Fans of Blockbusters, Call my Bluff and Anything Goes (including two of my now 30-year-old nephews who were bowled over by the fact that I actually knew Bob) will all be mourning the sad loss of Bob Holness, who died yesterday. So do all us who worked on the hugely successful LBC AM Programme in the ’70s and ’80s, so delightfully and professionally presented by Bob and Douglas Cameron.
I met Bob somewhere around 1980 when he and Mary came to a press day for the historical food days we were running in conjunction with Chenies Manor in Buckinghamshire. Glynn Christian was leaving LBC for pastures new and they were looking for new foodie to fill the twice weekly food slot. So, for around five years, I turned up in the studio every Thursday morning with a dish to eat, a report on a new restaurant, a recipe – many of them weird and wonderful concoctions from the fourteenth or fifteenth century as I was then in my ‘historical’ phase. Bob was always game for trying anything, no matter how strange – which could get him into trouble…
On one occasion, I had found a Italian recipe (now quite common but then unheard of) for fresh strawberries lightly sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and wine vinegar. I arrived in the studio with the component parts but Bob misheard my instructions and poured the vinegar on like cream – and then proceeded, with gritted teeth, to eat the whole bowlful!
He was also dotty about coconut which, at that point, I had not learnt to love. I remember creating a large and disgusting (or luscious, depending on your tastes) coconut sorbet/sundae which he also demolished with some speed and, as listeners could attest, great enthusiasm!
We also had a nice line in April’s Fools jokes. One year I happened to be in the US so we did a phoned interview when I reported on the latest American way of tenderising chicken by cooking it, in a special bag, in the clothes dryer so that it got tenderised as it tumbled – and cooked as it dried!
Another year I arrived in the studio with a pot of yogurt made from, I claimed, ‘shoat’ milk – a new cross between a goat and and a sheep. This was a very useful animal for city gardens where it kept the hedges trimmed and provided wool for sweaters while also supplying the household with excellent, healthy fresh milk products. The switchboard operators were thoroughly confused for the rest of the day by callers wanting to know where they could buy shoat yogurt!
After we both left LBC we saw each other less frequently but remained in touch. Bob and Mary used to come to some of my ‘tasting’ dinners (in those days, mainly historical rather than ‘freefrom’), they sent me occasional contributions to my earring collection (a great pair of spiders’ webs on one occasion) and I remember them taking us out to dinner very soon after my son was born and feeding us lots of celebratory champagne – which had a dire effect next day on poor Jonathan who I was breast feeding!
One of the side effects of the series of strokes that Bob suffered from 2002 onwards was that he became coeliac, at which point I started to send them the Foods Matter magazine to help Mary cope with a gluten-free diet.
More recently I had taken to setting off for Pinner for lunch laden with gluten-free delicacies from Giacobazzi’s, our sensational local Italian deli….. I shall miss him sadly.