I am a reasonably good baker but not a tent baker, but I did something else that no other baker achieved – I got all my family on television and that is more important to me. If you notice all my bakes are around my family. I have two children and two grandchildren and they are my world.
When Paul ate my sister’s head, Susan thought it was really funny, I forewarned her that she might be in it, and then she was shown on An Extra Slice visiting various places in Amsterdam as a gingerbread man with makeup. She thought that was hilarious too. Denise my other sister lives in New York and she inspired my gingerbread showstopper, and my brother Steve lives in Derbyshire and raises sheep, so I put one of those in.
Being the oldest lady baker had its benefits as I have baked so much, there wasn’t much that I hadn’t tackled before. I nearly gave up on Week 4 when I was making the lacy pancakes as I felt I wasn’t as good as the other bakers, but I decided to keep going.
Time wasn’t my friend in the tent, I was always up against the clock. I am a retired person and I will now pick blackberries and make some jam and potter around in the kitchen making cakes. It’s a nice life as the clock is unimportant in my kitchen.
When Mary was judging my Bakewell Tart, she looked at my pastry and said this is the first soggy bottom on the series. Of course I was disappointed but you have to just go with it. Somebody has got to have a soggy bottom, so it might as well be me. Paul liked the flavours of my goats cheese and home made caramelised red onion chutney, and Mary came back and grabbed a bit of my Danish Pastry as she was moving on, so not all bad.
I have always been a rebel, and a bit of a risk taker, that’s why I wanted to make an Ark. I wanted the children watching to be interested. I have always kept active and went to a gym for 27 years for four days a week, I only stopped because it closed and I couldn’t find another one within distance. So now I walk round the valley for 3 miles, I call it going out for a wobble, as I walk 100 steps then run a 100 steps.
I always exercise even when I am making jam, you know you can get 4000 steps done while making apricot jam. It’s a daft thing to do but it keeps me fit. My view is that if you move a lot you will lose a lot eventually. I have been called eccentric but I feel that I have reached the age in my life when I can say what I like, and get away with it – nannas can get away with it. The bakers call me Nanna Val.
The very first night when we all met we didn’t know each other at all. By the end of the first day we were incredibly close as we all felt that we had stepped into an a new different world called the Tent and we all wanted to support each other in whatever way we could, emotionally or with baking.
My worst moment in the tent was my filo pastry as it had all melded into one. I held it up and said this looks like Quatermass, and I thought ‘that’s it kid you are out’, but I kept going and got them in the oven but I should have taken them out earlier. I only presented a dozen instead of 24, the other dozen were still in the oven. Mary always teased me from the first episode about my numbers when I served up 22 biscuits instead of 24 in the first episode.
My best moment was winning the technical challenge for the dampfnudel and Paul said it was the most difficult thing that they had ever done in the tent. I was dead pleased to have cracked it, and get a smile from Paul, and when Mary said my bakes weren’t messy they are informal everyone seems to have loved that. I had some lovely times with Paul as I was always a bit cheeky with him.
Being a head teacher was stressful and it’s an incredible amount of responsibility looking after all the children. I have always covered any stress with a sense of humour and fun, and that’s how I have lived my life. Philosophically I retired early so I could enjoy life with my husband Ian at home, and my love of baking and that is now what I intend to do.