I’ve unwittingly been a Dawn French fan since I was a child. Despite not consciously ever enjoying an episode of The Vicar of Dibley when my mom would force us to watch it as a family each week, I still found myself dedicating my Year 7 art project to creating a four-framed shrine to the woman, in the style of Andy Warhol’s pop art Marilyn Monroe. When asked by my art teacher if I was a big fan of Dawn’s, I said: “Not really.”
My underlying fascination with the actress lay dormant, until one recent life-crisis of mine, where I went shopping with a friend in the hunt for a diary in order to help me “get my shit together” and my friend pulled out a copy of her Me | You | A Diary from the sale shelf of WHSmith. This was it. This was what I was looking for. Some encouragement beyond the lined, heartless pages of my current, boring planner. I needed either a hug or a humble dose of motivation, and this activity book was offering me both.
If you don’t have a copy, here’s how Dawn describes it: “This book is a way for us to tell the story of a year together. Feel free to write your appointments in it, lists, thoughts and reminders of, say, who to kill, and when, and in what order. But I’ve also written about age and life as I see it, through the seasons and the months, and I’ve added some places for you to join me in some fun and some thinking. By the end of the year, I am hoping you will have a fatter, scruffier book that is written by me but totally personalised by you.”
I bought this in October, and have enjoyed dipping in and out to the beat of my anxiety, clinging to its pages tighter when I’ve needed more comfort. It’s December, which is where the diary, I suppose, should end, which called for a more conclusionary piece of writing where Dawn discusses the loss of her mother, her hopes and dreams for the future, how she deals with ageing, and importantly a recipe for her “failsafe signature dish” of Mars Bar Fondue, which she says Stephen Fry once called her a “total bitch” for making – in a good way.
Over time, I’ve less of a tooth for the sweet stuff, but since it is Christmas, and since both Dawn and Stephen approve, I feel it would be totally obnoxious of me not to try out the recipe, which is…
Four melted Mars Bars in a bain marie
(A bowl over boiling water, to me and you.)
Chopped up fruit, and marshmallows if you fancy them
(I went for strawberries.)
A little rum or cognac if you’re adult enough
(Could I afford Baileys, that would’ve gone in too.)
Maybe even a splash of milk or cream if necessary
(I did add some milk. Full fat because I did not come to play.)