave Lewis) was excellent as was the bass player (Robert Rickenberg). The sound he got from the double bass was just as good banging the strings with the palm of his hand as it was from horny-fingered plucking.

The evening was mostly music, in between we listened to him talking about Masterchef and The One Show etc and being the son of a famous agony aunt. A quick chardonnay in the interval.

Jay once made chips from polenta (boiled cornmeal - an Italian innovation), asking an innocent customer at the chippy what she thought. "It's disgusting, making something out of afterbirth." He fluffed the follow-up line but probably got a bigger laugh.
  Some guy, worried about the shape of his penis, wrote to the agony aunt, having carved a replica in wood, and asked for her opinion. She didn't see a problem and immediately saw the opportunity to incorporate it in her condom application tutorials. It's now a family heirloom. I'd heard of mum, but her demise had passed me by. My dear childbride upbraded me, "She would have been a big age, Jay's no spring chicken." Neither are we.

It began with a Jobim's Wave. There were Leonard Cohen, Ray Charles and Joan Armatrading numbers. And food and drink items. That Old Black Magic (Harold Arlen), Cantaloupe Island (Herbie Hancock) Eggs and Sausages (Tom Waits), and easily my favourite, One for My Baby (Arlen/Mercer). It is the ultimate drunk song, made famous by Sinatra. My flat buddy in Liverpool had a Sinatra album (Sinatra at the Sands), the one with the monologue in the middle, which included the song. Played that and Green Onions all the time or so, it seemed. Then there was Food, Glorious Food from Oliver (Lionel Bart) which started with something very similar to Miles Davis' So What.

He took some of it a bit fast, reigned in by his wife, who conducted for short while with her arms. He didn't flinch and checked her out after slowing down, "Is that better darling?" Endearing.

He even came second on Celebrity Mastermind (specialist subject Stephen Sondheim). His charity was Sense, for whom he championed sight and hearing loss in the elderly. All a bit sickening. Multitalented and a conscience. He says he is political - Corbyn you would imagine. Just lousy at cards I guess. He is not too keen on Gove, but not many people are. History Repeating (Max Gifford) was a song which nodded at the current hung parliament, originally sung by the Propellerheads in 1997, featuring Shirley Bassey.

It's a gentle and entertaining night out. Even if we struggled to hear some of it. And I admit I'm simply envious.

Breakfast the following morning featured opera goers with plums in their mouths. Stereotypes. The night before we'd been the retired demographic, simply there to enjoy and not be seen. 

And then blow me on the car radio on the way home, Kitchen Cabinet, hosted by who? Jay Rayner. Insufferable. Saturday morning Radio 4 is pretty good. The Week in Westminster was particularly refreshing, with a massive bashing of the political classes and the journalists that feed off them. I suspect Jay would have approved.

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