Through a garage, darkly. There is definitely light at the end of this tunnel. And some canapés. Forget over egged and under served East London. Waterloo is where it’s happening. All the groovers and quakers. No longer a rookery prone to humbuggery and skulduggery. Within earshot of the screeching brakes of commuter trains full of weary suburbanites is a low key brick terraced house which leads Tardis-style into a hidden former warehouse. Welcome to The Violin Factory. Lavender’s Blue are at this hipper than thou venue to chat exclusively to the original domestic goddess Mary Berry.
Back in the day when inbox was two words and Made in Chelsea meant quirky artwork, there was Mary. Her rise from person to persona to Personality of the Year 2013 can be charted from the new look to the lean in generation. “Lovely to see you,” she charms. “The first thing people ask me is ‘Are you on Facebook?’ The other thing people want to ask me is ‘What age are you?’ I’m 78.” Quite.
Home is the postcard pretty village of Penn in the Chilterns. “My husband takes the dog for a walk very early in the morning so that he doesn’t meet people! Our dog’s called Wellington and we’ve a cat, Primrose. It gives me time to cook on the Aga. I’ve had an Aga for the last 44 years. It never wears out.” The same could be said for her charisma and career. So far Mary’s published 70 bestselling cookery books. There’s nothing half baked about this one woman industry. She does, though, acknowledge the longstanding assistance of her PA Lucy Young. Pippa Middleton really did get the bum deal with her book.
“The recipes that I do are very much family recipes. We’re not chefs. They have a brigade behind them. There’s such pleasure in making something traditional like lemon drizzle cake. It’s great to get all the family round the dining table to find out what everyone’s been up to.” Then, with a twinkle in her eye Mary paraphrases Shirley Conran: “Life is too short to stuff a courgette.” She discloses the pleasure she receives from people using her recipes but it’s teaching that’s her real passion.
“But all you want to hear about is Bake Off!” As an experienced interviewee, second guessing is clearly second nature to Mary. “The Great British Bake Off. What a shock it was to get asked to be a judge on the programme. Now we’ve got seven million viewers. Gardeners’ World has 2.5 million. I love it too. We’ve been voted the best reality judges on TV. Simon Cowell watch out! The programme has got Britain baking.”
“Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc are so much fun to work with,” she says. “At the Baftas, Sue said to me ‘We’re in Row H. We’re far too far away from the stage to be winners!’” They won two Baftas. “How am I ever going to find my way down there was my main concern.” She did, just as she continues to help people find their way round the kitchen. Amidst the flotsam and jetsam of life, there are few constants. Except Mary Berry who’s an exceptional exception. And William Curley London Chocolates.