Cakes for Real Men

Now that we’re well and truly back from holiday season, the Great British Bake Off has provided a welcome midweek punctuation mark, and I’m truly sorry to see the series come to an end.  Despite the valiant efforts of all concerned, the cool scientific rigour of amateur baker Edd won the day, with a perfectly turned out tea party performance.  And what an episode it was - tense, nail-biting, delicious and thought provoking. 

The thoughts it provoked divided last week’s family gathering straight down the middle.  Yes, you’ve guessed it – the North-South divide reared its ugly head, with Northerners arguing for the “end of the world as we know it” when men win amateur baking competitions, while the South maintained there were more important things to think about.  “Like what?” came the retort.  

Momentarily stumped, the Southern corner decided to list Great Myths of the Twentieth Century.  And here is the list we came up with:
• Central heating works:  No it doesn’t.   Moreover, it’s not central (that would mean a source of heat in the middle of each room), it warms the air rather than heats the house, and it’s not an efficient use of resources. 
• A job for life:  Anyone who says this is a reality has either been incredibly lucky or had a very short life.  
• Economic growth is limitless, and a good thing:  Try telling that to the Amazonian Indians. 

At this point we all realised we agreed on one thing:  no matter where you start a conversation these days, you always end up talking about the economy.   This, I presume, is where we’re all supposed to leap from our armchairs and say “what about the Big Society?”

Well, a return to values that involve traditional pursuits like baking, and more generally putting something back into society, is, in my view a good thing.  I don’t object to a Northerner winning the Great British Bake Off, and it was rather refreshing to be reminded that men can both have their cake and bake it.

But exactly where will gender issues sit in the big society?  Historically, recessions have always widened the gender pay gap, and other markers of equality also suffer during economic downturns.  So where exactly are we heading to in the next few years?   The bigger issues of childcare and access to top jobs still appear unresolved.   ‘Her at home’ has long been a species threatened by extinction:  so what next for women, now the "having it all" myth has been derailed by history? 

Ruth Ashton