There is something of a sad symmetry to this week’s fantasy bake post; exactly one year ago, I was sat in my Air B&B room in Bristol over a Foodies Festival weekend writing about Barbara Windsor.
As I packed my bags to travel to Bristol on Thursday, the news came through from Barbara Windsor’s family that this national treasure has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I struggle to find words enough to send my sincere love and best wishes to Barbara and her family. I write these words, once again, from my Bristol Air B&B, one year on.
Alzheimer’s is beyond cruel; it’s fucking evil. We watched it take my beloved Nana, slowly, over eleven years. When I say we watched, I mean that my Mother and her sisters watched – I did not see my Nana for the last few years of her life on Mum’s advice because Nana wouldn’t know me and it would break my heart to see her. I saw nothing, but I felt everything.
I would not wish this experience on any family. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy – I don’t think I have any enemies per se, but you get the sentiment. I wish I could say that it gets better, easier, anything, but I can’t.
The most important question to ask at this point is what can we do? There has to be something that we can do, right? I want to ask you to do everything and anything that you can to support the work of Alzheimer’s Society, who are putting every penny into raising awareness, supporting anyone affected by the disease (whether the patient or those close to the patient) and, most importantly, research. We have very little medical intervention at present and that which is available can be a fucking ball ache to access because dementia is not an obvious condition at the outset. It can be tricky to diagnose and sufferers may be fine one day and not the next.
I had no intention of this post becoming so heavy on a Monday. I do apologise. Here’s a picture of Barbara Windsor at her fabulous best to make us all smile. I just think she is wonderful. Click the picture to read all about my love of Babs, written this time last year.
Some of my first memories of my Nana are centred around her kitchen. I do remember baking with her – sausage rolls and butterfly cakes – despite being very young. I remember standing on a chair to reach the worktops. Nana was a great cook, even if her style was less than gourmet. I remember the chips from her deep-fat fryer being the best I had ever tasted and the strange love I had for vegetables at her table which I hated everywhere else. It turned out that I’d eat most things when coated in plenty of melted butter and I still would!
One of my last memories of my Nana is riding in the back of the car with her and a cupcake recipe book. As we turned the pages together, Nana touched the pictures of beautifully decorated cakes and said “I used to make these.” I wonder if she knew what a big influence she had been on me, my life, and my eventual career.
Back to today and to positive action; Alzheimer’s Society has an annual event which I hope that you will get involved in. Cupcake Day is on Friday 14th June (or, frankly, whenever works for you!) and Alzheimer’s Society are asking you to bake cupcakes to raise money. You could organise a cupcake bake off at work, gather your friends for a cupcake afternoon tea, bake them, buy them, whatever works for you, just get money in the pot for this cause. You can click here for all the details and to get a fundraising pack.
Alzheimer’s Society are determined not to let dementia win; they are fighting for every person affected and to find a cure. If there is anything that I can do to change the narrative for future generations, I will do it. If baking a few cupcakes could help, I’ve had years of training for this fight.
I read over my words from last year and the following sentiment stood out:
I will always admire and respect anyone who grafts, putting one foot in front of the other with a broad smile and kicking ass left, right, and centre.
Dame Barbara Windsor and her family have a huge fight ahead of them. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other, one ass at a time. I hope they know that there is a small army of us in their corner.