Post # 312 By One Fat Lady

November 21, 2014 at 11:14 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Anyone who’s read this blog for a while knows I like many celebrity chefs, but my favorites are The Two Fat Ladies from Great Britain.  Sadly, both Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright have passed away, Clarissa just this year.  But their legacy and popularity lives on after them.  I once described Clarissa as “a friend I never met” because she always seemed the one of the pair that was more down to earth.  Recently, though, I’ve been reading a lot about Jennifer and, like millions of her fans, I have fallen in love with her all over again.


That’s Jennifer driving the motorcycle in the iconic picture of The Two Fat Ladies.  She was known all over London and beyond by her helmet and her two-wheeled transportation.  At her funeral, her helmet sat in a place of honor, almost revered as a saintly relic.  Yet I’ve seen her collect eggs, shellfish, and mushrooms in that helmet, never caring about the dirt or aromas transferred to it and thus to her hair.

One of the books I’ve read recently is called Enjoy! A Celebration of Jennifer Paterson.

Jennifer 1

It was a collection of remembrances from people who knew and loved her best.  It was a wake on paper.  Here are some quotes:

From her brother describing a party:  During the revels there may conceivably have been some sort of encounter with one of the young female dynasts in a less well-lit part of the garden – memory is extremely vague at this distant remove.  Anyway, the pirate’s hat (made from a black stocking hat of Jennifer’s) lost, forgotten and never recovered.  I do recall, however, with startling clarity, my sister’s displeasure the following morning at the loss.

From a young man to whom she was a nanny:  She treated everyone exactly the same, be they her perennial entourage of high-ranking officers of the Catholic Church, my school-mates, dinner guests, porters, waiters, girl-friends, the rich and famous, or even our dogs: she had something to say to everyone, and would usually leave us laughing, but often feeling a bit battered by the encounter.  Most evenings she would end up singing . . . .

From a man who had hired her:  Actually, I used to sack her quite often.  Very rarely to do with anything she had or hadn’t done.  Just the amount of drink I’d had, most likely.  Be she was solicitous enough never to fail to turn up the following day.


(Me:  This was a pattern she followed her whole life.  Anytime a boss sacked her, she would always turn up the next day and continue working.  It was as though she never left a job until she chose to.)

From her producer/director:  [while in the hospital with her final illness] Jennifer was enormously touched when the Prince of Wales sent her a vat of organic soup and some ice cream from his private kitchens along with a handwritten get-well note.  She hugely enjoyed the food but it provided us with a difficult social conundrum.  What was the etiquette for dealing with the Tupperware containers it had arrived in?

From same person:  On another occasion I rang her and was shocked to hear her answer the phone in a pathetic little voice, far removed from the Jennifer I knew so well.  ‘Hello,’ she half whispered.  ‘Hello,’ I said. ‘Still alive then?’  At this she instantly returned to her normal self, booming down the phone, ‘oh, it’s you, dear.  Thank God, I thought it was another bloody do-gooder.’

From Clarissa, the other Fat Lady:  Programme two, filmed at Westonbirt girls’ school saw the famous 180-degree turn [on the motorcycle]. — On this occasion I wasn’t aware what she was going to do and neither was [the producer/director], who rushed over afterwards to protest that we weren’t insured for stunts; so reassuring.

Also from Clarissa:  I remember driving through London in some parade in a vintage Bentley with cheering crowds and Jennifer remarking, ‘Now I know how Hitler felt.’  You never knew what she would say next and that, I suppose, was the fun of it all.

Another book I’m reading is a collection of columns she wrote for a British magazine called The Oldies.

Jennifer's Diary

It’s set in diary fashion and is a slice of Jennifer herself.

“No one should pay the slightest bit of attention to diet literature.  When people still ate at normal meal-times, you ate was put in front of you, with treats for high-days and holidays.  Everyone was healthy without delving into things like calories and fibres.”

“I had the unusual honor last week of being godmother, or sponsor as they now call it, to the excellent Humphry Berkeley on the occasion of confirmation by Bishop Crowley at the London Oratory.  Unusual, as Humphry is 66.”

“Does everyone find a drunk on the train?”

“To crown it all, these homosexual nuns arrived at Westminster Cathedral to picket the Piazza and disturb the sung High Mass.  Then about 50 of them rose and produced banners against the Pope.  One old lady in a wheelchair passed out in fright and had to be resuscitated and comforted, poor old thing.  I do think it was very ill-mannered of these silly queens and not the best way to plead their cause.”

“We were doing a film pilot [The Two Fat Ladies] and after a dangerous morning of shooting simulated rabbits and pheasants at the Holland and Holland shooting school the afternoon consisted of making me drive a 50cc motorbike and side-car.  This is incredibly difficult, the side-car seems to take over and drag you to the wrong side of the road.  The brave owner of the vehicle sat in the side-car and off we went.  We veered into a ditch the first time but gradually, with a panting heart, I managed to control the beast.  Then we shot the film with the courageous Clarissa Dickson Wright as my passenger.  All went well until the last shot had to be done later in the day.  I must have lost my cunning by hen.  I completely lost control of the machine’s direction, hit the camera’s very expensive tripod, careered away just in time and ended up hitting a flag post which mercifully stopped my progress.  Clarissa was brick and made no moan whilst staring death in the face.   Ah me, what larks.”

Jennifer 2

My personal favorite Jennifer quote comes from the second show (mentioned above.)  The Two Fat Ladies have provided lunch for some girls at a girls’ school and it’s late in the day, they are relaxing and Jennifer lights up a cigarette.  Clarissa says, “You can be expelled for that, you know.”  Jennifer lifts her head proudly, blows a huge billow of smoke out of her lungs, and says in a regal tone and perfect British accent, “I don’t care!”  Classic Jennifer.


Jennifer stone




  1. Those two were ahead of their time when it came to cooking shows. I do miss the two.

    • You said it right, bro!

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