The Great Bake Off Scandal image

The Great Bake Off Scandal

When she was in her twenties, my mum worked for a while as Mary Berry’s assistant, and this has always meant that my family has felt a kind of proprietary interest in Berry’s career. So, we watch Great British Bake Off. Besides, I bake bread several times a week using a sourdough starter I’ve been nurturing the past five years, and my kids like to bake cakes.

This season we’ve been cheering for 17 year-old Martha Collison. As the father of teenage daughters I have a natural bias towards teenage girls, but as well as being the youngest Bake Off contestant, Martha also comes across as the most relaxed and cheerful. So it was with some excitement that at last weeks Westpoint festival I discovered Martha was on site, and was able to get her up on the stage for a quick interview: in the flesh she is every bit as charming and delightful as on camera.

Having met Martha, we tuned in to Bake Off this week with greater than normal anticipation, but it wasn’t Martha’s outstanding tiramisu that stole the show – instead it was the great melting baked Alaska incident. It very much appeared that one contestant – Diana – had deliberately removed the Alaska of another contestant – Iain – from the freezer, allowing it to melt, with Iain himself then suffering such a meltdown that he threw the whole thing in the bin and was taken off the show. Mary Berry described Iain’s response as ‘unacceptable’, which in Berry-speak is pretty much resorting to four-letter words.

Of course, twitter then lit-up with denunciations of Diana and her dastardly spoiling tactics. In the nature of twitter, some responses were humorous while others were downright nasty. In the end, a number of those directly connected to the show (including Martha, and Iain himself) tweeted to Diana’s defence, saying that things were not quite as they appeared. It seems that in pursuit of baking drama, the production company behind Bake Off edited things in a way that wasn’t really an accurate reflection of how things had been. Their desire to do so is understandable (they’ve got to keep 8.1 million viewers hooked) but in the process they succeeded in making 69 year-old Diana a national hate-figure, which wasn’t very kind.

One of my post-sabbatical adjustments is to try and look at twitter less often than has been the case. I’ve never been a complete addict, but while I was away found that only checking twitter once a day was better for my emotional and spiritual well-being than thoughtlessly scrolling through comments several times a day. I like twitter. It is often funny and sometimes informative but it also lends itself to snap judgments, that might be rather far from the truth. It is human nature to second-guess the motives of others, assume the worst, jump to conclusions and open our mouths before fully assessing the whole picture. Social media makes this all very much easier, and also means an opinion that is actually factually wrong (‘Diana is a despicable cheat’) can quickly build a momentum that is hard to recover from.

I have heard Terry Virgo advise on a number of occasions to always assume the best of other Christians. I think the fact that Terry has lived by this principle himself is one of the reasons why he has been able to embrace (and invite as conference speakers) people from an unusually wide spectrum of theological positions. Most of us don’t find this as easy to put into practice as Terry seems to, but we need to learn to do it. If it really is the case that on the day of judgment we will have to give account for every careless word we have spoken (Matt 12:36), we might want to pause more often before we type or tweet. Our words are more significant than a melting pudding.





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