Big Issue Vendor

The Bake Off – bringing families closer together, one cake at a time

Bonding over brandy snaps and hot water crust pastries et al is an undervalued parenting technique, reckons Lucy Sweet. Best of all, you don't even need to talk

There’s a joke in the – really funny, you should watch it – new Sharon Horgan comedy Women on the Verge (W, Thursdays 10pm) – in which the character Katie’s parenting skills are criticised by her ex’s new partner. She tells her that her daughter would rather come round to her house “because you just watch the Bake Off and look at your phone”.

I have to say, I felt that burn like the singed edges on a biscuit chandelier, because that describes my weekly happy hour (and 15 minutes) with my son. We’re both at a difficult age – he’s 11 and growing alarmingly tall, gangly and deep-voiced, and I’m 46 with unpredictable mood swings like a faulty trap door in a ghost train  – yet The Bake Off is our oasis of calm.

We put it on and watch it and I look at my phone, occasionally tweeting about Terry’s brandy snap death mask (RIP) or criticising one of Noel Fielding’s shirts on Twitter. Every 10 minutes, depending on the quality of the bakes, my son will moan that he’s hungry and eat 83 Wagon Wheels in one sitting. Then, almost as important as watching the show, we watch the credits. This is to see whether the sound editor was Roy Noy, (a name that causes my child endless amusement) and the camera operator was Damian Eggs (also funny, because cakes). If you get both, it’s a cause of great celebration in our house.

It’s far more precious than hours of boring wholesome stuff like hillwalking or standing around in a playpark wishing you were in the pub

So although we’re not really interacting with each other, apart from to say “Roy Noy” over and over again, or make occasional comments about the texture of Rahul’s ancient Hindu temple made out of hot water crust pastry, this is still a joyful time of parent/child bonding.

To me, it’s far more precious than hours of boring wholesome stuff like hillwalking or standing around in a playpark wishing you were in the pub. Parents are meant to wait around outside sports halls and dance studios for their child to finish endless classes, silently suffering and listening to Smooth Radio. They’re supposed to don bike helmets and do charity rides at the weekend through gritted teeth, in the name of ‘getting some fresh air’. But why bother when you can just put on your comfy pants, crack open a box of Mr Kiplings and write down your endless witless observations about Prue Leith’s statement necklaces using the hashtag GBBO while your child texts GIFs of Paul Hollywood to his mates?

Yes, the Bake Off performs a public service more precious than any after-school club or crèche. It provides delicious entertainment and multi-platform distraction for all ages. God knows what I’m going to do with him when the series finishes, but until then, we’ve got loads of eating, tweeting and criticising of cakes to do – and the last one to spot Roy is a rotten egg.

Read Bake-Off judge Prue Leith’s recent Letter to My Younger Self for The Big Issue here