It may be tripe, but it's my tripe

While the New Year gongs are doled out, the passing of George MacDonald Fraser is mourned. Elsewhere

Winter warmers

While in Britain, the seasonal bawdiness may have departed with the panto, France is currently celebrating a personality that stood for lascivious loving, unbridled libertinism and unfettered existentialism. No, not Sarkozy. With Simone de Beauvoir’s centenary celebration next week, the nation’s critics are locked in ferocious argument as to how the intellectual should be championed. Whilst Danièle Sallenave, the author of the De Beauvoir biography, Castor de guerre, is keen to ‘look at all her work together, not just the affairs and the sex - important as they are," others are prioritising: Le Nouvel Observateur made its position clear, plastering their latest with author's naked buttocks. In the UK, the release of Ang Lee’s graphic Lust, Caution (reviewed in this week’s issue) has reduced even the most esteemed bloggers into gossiping schoolgirls, as fervent debate over whether co-stars Tony Leung and Tang Wei actually consummated their sexual scenes or not, rages on.

Smash and grab

Following Robin Stummer’s piece in our Russia special on the destruction of Moscow’s traditional architecture, Moscow’s historical landscape has taken another aesthetic blow to the solar-plexus with the approval for Lord Foster’s £2billion 500m high wigwam. Due to become the world’s largest building, the designs have been widely criticised by resident architects, such as the disgruntled Yuri Bocharov, for not only “contradicting the spirit of the city” but for also resembling a “dahlia stuck in a string bag”. Complete with 3,000 hotel rooms, 900 apartments and three house theatres, you can be certain this ‘city within a city’ will essentially become an air-conditioned bubble for the country’s super-rich.

Honourable mentions

Ushering in the New Year was the Honours List, that annual bout of bilious populism which evokes inevitable incredulity (you don’t want to care but you are appalled) on behalf of those who didn’t receive recognition (such as Neil MacGregor, former director of the National Theatre), when urchins like Des Lynam did. Deservedly, however, 94 year-old cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, co-producer of the James Bond films Barbara Broccoli, author and NS contributor Hanif Kureishi and Jazz pianist and composer Stan Tracey all received the pieces of metal and tinted ribbons they have long desired.

Gone in a flash

One past recipient not around to witness the queasiness was the author George MacDonald Fraser, who passed away on the 2nd January following a battle with cancer. Notorious for his Flashman series, which glorified a conceited caitiff whose exploits inevitably ended in triumph, (despite being a racist, a misogynist and a womaniser), Fraser was unforgiving to the last, his candour refreshing in an age where publicity machines dictate a saccharine sweetness from their authors: "It may be tripe but it's my tripe - and I do urge other authors to resist encroachments on their brain-children and trust their own judgment rather than that of some zealous meddler with a diploma in creative punctuation who is just dying to get into the act."

Best of the rest

Other dispatches that may have eluded you this week include Radiohead’s New Year’s webcast of their song ‘Nude’ (complete with Thom Yorke in what appears to be a ketamin-fuelled séance), and the announcement that Catherine O’Flynn,, whose novel What Was Lost was rejected by over twenty agents and publishers, has been awarded the First Novel prize at the Costa Book Awards. Thankfully, the Chapman brothers, Jake and Dinos, made any weekly toil lighter by gracefully consenting to remove themselves from society, albeit it for a day, in order to take control of the Big Brother house in conjuncture with Channel 4’s experimental new Hijack formula. Should that prove as ghastly as it sounds, why not catch Cristian Mungiu’s Cannes winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, climb Henry Moore’s sculptures at Kew or ride into the New Year on any one of the variety of small horse-drawn trams on view at the reopened, and refurbished, London Transport Museum.

Photo: Channel 4
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Who will win Great British Bake Off 2017 based on the contestants’ Twitters

An extremely serious and damning investigation. 

It was morning but the sky was as dark as the night – and the night was as dark as a quite dark rat. He walked in. A real smooth gent with legs for seconds. His pins were draped in the finest boot-cut jeans money could buy, and bad news was written all over his face. “I’m Paul,” he said. “I know”. My hooch ran dry that night – but the conversation never did. By nightfall, it was clear as a see-through rat.   

Some might say that going amateur detective to figure out which contestants win and lose in this year’s Great British Bake Off is spoiling the fun faster than a Baked Alaska left out of the freezer. To those people I’d say: yes. The following article is not fun. It is a serious and intense week-by-week breakdown of who will leave GBBO in 2017. How? Using the contestants’ Twitter and Instagram accounts, of course.

The clues are simple but manifold, like a rat with cousins. They include:

  • The date a contestant signed up for social media (was it during, or after, the competition?)
  • Whether a contestant follows any of the others (indicating they had a chance to bond)
  • A contestant’s personal blog and headshots (has the contestant already snaffled a PR?)
  • Pictures of the contestant's baking.
  • Whether a baker refers to themselves as a “baker” or “contestant” (I still haven’t figured this one out but FOR GOD’S SAKE WATSON, THERE’S SOMETHING IN IT)

Using these and other damning, damning, damning clues, I have broken down the contestants into early leavers, mid-season departures, and finalists. I apologise for what I have done.

Early leavers

Kate

Kate appears not to have a Twitter – or at least not one that the other contestants fancy following. This means she likely doesn’t have a book deal on the way, as she’d need to start building her social media presence now. Plus, look at how she’s holding that fork. That’s not how you hold a fork, Kate.

Estimated departure: Week 1

Julia

This year’s Bake Off began filming on 30 April and each series has ten episodes, meaning filming ran until at least 9 July. Julia first tweeted on 8 May – a Monday, presumably after a Sunday of filming. Her Instagram shows she baked throughout June and then – aha! – went on holiday. What does this mean? What does anything mean?

Estimated departure: Week 2

James

James has a swish blog that could indicate a PR pal (and a marketing agency recently followed him on Twitter). That said, after an April and May hiatus, James began tweeting regularly in June – DID HE PERHAPS HAVE A SUDDEN INFLUX OF FREE TIME? No one can say. Except me. I can and I am.

Estimated departure: Week 3

Tom

Token-hottie Tom is a real trickster, as a social media-savvy youngster. That said, he tweeted about being distracted at work today, indicating he is still in his old job as opposed to working on his latest range of wooden spoons. His Instagram is suspiciously private and his Twitter sparked into activity in June. What secrets lurk behind that mysteriously hot face? What is he trying to tell me, and only me, at this time?

Estimated departure: Week 4

Peter

Peter’s blog is EXCEPTIONALLY swish, but he does work in IT, meaning this isn’t a huge clue about any potential managers. Although Peter’s bakes look as beautiful as the moon itself, he joined Twitter in May and started blogging then too, suggesting he had a wee bit of spare time on his hands. What’s more, his blog says he likes to incorporate coconut as an ingredient in “everything” he bakes, and there is absolutely no bread-baking way Paul Hollywood will stand for that.

Estimated departure: Week 5

Mid-season departures

Stacey

Stacey’s buns ain’t got it going on. The mum of three only started tweeting today – and this was simply to retweet GBBO’s official announcements. That said, Stacey appears to have cooked a courgette cake on 9 June, indicating she stays in the competition until at least free-from week (or she’s just a massive sadist).

Estimated departure: Week 6

Chris

Chris is a tricky one, as he’s already verified on Twitter and was already solidly social media famous before GBBO. The one stinker of a clue he did leave, however, was tweeting about baking a cake without sugar on 5 June. As he was in London on 18 June (a Sunday, and therefore a GBBO filming day) and between the free-from week and this date he tweeted about bread and biscuits (which are traditionally filmed before free-from week in Bake Off history) I suspect he left just before, or slap bang on, Week 7. ARE YOU PROUD NOW, MOTHER?

Estimated departure: Week 7

Flo

Flo’s personal motto is “Flo leaves no clues”, or at least I assume it is because truly, the lady doesn’t. She’s the oldest Bake Off contestant ever, meaning we can forgive her for not logging onto the WWWs. I am certain she’ll join Twitter once she realises how many people love her, a bit like Val of seasons past. See you soon, Flo. See you soon.

Estimated departure: Week 8

Liam

Liam either left in Week 1 or Week 9 – with 0 percent chance it was any of the weeks in between. The boy is an enigma – a cupcake conundrum, a macaron mystery. His bagel-eyed Twitter profile picture could realistically either be a professional shot OR taken by an A-Level mate with his dad’s camera. He tweeted calling his other contestants “family”, but he also only follows ONE of them on the site. Oh, oh, oh, mysterious boy, I want to get close to you. Move your baking next to mine.

Estimated departure: Week 9

Finalists

Steven

Twitter bios are laden with hidden meanings and Steven Carter-Bailey’s doesn’t disappoint. His bio tells people to tune in “every” (every!) Tuesday and he has started his own hashtag, #StevenGBBO. As he only started tweeting 4 August (indicating he was a busy lil baker before this point) AND his cakes look exceptionally lovely, this boy stinks of finalist.  

(That said, he has never tweeted about bread, meaning he potentially got chucked out on week three, Paul Hollywood’s reckoning.)

Sophie

Sophie’s Twitter trail is the most revealing of the lot, as the bike-loving baker recently followed a talent agency on the site. This agency represents one of last year’s GBBO bakers who left just before the finale. It’s clear Sophie’s rising faster than some saffron-infused sourdough left overnight in Mary’s proving drawer. Either that or she's bolder than Candice's lipstick. 

Chuen-Yan

Since joining Twitter in April 2017, Yan has been remarkably silent. Does this indicate an early departure? Yes, probably. Despite this, I’m going to put her as a finalist. She looks really nice. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.