Some members of the Coren family, namely Alan, Giles and Victoria have made, and do make, me laugh loudly often. I blame the Cricklewood tales in the Times for making me stop taking public transport. Holding back extreme laughter to the point of spitting and crying did not endear me to fellow rush hour passengers in the cattle trucks, which passed for trains in the late 80’s, and which did anything but rush me to Waterloo. Had Blücher opted for that option I wouldn’t have had to move to France; it would have moved to me. Gile’s succinct description of the Downton Abbey Christmas special as”Televisual pisswater…” got the spitting and crying going again. I just loved the words. I wasn’t sure about the truth of the criticism until I saw the episode a couple of nights ago. For me it was more like “Televisual gripewater”. I’d felt quite poorly all over Christmas owing a perfectly timed seasonal horridness that made me rheumy eyed and tetchy. There are those who would suggest that I have this virus each time they see me and they can fuck off. The aptness of his description, or at least my version, was that anything more mentally taxing would have had me lying in a darkened room with a bottle of laudanum, which the author of the piece has certainly never done as it might have kick started his imagination rather than jolted his memory of a wonderfully privileged jeunesse d’orée that would have had the tumbrils rolling anew down to the Place de la Concorde for a short back and sides. However, the bile has been removed, and I feel a lot better today. So much so that this afternoon I painstakingly made the most delicious Mushroom Risotto with dried ceps from Anna del Conte’s “The Classic Food of Northern Italy” – a wonderful cookery book by one the most outstanding Italian cookery writers of our time, with the added benefit of being illustrated by my photography.