WHAT a waste of an afternoon. I am so cross with myself. Several hours ago I decided to start preparing for a shoot John is hosting next week. The menu is always bacon baps for breakfast, soup (made that a few days ago and put it in a freezer) sandwiches and sausage rolls for lunch and cakes, tarts and buns, plus a cuppa, for the end of the day.

There is no way I can get everything made on the day, especially as I shall be attending a safer driving course on the previous afternoon after being caught exceeding the speed limit in a local village. No excuses.

So this afternoon I made a fruit slice, also now in the freezer, and embarked on two trays of Chelsea buns. I should have recognised that things were not going well from the start. The dough took an age to rise. The mixture was heavy and difficult to knead. What should have been a pliable and elastic dough refused to succumb to the rolling pin and virtually had to be whacked into the flat rectangular shape.

Baking produced no miracle results. Despite my initial fears on the success of the dough’s rise being dissipated by the trebling in size of my mixture after the first prove, the final rise of my buns was a failure. I turned out Chelsea rocks instead.

This doomed culinary exercise was not a solitary experience where my failure as a baker could be hidden away in shame. Several of John’s friends had come into the kitchen for a drink after helping him move some feeders and witnessed my chagrin when the leaden buns emerged from the oven. Thoughtless comments about their resemblance to clay pigeon targets were not appreciated. The ultimate ignominy being that even the hens appeared disinterested in consuming my culinary rejects. Especially after I almost knocked one of them out with a carelessly thrown bun.

But a stroke of genius. In our village lives a lady who cooks for shoots. Her clients are often titled, always wealthy and generally can’t cook, or be bothered to. Baking tins clutched in my hot little hand, features set in ultimate plead mode and a tray full of eggs as an initial bribe, I slipped into her kitchen. She knows me well, put the kettle on the Aga, placed a cranberry and orange bun on a china plate and rescued the tea time menu. Not only shall our guests enjoy cranberry and orange buns, but squidgy brownies and lemon drizzle squares. Why didn’t I think of her in the first place?