BANKSY’S WEEK: Speaking in Asterisk, the ‘mole’ at Number 10 and the hounding of Anne-Marie

What a f-f-f-Feast! We're just a fish flake away from fury!

BEING PROFICIENT IN TWO LANGUAGES – English and profane – I am a native speaker of Asterisk, but it is rare that Mrs B joins me in blue-tongued outbursts.

Saturday morning over breakfast with The Guardian’s Food section, however, saw one such infrequent occasion: she vented like a volcano and, in so doing, splattered the kitchen with a mouthful of home-made granola.

“What the f*** are veneto flakes?’ she shrieked.”

The explosion had not come completely out of the blue. She gets like this every weekend, torturing herself by reading Middle Class Meals for Middle-Aged Old Marrieds then weeping over the inexplicability of it all. To be fair, Theonce-proudly-Manchester-basedGuardian has long since established a new readership rooted geographically in a fashionable square mile to the west of London which does all of its shopping in Marylebone High Street. And we live in the wilds of Northumberland.

I blame Yotam Ottolenghi for her weekend eruptions. The Israeli chef/writer’s culinary one-upmanship comes, for instance, from eschewing a simple  ‘hot spice’ in favour of ‘pilpelchuma, used by the Jews of Tripoli’ or demanding that his reader/pupils search out ‘a teaspoon of Yemen-inspired zhoug, the national chilli paste of Israel’.

“For God’s sake,” my wife raged, dabbing with a napkin at the oats and reconstituted mango slivers that stippled her chin. “I’ve already had to look up ‘sriracha’ in the OED! It’s coming to something when you have to use a dictionary to read a bl**** recipe!”

As the tirade of asterisks continued I discreetly texted our daughter, the Guardian ‘mole’ and Marylebone shopper. “Did she say ‘veneto’ or ‘bonita’?” hoity-toited the woman who was, I feel sure, a small child but a matter of months ago.

“BONITA!” yelled my cherub across the breakfast table. “Have your ears gone too?”

From the butcher’s shop in Marylebone – where our ‘mole’ might have have heard her mother’s shriek without need of a mobile phone – came the sweet explanation, “They’re flaked fish, a bit like wood shavings. A bit of a thing in Japanese food.”

Mrs B looked wearily across at me as I read Ms Mole’s text. “Tell her that having already looked up sriracha in the dictionary I feel fish, chips and curry sauce with a glass of red coming on.”

“Ooh yes, I recommend srirachaGuardian Girl replied.

“With the fish and chips?”

“On anything! Seriously, sriracha mayo would be great with chips. . .”

So that was another Saturday breakfast ruined. What really annoyed me was that when I wrote in my text message the name ‘Yotam Otolengi’ the spellcheck on my phone corrected the name to Ottolenghi; it doesn’t even do that when I write my OWN name: it invariably turns ‘Banksy’ into Buggsy.

The cheeky b*gg**!

Mrs B is hounding
our ‘say little’ MP

I’M NOT THE ONLY TERRIER in Banks Towers: Mrs B, having got her jaws clamped firmly around our MP’s parliamentary seat, is demanding a fuller answer to the “how many emails complained about Dominic Cummings?” question she and many others asked our representative.

You might recall that Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s round-robin reply referred to “Some in support. . .  some very much against him remaining in post and many in the middle or undecided. . .” Not good enough for my good lady, I fear.

What she now wants to know (reasonably, in my view) is “the actual numbers of people who held the various opinions. . . especially those who said they had no opinion either way. I find it hard to believe that people with no strong feelings on the issue took the trouble to contact you. I would also like to know exactly what you said to the Prime Minister on the subject.”

A word of advice, Anne-Marie: I’ve been married to the woman for forty-odd (very odd) years and I’ve never been able to brush her aside the way you obviously believe you can.

‘Fess up, madam MP, it will only end in jeers.”

Who’s the mole tipping
off My Man at the Red Lion?

I RECKON THERE’S A MOLE in Number 10. How else would Iain the Landlord know that the Cabinet was planning to open up pubs for outdoor drinking and dining from the end of this month? Why else would the Red Lion have started building an outdoor deck and ordering outdoor furniture if not to accommodate the expected rush?

I mean, Iain’s a top chef and all that, while Einstein couldn’t boil an egg to save his life but there was never any danger that either of them could put the other out of business!

Anyway, the old smoking hut has been demolished and in its place has appeared an area of deck across which  Nelson would have been proud to pace. And if rumours that June 22nd prove correct then it will be ‘all systems go’ for a grand, on-schedule opening around that time – weather permitting, of course!

Meanwhile, Iain’s keeping his customers primed with his gourmet takeaway service and ‘Fish Fry-day’: slight menu improvements this week. Read it HERE

Just Saying. . .

Iain the Landlord has a living to make and he and the UK’s other 48,000 licensees won’t thank me for asking this, but why are we even thinking of opening up pubs and zoos and the like when the government has just admitted that England’s 17,000 primary schools will not, after all, be opening until September.

By the time autumn comes around, almost NINE MILLION schoolchildren will not have spent a day in a classroom, or with a teacher, for almost six months.

Will we drink to that?


The racist, narcissist woman abuser Donald Trump’s Tweets are treated as the comedy they are, while his actions are those of a fascist and a would-be dictator: he spreads misinformation and wants to shut down media dissent,  encourages violence against those who disagree and threatens his citizens with the military.

And yet he is merely described as ‘toddler’ and ‘fool’ and the damage he does goes largely disregarded.

Would we be so generous towards an African leader behaving in the same way? Would we still describe their country as a democracy?



  1. Very many thanks for another episode; unfortunately it isn’t just ‘The Guardian’ that does ‘arty-farty’ recipes with esoteric ingredients that no self-respecting person keeps in their kitchen. If people do buy them they use them once, only to forget about them until the whiff reminds that they are past their sell-by date. It puts a lot of folk off cooking. Basic scoff, that’s the thing: you can’t beat SPAM fritters & baked beans!!

    Please let us know if Mrs B ever gets an answer from the International Development Secretary [Anne-Marie Trevelyan].

    Also glad to read the Mike Amos review; long after ‘The Journal’ became a parody of provincial journalism, I always (from my days in British West Hartlepool in the mid-60s to the present) liked to buy ‘The Northern Echo’, which was an infinitely better read, with Mike Amos’ columns full of delight.


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