Mumbles and music, and bread being toast…

HERE are words I didn’t expect to write: sometimes I don’t understand the world any more. And no, this bit of crankiness does not touch on such catastrophic miscalculations as Trump or Brexit.

Here are my two pieces of evidence pointing to the incomprehensibility of life.

One: The letters page of the Radio Times – oh, look, we all hang out in disreputable places occasionally – is full of complaints about the music in Blue Planet 2.

Two: no one eats bread any more (‘Is bread toast? Young fall out of love with loaves’– The Guardian, November 11).

Not sure which of these is most shocking. For so many people to complain must indicate I’ve gone deaf and didn’t notice the music; or that some people will complain about anything.

Moaning about the music in Blue Planet 2 is to find fault for the sake of finding fault; it is to whinge because it is your right as a true Brit to look at something marvellous, and go: ah, but…

Fancy sitting there to behold such deep-sea marvels and fathomless oddities in a wildlife masterpiece, and then just complain about the music. “Seeing red over Blue Planet” says the headline above the letters. There are quite a few, and a note below the last one says: “RT had a big postbag on this subject.”

Clearly, I am not cranky enough to read the Radio Times.

Complaining about the music or the sound on TV programmes is a bit of national pastime. Usually the ‘guilty’ programme is aired on the BBC. This gives the Mail or the Telegraph something to moan about, and just the other day the Telegraph found a few deaf old colonels – or possibly a few dead old colonels ­– to complain about the sound quality in the new BBC1 adaptation of Howards End.

I think the call must go out from the news editor: “Anyone got a deaf old maiden aunt didn’t hear something properly on the BBC last night?”

All this began three years ago when the BBC’s adaptation of Jamaica Inn was accused of being ‘muffled’. Rightly so, in that case: pretty sure I gave up after the first mumble.

It is true that the music on some dramas can be a bit much, especially some of those European crime dramas on Walter Presents. This is the Channel 4 offshoot along whose blood-stained corridors I can often be found wandering.

Now to bread being toast. According to a Harris Interactive poll for the Grocer trade journal, only 25% of people aged 16 to 24 eat bread every day, compared with about half of those over 45.

Bread has been hit by carb worries, gluten worries, the rising price of wheat, the fall in the pound – and, it should be said, by the quality of what is mass baked by the speeded-up Chorley Wood method of production. This short-cut doesn’t allow the gluten to break down, and could have contributed to the rise in gluten intolerance (that and gluten intolerance being a bit of a fashion, alongside a serious problem for a very small minority of sufferers).

As an old grateful bread head who only eats his own homemade loaves, I am less than typical; I get that. But how did we get so picky about bread? According to The Guardian report, Kingsmill – a brand said to be worth £500m – is operating at a loss, despite having invested heavily in new low-cost bakeries.

A cultural change that sees people no longer eating bread seems to be a great shame to this lover of loaves (often served with fishes: peppery mackerel fillets from a tin).

But if people are spurning mass-produced sliced white bread, who can blame them? Nasty, pappy stuff that’s good only for plumbing tasks and possibly summer pudding.

If you have the money, the answer is to buy decent bread from a proper baker (York has three that I can think of); if you have the time, make your own. I love making bread, the rhythm of it all, the kneading, the slow rising. There are two loaves resting in the fridge right now.

I’ve had my disasters, still do sometimes (raisin baguettes, we are looking at you), but the seeded sourdough I made last week was a triumph.

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