How Somerset’s most famous names spent their lockdown months

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:42 03 July 2020

Mary Berry has been even busier than usual in the kitchen

Mary Berry has been even busier than usual in the kitchen


Have you wondered how some of Somerset’s most famous names have also dealt with life being turned upside-down by coronavirus? Some of them tell BERNARD BALE what they have been doing to keep busy.

Sir Ranulph: I think there is a difference between living dangerously and living foolishlySir Ranulph: I think there is a difference between living dangerously and living foolishly

Mary Berry is 85 and had no choice but to self-isolate. She has always firmly believed that every dark cloud has a silver lining.

“We are living in strange times, it is true,” says Mary. “But we have had strange times before and there is nothing you can do but accept what you can’t do and look for what you can do.

“We have all had to cancel or postone commitments, whether they are work engagements or social events and that can be disappointing, but for me, when I cannot go out I look to see what I can do at home. I don’t have to look very far because the kitchen beckons me straight away.

“Many people all over the world would like to be more creative in the kitchen but work and time often stops them. If that time is available now then it can be put to good use. If your’e cooking for the family then you don’t have to be adventurous but like most things, casseroles and so on will freeze so why not make one for now that is large enough to also be one for the future?

Stewart Copeland recommends half an hour of bashing drums (c) Friso KeurisStewart Copeland recommends half an hour of bashing drums (c) Friso Keuris

“You can also make those little things you have always meant to get round to and if the circumstances are right why not do a few extra scones or buns and give them to the neighbours? We are all in this together so sharing something from your kitchen with the neighbours where appropriate could be great for everyone and will certainly keep you busy while you are mostly confined to home.”

Sir Ranulph Fiennes should be touring theatres with his An Evening With..... show but the dates have had to be put back to 2021. Ironically the show is entitled Living Dangerously’.

“I think there is a difference between Living Dangerously and living foolishly,” said Sir Ranulph who lives in Exford. “You have to be ready to adapt. Sometimes you might be ready to climb a particular mountain and you have planned for months. You have covered everything that could possibly go wrong and you are ready to make a start. Then the weather changes and there is nothing you can do about that, except wait for it to get better.

“This virus is the same. It puts everything on hold and you just have to be ready to go again when it clears. In the meantime I find I can use the time by catching up with writing, correspondence, reading and listening to music that I have been wanting to listen to for some time. I am never too far from the phone either, so I canalways have a chat with someone if I start to have enough of my own company.”

John Cleese says self-confinement has given him a new lease of life (c) Bob KingJohn Cleese says self-confinement has given him a new lease of life (c) Bob King

Talking of music, Somerset star Stewart Copeland, of band The Police, has what could be the perfect way to spend time in confinement.

“I like to get a bit of exercise but that is limited to a walk somewhere nearby and I still like to work so I have more time for writing. If all else fails i just go and sit at one of my drum kits, pick up the sticks and play. There is something very therapeutic about spending half an hour bashing drums, I thoroughly recommend it.

“I also try to keep up with friends and check that they are okay. Communication is so much easier these days so you don’t have to be in total solitary confinement. You can still have a chat with someone and then go back to the drums. None of us can wait for the all-clear to come and it will, but in the meantime the drums will stop you going crazy. On the other hand, it could be too late!”

Young F1 driver Lando Norris should have been enjoying his second season as a senior Grand Prix driver having had a fantastic debut season in 2019.

“As we prepared for the season we knew it was going to be different,” he says. “I had made my mind up that i would be very careful with touching handrails, shaking hands, high-fives and that kind of thing. We were warned that things could not just go on the same.

“I don’t think anyone was prepared to see the season virtually cancelled. Whatever happens now, many of the best races have been lost and they won’t becoming back in 2020. Most of us are thinking about next year while hoping that there might still be some races in 2020.

“There’s not much choice other than to spend most of the time at home. I exercise every day to keep fit and enjoy just being at home. It is difficult to go out much but I still get behind the steering wheel if a chance presents itself. In the meantime I just hope that the virus is beaten as soon as possible, lives are saved and we can get on with things again.”

Jeremy Irons, Chancellor of Bath Spa University, has continued to keep busy despite difficulties with filming engagements.

“Among other things I have been involved with The Ancient Mariner Big Read, which was instigated by the University of Plymouth with a view to entertaining people who are confined to home, especially in solitary confinement. We have been reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 18th Century piece The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which is, of course, an iconic story poem and deals with the circumstances of self-isolation. It is very timely and quite brilliant. It goes out free each day on internet broadcasts.

Weston-super-Mare’s very own super star John Cleese is 80 and he feels that the self-confinement has given him a new lease of life.

“I have discovered technology,” he says. “I think I had to, because I found my own company to be boring after a while. You read, you write and you write and you read and then you kind of sigh, walk around the house a bit and look for sometrhing else to do. When you find it, you don’t want to do it!

“My daughter helped me find Instagram and filmed me when I made my very first broadcast on it, which began with me beaming at the camera and saying, ‘Hello! Hi! I’m John Cleese and in this period of self-isolation I’ve decided that I am going to open my own official Killagram account.’ My daughter was mortified and said, ‘It’s Instagram not Killagram!’ Well we all make mistakes.

“I put it right of course and started to enjoy myself so I then decided to get a Twitter account, which began with ‘Calling all twits!’ Next thing was Cameo where you can get celebrities to send a personalised message to someone. I think it is supposed to be something nice but I am probably bettter at threats and insults.

“So, don’t get bored, get into social media and all that sort of stuff and bore everyone else!”

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest from the Somerset Life