I didn’t get to meet Roger Bannister…

Sir Roger BannisterBut when I was editing Oxfordshire Life magazine, and the idea was pitched that we included an interview with Sir Roger Bannister to mark his 80th birthday, I jumped at the chance to give readers an insight into his latter years in Oxford.

Meeting your heroes

It’s one of the disadvantages of being the editor, rather than the writer or photographer, that you get stuck in the office pushing paper rather than getting to meet your heroes. Both Justin Bowyer, who pitched the idea, and Paul Wilkinson, the photographer, set up their own successful businesses and keep in touch via social media. Some articles, more than others I’ve commissioned as an editor, have stuck in the mind. This one because I’m a mad-keen sports fan, and because both Justin and Paul were thrilled to have met Sir Roger Bannister, and the announcement of his death on March 3, 2018 made me think of them.

The passing of one of our national sporting greats prompted tributes on all media channels and at the IAAF world indoor athletics championships in Birmingham, plus a celebration of his life. No-one lives forever. You can ask no more than you leave a good mark on the world, and tellingly, Roger Bannister rated the achievements of his professional and academic career at least as highly as his sporting successes. Had he been born in the era of professional athletics, he may have chosen to concentrate on his running for longer, once qualified, pretty much as veterinary student and double worlds medallist Laura Muir plans to do. But athletics was a gentleman’s hobby back in the fifties, and if you had to earn a living it couldn’t be through paid appearances.

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Iffley Road running track

I smiled when I heard Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram discussing how many thousands of people would say they had been at the Iffley Road track in Oxford on May 6 1954, watching the historic scenes, when the real figure was around 1,200. Many people will be able to say they met him during his 88 years, but not me. But I am glad that Paul and Justin did. Meeting your heroes is one of the privileges of working in our business. Being a hero – well that’s a different story.

© All pictures and text used in this post are subject to copyright by the original authors, photographer and/or the publishing company. Design and layout in Oxfordshire Life by Louise White.

Lotte’s Country Kitchen

When I was asked if I’d like a review copy of Lotte Duncan’s new cookery book Lotte’s Country Kitchen I jumped at the chance. I’m a good enough cook, not passionate, but passable – but I do love good food and if there are two things I know for sure about Lotte, it’s that she has a penchant for pink and for good honest fare.

The first time I met Lotte was at our local gym – being a food fan takes its toll on one’s waistline and we were both keen to keep fit, if not thin. Our now grown-up children were just babes, and we were busy with their lives. Then I moved away, returning to the neighbourhood several years later, and on reconnecting we realised we had more in common than workouts – food, mostly. I write about it (and other things) and eat it; she writes about it, concocts brilliant recipes and is enthusiastic in sharing her love of it.

Since then, besides interviewing Lotte for Oxfordshire Life, I’ve also followed her blog and kept up with her on Twitter and Facebook. So when she announced online that she was writing a recipe book, I was genuinely delighted, and I’ve been watching her progress. We’re not friends, as such, but on friendly terms.

I don’t actually own that many cookbooks, largely because the very thought of throwing a dinner party leaves me feeling exhausted and whilst I might like to leaf through the pretty pictures, I’m not often inspired by them. My husband equates food with love, and enjoys preparing meals for our family and friends as a result. I equate food with pleasure and so I’m very taken with Lotte’s introduction to this book, in which she says:

“I believe that to enjoy your food, you don’t want to be so tired from cooking that you’re unable to lift a fork to eat it…”

Well, a hearty “hear, hear” to that, and there’s more. In fact, Lotte’s whole approach to food is pragmatic. She doesn’t require you to spend hours in your kitchen, only to emerge red-faced and fuming that everyone else has had a good time while you’ve been slaving over a hot stove, minus a staff of sous chef and pot-washer, and she’s chatty in her writing, littering her recipes with anecdotes and asides. Her style is so engaging she makes you want to run into your kitchen and try out a few of her recipes – which is praise indeed from a lazy cook like me.

Lotte’s Country Kitchen features the kind of dishes that range from the sensible – her sausage and bean casserole, for example – to the frivolous – a very conceited syllabub trifle which is pictured complete with flouncy roses – another of Lotte’s passions. The imagery is superb, with photographs taken by Lara Homes at Lotte’s house and garden, just down the road from here.

Reading it is a pleasure, whether you’re swinging in your hammock just flicking, (something Lotte’s partial to herself) or planning for a dinner party and looking to impress. In fact, anyone who owns and uses this book will feel they have Lotte standing at their elbow, encouraging their endeavours – just as if she’d dropped by for a friendly chat and a glass of rosé with a favourite neighbour.

You can share Lotte’s real kitchen by attending one of her cookery days. Visit her website www.lotteduncan.com for more information. Lotte’s Country Kitchen is available in bookshops and on Amazon.

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