We all need distractions and here are two of mine… Richard Thompson’s private gig and Masterchef

God, we all need a post to lean on. Here are two of mine: a ‘private’ audience with Richard Thompson and plenty of fork into mouth action on MasterChef.

Thompson, that noted wearer of berets, is a spinner of great songs and a fretboard wizard who can make one guitar sound like two. He has been performing for more than 50 years – around 5,000 gigs, as he confided last night.

“Can’t remember any of them,” he quipped, his voice now confident but still running ahead of a childhood stammer.

All those gigs, and now he’s stuck at home in New Jersey with the latest woman in his life, the singer Zara Phillips (not the royal equestrian one).

Unable to travel anywhere, Thompson, 71 this week, made do with a lockdown gig streamed from his studio.

Lovely stuff to this long-time fan, just Thompson and his acoustic guitar, singing and strumming out the rhythm while laying flurries of notes on top, as he does. He is drily witty, his British humour undimmed by years in the US. At one point, Phillips came on to do the vacuuming, took his temperature and then joined in on vocals.

Thompson played songs old and new, including Down When The Drunkards Roll, one of two great drinking anthems by this now teetotal singer, God Loves A Drunk being the other.

On the Facebook feed fans scrolled out their gratitude and, remarkably, their grumbles. The moaners wanted to see his hands better so they could learn to play the songs properly.

“They’re not easy to play,” I told Thompson once during a phone interview.

“They’re not meant to be,” he said.

After last night, I have a better handle on Walking The Long Miles Home, so thanks, Richard. Oh, and he played that song now accidentally of the moment: Keep Your Distance.

MasterChef ­­is a guilty pleasure just when you need one. Never has this show been more welcome. These hopeful Hestons are on hand to cheer us up. And if you want to know what a scallop or a chocolate fondant look like, they’re eager to oblige.

It’s an odd addiction, I’ll agree. A programme about food you never taste, cooked by people you don’t know from Adam keeping six feet away in the supermarket.

The tasting is all down to that pair of professional mouths, John (‘Parsta’) Torode and Gregg (‘Sorse’) Wallace. Forks plunge into their mouths like JCBs going into muddy holes. We froze the programme on play-back the other day and one or other of them was there for ages with his gob stuck on open.

All very ridiculous, yet I love this show as much as Gregg with two gees loves his puddings. In case you don’t know, he’s the one who looks like a permanently surprised tortoise.

I even love the voice-over drawl at the start, all that doomy excess of second-rate Hollywood blockbusters – “MasterChef is back!” It is my sworn duty to repeat that phrase every time we sit down to watch. A habit warmly welcomed by everyone else (all two of them).

Anyway, it’s knockout week and we will be watching tonight, happily distracted for an hour.

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