Author Archives: Vanessa Foran

On last night’s Great British Bake-Off on Channel 4, Alice Fevronia’s chocolate and honeycomb confections made her Star Baker for biscuit week

I did say I would be a day late [with this review], but I still need to apologise. I just couldn’t wait to get this one out and there were moments yesterday it felt like I was trying to hide a soggy bottom in a puddle of custard from ye.

Over the Bake’ Sheet series, it may have come across that I never took this particular Bake-Off setting seriously, like last year I did take issue with the sequence in the schedule, and the previous year I set out my own feeble and lazy reasoning for snubbing the home baked biscuit.

But you know what, I think I have to change my tune.

The tenth Biscuit Tent’venture event was brilliant. Every single crumb and snap of it.

I’m not going to pretend any of us, or even the bakers in the Tent would do biscuit bars by choice; but I reckon I’m not the only one changing their mind. Even for a one off.

Honestly, if I’m to toast Bake-Off for anything this year it is that it put biscuits back into our recipe folders, drawers and tubs. I even predict trays of dedicated recipe books by Christmas.

Before I go on, let’s get the who and why out of the way. Jamie had to go, like, I was surprised he even came back for a second weekend. It was distressing telly at times, but no harm was done to any other baker. Nor should the producers be blamed, as Henry is coping so well he does it in a shirt and tie.

On a technical point, the Hollywood is wrong, Henry is not the first baker to wear a tie, Nick Hewer ; and anyone remember the very first baker to go?

Now I’m only half convinced about Alice , but from the Signature “BAKE” blow gun she was the Star Baker  all the way; and I have a feeling people will get very attached to her.

You’ll find in her Showstopper a tidy recipe for coconut shortbread, and you might even be tempted to give it a go as a celebration cake. Like everything marked as challenging, just isolate out the individual elements and give yourself an overnight to complete.

I can’t exactly put my finger on my favourite from the Signature Challenge, but I don’t think I was the only one, even the producers have provided four recipes  from it.

I don’t think they have ever been that generous, and bearing in mind nothing we are likely to be producing will ever be subject to Hollywood scrutiny, I am encouraging all of us to give one a go as a traybake.

Who seriously didn’t want a whole packet of Rosie’s  to be in the press? Or who wouldn’t mind just a taste of Henry’s fancy pantsy afternoon tea ones?

The only thing I’m reluctant about touting these bakes is that the kit isn’t in everyone’s press, but most of those ingredients are, OK maybe not that pink chocolate or gold fake, but if I spot those trays in the Aldi/ Lidl I absolutely would.

Did you ever try a fig roll? Shur ye know I didn’t, but I will, Again, this is set to challenging, but you know I don’t think it is, so this is it; my first technical try-this-at-home. Not this weekend, but the first chance I get.

A brief look back to the Signature; Helena and those Wicked Fingers. I have actually done a Witchy Finger before, ladies’ fingers with an almond nail, and the syrup from fake blood sweets that you see in Tuthills.

Besides that personal context, I am also so glad she turned it around, I really did feel from our first meeting last week that she had a lot more baking skill than we were seeing.

Meanwhile, next week is Bread Week, and all I can wonder is: will the Hollywood break one out?

Pic: Channel 4

From top: The Great British Bake-Off returned last night on C4; Vanessa Foran

For the truly engaged  Great British Bake-off viewer and fan, last night’s Fruit Cake was a great challange as we all have one or two recipes that we will never depart from, but it was also a very unfair one.

Fruit Cake is instantly recognised as a dried fruit bake, just like Meringue is egg whites, so it must be said that two and half hours is no time for a proper fruit cake, nor is three and a half.

This probably explains why some of them were decorated loafs, not cakes. Just saying, because Mary Berry would have said so too.

Either way the odds were against them getting this as good as they get it at home, so it made good sense that many used ring moulds or loaf tins in the reduced baking time.

I have a plain ring mould myself but if I see the fancy Bundt one on special offer somewhere I might go for it, because Phil’s recipe . definitely appealed to me, shur look at how easy it was to decorate and make fancy.

However, I would twerk it somewhat, remove the marzipan for a start, and probably mix Kahlua with the rum.

You can’t not make a good fruit cake, it’s like ironing, even if there are still a few creases on the sleeve, the shirt is still wearable.

But before any novice or first time baker considers Phil’s, or any other fruit cake, be it a simple everyday brack or the proper one-stone Christmas Cake, there are two things that will always feature with this type of bake.

Firstly, there are loads of ingredients, and prepping them, and assembling them may put you off, but do push through. Because (and secondly) the smell in your kitchen and your home will reward you for days afterwards.

One tip, you will see in Phil’s recipe, how to make Pumpkin Spice on its own, this is the sort of thing I might make a batch of and keep in the baking press.

Oh, a third thing to remember about proper Fruit Cake bakes; they last ages. I still have some of Nigella’s Christmas Cake here still a tin. It will be three this Christmas. (It was too expensive a bake to throw out!)

So, to the Technical; I wouldn’t buy an angel slice, and I wouldn’t eat one if offered so I’m never going to bake one.

However, possible spoiler alert; the teenager is at me to attempt the technicals as a special side order type of thing. I’m not so sure but if anyone wants to give it a lash Prue’s recipe can be followed, but it is correctly classified as Challenging.

I love the Showstoppers usually, and in one-way last night’s was fun. But these big themed ornate cakes are not anything I do myself, although I do have the kits and the books and reasonable facilities. The thing really is that I don’t really like thick icing or edible fondant creations or marzipan anything. Nor do I have the imagination.

If there was anything in the challenge last night is that some potential Star Bakers started to make themselves known more obviously than in the Signature or the Technical did.

Michael’s treasure chest is worth a shout out, and David’s snake was very accomplished; like him actually, a bit too practiced and way too proficiently efficient and unfussy.

Same for Henry, I actually sniggered when his house fell apart. While he’s one of the youngest (20) this year, he’s actually the oldest one in the tent. I just know he’s got a soggy bottom ahead of him.

I’m loving Steph  and think she’s one to watch. She has self-depreciating yet everyday personality that I always find myself familiar with, so I hope she gets a good run at it, even just for the telly appeal.

As some of the others are all a bit too perfect and make being organised look so normal – like their life is a recipe that they are just following themselves.

I’m also expecting Phil to still be around in October.

Yet I couldn’t call Star Baker last night.
Although no complaints when Michelle got the call up. I don’t fancy her chances.

But Dan had to go. While I do think it had an unfair time allocation last night, there is no excuse for getting your Signature so badly wrong.

It’s a promising start, we’ll know way way more about our bakers after bread, so still too early to call. Which might explain the number of Hollywood Handshakes (HHs) being nil. But there is a risk we might have already reached peak innuendo; Furry Garden will be hard bate in fairness.

Next up, Biscuit week: while I may be a day or so late with the post-mortem, let me leave this with ye; Are you ready to crumble?

Pic: Channel 4

From top: hosts and contestants on The Great British Bake-Off 2019; Vanessa Foran

Season 10; who knew?

And who remembered?

Channel Four kept it all very quiet, there was no word at all until they announced the cast (as you were btw) and the Season Premier a fortnight ago.

There was barely a mention until the competing bakers were announced this day last week.

Even I needed reminding that the tent was back up, and the news came from a lad who’d have an anxiety attack if he had to separate eggs.

Before we flour our worktops and roll out this year’s Bake-Sheet series, I need to make what I think is an important disclosure; towards the latter end of last year’s (Season 9) I got stumped in a swamp of lethargy and fatigue.

Out of the nine series so far, I have only missed one show, last year’s final, and between one thing and another I couldn’t even summon the curiosity to see what the bakes were or follow the recipes. I still haven’t. So, I will be somewhat lacking in background to bakes and winners.

I just lost my appetite I suppose. I couldn’t even gather the excitement for Celebrity Bake Off, and it was the best run yet; Russell Brand ffs  (on a side note Harry Hill a Star Baker himself, is signed up for Junior Bake Off 2019).

Hopefully this gap doesn’t interfere or hinder Bake-Sheet 2019; after all it always and only ever is about the bake in front of us. And the Hollywood handshake.

On that I don’t care what conspiracies are rising out there, or his threats to cease delivering the award. There is no bigger currency in baking than a Paul Hollywood handshake. It will never lose its lustre or its true value.

So now to tonight, and a few eye-openers.

Season 10 has increased the slices from 12 to a baker’s dozen (Yes OK, there were 13 bakers in Season 4 (the year Frances Quinn won) and 10 in year 1; I just thought we had settled on 12.

Then there’s the very noticeable age profile of this year’s Bakers. Again, that might just be me; you will meet only one baker tonight older than me.

Admittedly Bake Offenders like myself are always left dazed at what young smarty pants hipster bakers produce, and the flavours and ingredients they introduce, last year’s Kim-Joy being one of the most exciting and unique bakers that ever set foot inside the Tent, so I’m, for now anyway, suggesting that maybe the majority of applications are coming from the under-35s.

Then there’s the reality check; maybe I am that the oul’ wan with the durty laugh, and the old school wooden spoon baking tips?

Fair enough, but I will also have to admit that it would break my heart to see Channel Four exploit their Love Island success, because it would ruin all the previous nine series and what Bake Off grew into from that touring floppy tent in Season 1.

Even with the genius holding up the decision, it still took enormous courage to cast Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding into a mainstream household format.

They took a huge risk by replacing Mary Berry and introducing ad-breaks and sponsors. So, for that reason I trust the producers won’t leave Season 10 down.

A few more things to watch out for; two from Essex. So be prepared for a load of yu’au’ roi darlin.

And there is a Man Bun that might force you to look away.

They took my advice and returned to Cake; but with a twist. Fruit Cake is your episode 1 tonight.

For planning purposes, tonight’s show is 90 mins – maybe two will go and bring us back to normal. Or maybe they are giving us more time with each baker, which was always an issue in the early season.

That would make sense because the contestants were confirmed as far back as February, so maybe, just maybe they couldn’t separate two of them?

Anyway, I am going to leave us all completely open-minded and not cause suggestion that might influence.

So just to remind you all again that I will not be following any GBBO Social Media or Tabloid coverage, and will try to take each bake one by one as independently and as uninfluenced as I can.

In the meantime, grease your baking tins with this

And one spoiler alert. Bread Week is rumoured to be EPIC.

Vanessa will be reviewing each episode.

Pic: Channel 4

From top: RTE’s annual report for 2018; Vanessa Foran

Yesterday, RTÉ published its annual report which revealed a deficit of €13m for 2018.

Vanessa Foran writes:

My very first column for Broadsheet was a walkabout through the RTÉ Year that was 2016. The following (which didn’t make the final cut) is from that first draft back in July 2017:

“Another item s the Orchestra – 7.1% (€12,716,100) Now I would like to think that that activity could pay its own way, and with 211 whole-time staff allocation I feel it needs to be more Value for Money focused rather than its optic and isn’t it nice all the same. Isn’t that what the Arts Council is for?

Yes, I thought then the orchestras were an indulgence in RTÉ, my reasoning was that it’s not their core activity it didn’t deserve to be underwritten by licence payer.

So here we are two years on, and the same expenditure item now – in the just published 2018 report –  has a great big red nose.

So red in fact they went to the trouble of commissioning a report from Helen Boaden of Mediatique to devise a strategy around the future of the RTÉ Orchestras; you’ll find this was introduced to us by the Chair Moya Doherty (pg 18) in the meantime, rightly or wrongly, I’m finding it difficult to put any faith in a firm called Mediatique.

So back to the basics. I will remind you all again that the purpose of published accounts is to allow the user to form their own opinion. Therefore, what follows here is not meant to confirm your opinion or to proffer advice.

In between all the glamour shots of the same faces and bragging statistics, you’ll find this
“RTÉ scored 39 of the top spots on TAM Irelands most watched television in 2018” (pg 6.)

The issue I have with information like this being introduced is that it shouldn’t be left naked of any quantitative detail to allow comparison.

Like; 39 out of what? Were these 39 places 1 to 39 or were there scattered throughout the field? How much of these places were won by own content?

Director General Dee Forbes has had two full financial years under her leadership, 2017 and 2018, (she commenced mid 2016) yet blames Brexit and changing media consumption for the drop in Commercial Revenue (down 1.6m btw. Pg23) and specifically name drops advertising spend and paltry currency €:UK£ takings.

In other words, RTÉ is operating along the basis that revenues are outside their control.

The reason I’m irked is that over the previous columns I have flagged that lack of strategic investment in creating marketable and new content, content that can be sold and exported. Licenced content owned by RTÉ that is not just old news archives. Content that is not fronted by the same faces.

Every bill RTÉ has to pay is pretty much underwritten by the State, so why should we not expect them to be adventurous and ambitious, and take risk with new content, and with new writers and formats?

It’s a very disappointing turn up for me about Dee Forbes, it is her job as CEO to take responsibility, and blaming outsiders for falling income is a tell-tale sign of poor leadership.

Another example is her reference to the monies paid to An Post for collecting the licence; (31.9m pg34 + 9.59m pg30) she actually uses the expression “Not fit For Purpose.”

She further enhances her point about Ireland’s licence evasion level (14%) with a barred remark that came with a graphic (above) to suggest we are the boldest audience in Europe.

If you were expecting to note some financial markers from me, I have to admit there came a point in the report that I just had enough of it. It was like watching a repeat, of a repeat; which sums up RTÉ very well.

But here’s one I would like to draw your attention to; operating costs are up €5m. Special Events apparently.

Despite their attempt to treat the Presidential election as a special event; IMO it should be accrued over 7 years and it’s obviously in the programme planning.  But that’s it with accounting jargon, since I’m unable to see past the Sustainability and Going Concern issues.

For example, their Papal visit coverage was indulgent, lurid even, while their awe was unreciprocated by their audience. It was 1979 in approach; yet somehow this report will insist it’s the Irish audience’s fault for not paying their licence or that there are “more homes without traditional television.”

In my view these operating costs are only going to go up, which is why I’m drawing attention to it because salaries are about to be reinstated to their full agreement pre- the Voluntary Redundancy/ Early Retirement schemes which probably have had their run.

Just a number of items before I go, on page 29 there is mention of Legal Proceedings. Nothing so see here perhaps, since all public profile entities are dealing with multiple sets of proceedings at anyone time. But you know, I think we were entitled to at least know the value of the provision being set aside, don’t you?

On page 148 Note 26: Related parties’ transactions, specifically (b) transactions with Key Staff / Board members and or their connections; €1.1 million in the year. Oh look, it’s down on €1.4 million in 2017. And that’s all we’re getting.

But I want some more. I want to know who got what from both those sums, down to the last cent; and so should everyone else.

The report was 164 pages, take out the pictures and bragging and you’re left with an organisation that is burning at both ends and using excuses as a fire blanket.

I’m obliged to introduce you to one new face, especially since he beat me out to that seat on the board, Mr Ian Kehoe. To be fair though, I wasn’t even shortlisted by State Boards and the Minister.

Open to correction since I might have been singing or something at the time, but I didn’t hear Mr Kehoe being introduced as a Director on the RTÉ Board the last time he was on the wireless? Did you?

If we expect it from the Sunday Business Post and the siblings of Government Ministers, we must surely insist RTÉ do the same.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Annual report here

Yesterday: Unsustainable



Football Association of Ireland’s Annual Report 2017/18; John Delaney; Vanessa Foran


That was my first impression of the FAI Annual Report (year ending 2017).

It’s a healthy 137 pages, and shares news and updates from all their activities, from U-15 Internationals, to Child Welfare to the Defence Forces. It’s glossy, shiny, and loud, like the Green Army on tour, only on paper.

While it might be nice to flick through, most of that update stuff can be easily shared via the internet.

The Financial Statements you’ve all heard about start with the Financial Overview on page 93. and are  completed by page 120, so there isn’t too much distraction from the fixtures and action shots. On a side note, I have never seen such small print in an annual report – I had to go to 130%.

The top line: Turnover – what is interesting is that they had a trading surplus of €2,758,063.00. This is very nice, given the size and obvious limitations of their market; and even nicer is that it sits on top of a previous year surplus of €2,344,291.00.

Both figures accumulating into reserves of €22,323,111.00 (page 104), which definitely drives the questions – why is the League of Ireland prize pot so small and why were they so miserable stumping up for our women’s sides?

A big red flag for me is their Short-Term Creditors – less than 12 months – which is basic day-to-day working capital. Cash, and the cost of it. Year end 2017 introduces a current account Bank Overdraft – €1,363,107.00.

This is a movement from a cash on hand balance at year end 2016 of €937,447.00 to a cash crunch position, and that swing is not explained sufficiently in the promised note 11; cash and cash equivalents.

This €2.3-ish million run happened over a very short period and demonstrates some really poor financial control; and this information was only extracted from the notes, not from the balance sheet.

So, it might be worth looking into the minutes of meetings during the period to see if there were any comments on the month-on-month management accounts to board. That’s where these loans to and from the FAI might be found.

Also interesting is the role, or more accurately, roles, of Deloitte.

Their fees are up from €102,772.00 to €134,554.00; this might not sound like a lot of money but it’s a 24 per cent increase and contains €26,180 for other assurance services – which is worth exploring because also in the €134,554.00 is €44,285 for fees other than audit.

So what other services do we think Deloitte are providing (and if it’s any help, it’s not tax and it’s not internal audit.)

Another thing that doesn’t seem healthy or efficient is that there seems to be loads and loads of personnel rowing in an out of the FAI at strategic level. There is a board of management of 11, which includes John Delaney, and a national council of 58, along with circa 180 staff members around the country.

But, for the life of me, I can’t find the list of directors of the company.

There is a Hon. Treasurer Eddie Murray; and an audit committee; maybe someone credentialed might be in a position to ask for the minutes of this audit committee too, because they would be the principle liaison with Deloitte.

Worth a mention, the old reliable here, is that John Delaney’s salary is the only one itemised; and that doesn’t make sense to me; in Related Party Transactions? If he’s a director, it is in Directors Emoluments €360,000 (and that’s what’s there.)

So did the FAI loan or borrow €360,000 from a Related Party?

Officers Emoluments are recorded as €70,000; naturally these wouldn’t be day-to-day expenses claimed from  staff attending meetings and events as these would naturally be charged to overheads. Again, these are items within the monthly reports to board, which is where most of the intrigue could be unravelled.

I would love to explore the relationship Deloitte have with the FAI and an FAI “Donor” a bit more, o if anyone is available for some digging and drilling, please do reach out.

Also, if someone can explain the software licencing to me – as in what software licensing they have acquired – as it seems very extravagant to me.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that of the total income for the year that was 2017; 12.5% of it came from grants. So sometimes it’s worth noting that for the large part of the year, they were doing something right.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Previously: For The Last Time, It Was A BRIDGING Loan




From top: Minister For Finance Paschal Donohoe; Vanessa Foran

 Derek Mooney was right, I know that doesn’t get said about here a lot, but he was right to question the need for the Red Carpet Event around the Annual Budget

But then I suppose RTÉ would be bereft of 50 hours or so of programming across their various platforms and deprived of scooped soundbites direct from Government Ministers.

This Budget was undramatic, unexciting and just too well flagged that it became irritatingly boring; like compulsory Ethics hours for those of us that have to oblige annual CPD requirements.

Similar to last year , I have handpicked some elements to highlight here, but it was impossible stay ignorant on the squeals that it was a budget for Landlords.

Anyone that has followed my view on the rented sector will have heard me insist that we need more Rental Units, and more again, but more specifically we need more rental units from Private Landlords and less from Reit type lettings.

We have an accommodation emergency; the time for calling it a crisis or a shortage has long since passed. Up to now, private sole-trader type landlords were departing the sector like flocks heading South.

Therefore, I’m of the opinion that relieving their tax burden is a good thing, and hopefully it might encourage more Buy-To-Let investors into the sector.

By the same measure, this move might also serve to reassure those in there already, the lads that do not have the benefit of being incorporated and en’Trusted, or party to cheap sale prices and charitable tax rates.

More Units mean more HAP availability, so there’s that too, despite my reservations on that whole scheme, if it keeps families out of hotels then let’s not fix it just yet.

Since I mentioned Reit, it is worth mentioning now that the Exit Tax Regime was addressed with new Foreign Controlled Corporation Rules.

Many easy shots and sneers at this will mention it was reduced from 33% to 12.5%, but what might be missed was that the drop came with a nice sidebar; the exemptions to the Exit tax (which is also due on the transfer of assets and not just when they cease to be tax residents) have been removed; in full.

And as we all well know exemptions in Tax Law have made many a man a millionaire or more. I’ll take 12.5% on everything, rather than 33% of feck all any day of the week.

While I still think the hotel sector are being bailed out unfairly to the rest of us, I also want to reintroduce something from last year’s comments that is still ticking me off, Employers PRSI.

Many of you will say the increase is only by one tenth of a % – a so-what-of-it perhaps; but anything that shoehorns employees into Sub-Contracting arrangements, while keeping the PRSI frameworks as they are for the purposes of current cashflow, is not good long-term strategy, nor is it good value-for-money for the taxpayers that fill those Social Insurance reservoirs.

Budget ’19 did offer something for those who may be qualify for distributions from the Bank of Mum and Dad; they got themselves a ten grand top up to their (Group A) Gift Tax exemption.

This Government had a summer long of opportunity to address what I think is one of the principle failures of our Housing and Accommodation emergency; Long-term Rental in the family Home Sector not being considered as a viable option, or even as an alternative to Social Housing or Owner Occupied.

It is my opinion this is a sector that should be studied and trailed and tested.

This city is falling over with associations and groups representing tenants and renters; yet I have yet to see any organisation come up with an approach to Affordable Rental Housing that makes it a confident long-term option or choice for anyone.

And since the Government hasn’t, then naturally neither has any one else interested in long-term investments.

I suspect we will have another Budget within the next nine months. Like last year’s, this was not an election budget.

My advocacy for a stronger, wider, healthier, and more competitive private Rental sector will continue, and I will keep shouting until someone in Government cops on that Social Housing needs to be Local and needs to go back to the Local Authorities.

Then we can start to Rebuild this Country on behalf of all of us.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners. Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @vef_pip.


Great British Bake Off‘s Paul Hollywood congratulates baker Rahul Bajer (right) last night

It was pastry week on The Great British Bake-Off on Channel 4 last night.

Vanessa Foran writes:

I’m going to work backwards this week, and apologies for missing Spice Week.

Dan. Desperately disappointed to see him go, but in all fairness, he had to. We have now tipped over into the business end of Bake Off 2018 and there is nothing but baking talent left in the tent.

Any weakness, flop, or soggy bottom just isn’t tolerated, and there isn’t room left to hide or provide cover.

I’m mainly bothered because of all the bakers though the tent over the years, Dan was one who stuck to simple everyday ingredients, and managed with the skills we all already have, mainly our own two hands.

He did the basics better than anyone, he didn’t need exotic flavours or ambitious designs to get three Handshakes on the trot and a star baker for himself. In one regard, I would have him there as one of the most talented home bakers I’ve seen in the tent tbh,

OK, he’s no Mary-Anne Boermens  or John Whaite I highly regard him because I doubt he has any further interest in being recognised as a pro, and I feel his interest in baking will remain in the same spot as all of ours, our own kitchens.

But I do hope we hear from him again.

Pastry week is a blue ribbon event anyway, more blue plaster week last night, but I must admit that Jon  calling it “the Heavy Metal of all baking” was a spot on as you’re going to get for an Irish Baker, since we don’t have the great big celebration breads you’ll see the Hollywood drooling over and restaurants named after. Although there’s noting stopping us from developing one for ourselves.

We all do quick breads here, like brown sodas and potato farls, the outcome of our famine history. Black 47 the fillum, although they cut it very fine with the timing, did lean heavily into representing its origin.

The Irish have no historical grand plaits, and our holy feast bread was the communion wafer. So, for the Paddies, Pastry is our own specialist Signature.

Well that’s what I think anyway; and its why I will always try different versions of the same pastry. Except Puff. Shop bought all the way. So, Jon’s remark that Puff is Slipknot in terms of Pastry hardcore made absolute sense.

I really enjoyed the Signature last night, maybe because I was not alone in having never attempted them before, ate plenty ov’em mind, although I’ve never had a sweet one, unless the MaccieDs Apple Pie counts.

It was one of those Signatures that would encourage anyone I think. The pastry is quick, and every Irish house has at the very least a chip pan.

There is a great tip for anyone like me, who has the full spice and seed collection of pots, bags, tins and tubs, here in Rahul’s savoury; and the great thing about this recipe that you can change out the filling but keep the tip, the pastry and the raita recipe for the drawer. And I would be really tempted with his sweet if only to test if Prue’s reaction was required.

Nothing to say about the Technical, but I just wouldn’t myself. If ye have too much time on yere hands then let us know how you got on with it  .

Now here is where I found some more common ground with Dan, at the showstopper. Because I do that exact bake, salmon coulibac. It’s Russian, it’s easy and its great hot or cold. And if anyone has communions, dos, what-have-yas look into it.

I must also mention Ruby’s pie , You might remember Kate’s Curry Pie.Both definitely worth a try as everything is doable for any standard of cook.

Delighted for Briony  getting Star Baker, and even more so because there was no doubt attached to the decision; she’s worked hard and grafted challenge after challenge and deserves to be there. Not that that means anything at this stage, but she didn’t put a foot wrong last night, even with the dress. Pastry was the makings of her.

Just a word on appearance; I think Kim-Joy should do Noel’s make up next week, ‘cause its obvious Prue did it last night.

Vegan next week. Yeah I know. But lets wait and see….

Pic: Channel4

From top: Guitarist and presidential hopeful Jimmy Smyth; Vanessa Foran

While you have been subjected to some serious Presidential downpours this week here on Broadsheet, I have absolutely no remorse in drenching you some more; and that is because I want everyone to take a longer look at Jimmy Smyth.

A few weeks ago on the Telly, I said “…you can allow yourself to be treated like a customer, or you can behave like a citizen….”

I was the very last person to expect that that spillage would harden last Thursday when we all met Jimmy Smyth and listened as he spoke about seeking a nomination as a Citizen Candidate for President of Ireland.

It was the first time the reference Citizen Candidate has actually been presented in front of me, and in a manner that has led to me taking a bigger interest in what has now become a race from one County Council to another, and between a growing field of potential candidates all looking for a nomination.

In my opinion we, as citizens, need to stop laughing, sneering and sniping at what this upcoming Presidential election has become, and especially now since we are actually having one.

Given the activism that has swelled into mass demonstrations in recent years, i.e. Water Protests and Referendum Landslides, it should have been no surprise that this election opened up like a car-boot sale.

But this new climate of citizen powered change gives us the opportunity now to change our political culture and our relationship with those in power.

The easy venue for the physical and proscribed function of Uachtarán na hÉireann is here

However, the fact that only main party candidates, mostly former politicians themselves, have only held this office, should be a strong enough signal that we must continue to demonstrate and flaunt our own strength of numbers.

That is not an overstatement, a party candidate gives politicians enormous power regardless of the grand promises held in Article 13 above.

At this point I must admit I am very uncomfortable with the knowledge that Michael D had already reached out to selected Oireachtas members to get their endorsement and support before he even informed Us, those he swore to represent, and especially those who voted for him, that he had changed his mind about being a single-term President.

Therefore, it is now time to recognise the function from the vantage point of the Citizen and not from the politicians who control who is allowed enter the election at all.

A Citizen President will promise us that they will represent the people of Ireland independently of politicians and the main parties.

A Citizen President can only represent Us and help Us keep our politicians and government in check.

If a Citizen Candidate like Jimmy Smyth is put to the people to decide, they know they are guaranteed a Presidential hopeful that will be capable of being totally impartial and genuinely independent of government and political institutions.

A Presidential hopeful that is not beholden to any influence beyond a single Irish Citizen.

Even in the debates and on the canvas, Jimmy Smyth, your Citizen Candidate, will be the change from the politically contrived and motivated, professionally drafted narratives and responses we have all wilfully accepted as the norm in Irish election campaigns, when we shouldn’t.

This is about taking our political foundations and making them democratic and there for Us, and not just the elected few, who are most likely to be following a party whip directive, that will arbitrate the shortlist for our vote.

The bloody nerve since another 7 years of a main party former Politician or any other main party candidate would set this Country back when we really have come so far already.

So, what do I know about Jimmy; well far less than any of his fans, family and friends.  But I know he is the real deal.  I know he is free from political influence, and I know he is genuine about his reasons for seeking the nomination to run for President.

I know he is not a spoiler nor is he seeking career advancement to his next gig.  I know he is not an opportunist, and I know for sure he is motivated only by himself, and his desire to do right by the ideals of a Republic.

I also know that Jimmy has entered this squall of a nomination process all by himself; Jimmy Smyth did not need to be approached, convinced or groomed by others.

Jimmy Smyth, so far,  in my opinion, is the only Presidential hopeful coming before us without scores to settle, or business interests to enhance, or a reputation to polish.

The real point about my endorsing Jimmy Smyth is there has never been a better time for the Irish citizen to have a candidate for President, who in the very true sense of a Republic, is one of Us; and for me that opportunity is best exploited by having the chance to let Jimmy go into the campaign and let the voter decide.

So come join the campaign and let’s Rock the Áras.

Vanessa Foran will be on Broadsheet on the Telly tonight at 10pm. She is a principal at Recovery Partners. Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @vef_pip.

Previously: Taking An Axe To The Aras

Top pic via KM’s Live Shots

From top: Post-Disposed poster: Stephen Garland and Vanessa Foran in Longford

Stephen Garland’s one-man show Post-Disposed about coping with Primary Progressive MS, played in Longford last week ahead of a run at the Edinburgh festival.

Vanessa Foran (her off the telly!) was there.

Vanessa writes:

Stephen Garland was introduced to me, probably the same way as most of ye; by Johnny Keenan on the telly.

A funny man and comedy promoter who had MS (PPMS to be pinpoint about it) who was medically categorised and characterised as Pre-Disposed. I took it at that,

I enjoyed his company when on, and donated to his fund for stem cell treatment. Like most of ye I suppose, I continued to follow his journey from the comfort of a chair. Until last weekend, when Pre-Disposed was formally re-branded Post-Disposed.

Broadsheet  on the Telly viewers will know the same as I did, a night of comedy in the style of storytelling. The same people will also know I have a low bar when it comes to being entertained, so there was minimal risk of impatience for the bright lights of downtown Longford anyway.

Yet, I will admit my main motivation for travelling to Longford was to see how a Theatre and a GAA club with Slashers in its name could co-exist; but I was as open-mined about Stephen Garland’s Post-Disposed Live Storytelling Show as I was about Longford.

In all truth I can say I had a great time. Firstly, The Backstage Theatre and Longford Slashers GAA are indeed true love and life partners; it was like one could live without the other. Happily, contentedly and thriving side by side; and the accommodation for the show was the most comfortable and easy I have ever sat in.

So Post-Disposed. I just looked up Disposed and it comes back from Yahoo as an adjective; inclined or willing. I don’t think I could even become accepting of that as a medical status for a diagnosis ( like Stephen’s, certainly not enough to find the funny side of it, I would be more likely to deny, interrupt the medical professionals, and probably argue my way out of accepting the diagnoses.

But I know I would not have acted so independently and so quickly to change my prognosis like Stephen Garland did.

Post-Disposed is a whirlwind that you find yourself buckled in for the moment Stephen Garland enters and opens his story. The colour, the speed, the timing is flamboyant and in-your-face, just like his management of his disease I suppose; yet the evening brushes past like a gentle scented breeze, like you get when on a foreign holiday when you know you’re in a strange unfamiliar environment, yet wonderfully comfortable there.

Post-Disposed travels 18 months from Longford, to Spain to Brazil to Scotland to Broadsheet to Russia and back to Longford again; I was Post-Exam Hall exhausted yet didn’t stop smiling, seriously, for 120 minutes. It was the easiest standing ovation I ever ended up in.

The unfortunate thing is that Post-Disposed has to trim down to 50 minutes, however a walk-up audience won’t miss out, because the version I was lucky to get a mention in (mortified) contained a home crowd that needed attending to, which, as you’ll learn, is a requirement under a local technicality; Speaking Away.

From Hat to Hat, from Sungas to Mobility Scooter; Stephen Garland’s Post-Disposed might just be what comedy needs right now.

A sound bite; because that is what I was told the Edinburgh audience and participants need (see above) Mammy Mia from the Costa del Longford; colours, laughing, family of all shapes, connections, sizes and ages, itchy eye moments with every walk of life getting a spoke in, the unexpected adversity that comes to all our houses yet has the potential to bring out the best thing about the Irish; the ability to see the funny side of everything.

Good Luck in Edinburgh Stephen; love you or hate you whatever; just make sure they don’t forget you.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners. Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @vef_pip.

Stephen Garland

From top: Dee Forbes, Director general of RTÉ and Tony Hall, Director general of the BBC; Vanessa Foran

When RTÉ made their YE 201E available my quick scan had a predictable response; everything is as expected. Glossy, full of talk about themselves, the movements on the balance sheet to reflect the well-known sale of land, and of course Dee Forbes’ salary.

So rather than file it under a Broadsheet standard “nothing to see here” tag I decided to measure a few values against another national broadcaster reliant on statutory licence fees; the BBC.  One presents Financial Statements as Group, the Other as Consolidated. RTÉ have a Calendar Year End, the BBC have a March YE.

While scanning both I was indeed mindful to the size and reach of both organisations, alongside the licence fee income and the global reach of one, and the advertising income opportunities of the other.

Therefore, I only used total income over a full 12 month trading period as a denominator rather than split out, and convert into a single currency needed for a proper drill down. Which would be meaningless to a large degree anyway, as one would be including direct costs for special events ie. Brexit Referendum and both values are compiled from very mixed reporting periods.

So, in so far as a quick drive-by evaluation would allow, here some stats that might be considered as reasonable benchmarks within that industry.

Please also bear in mind, I have only picked off a few to run simple Ratio Analysis calculations against. The purpose of published accounts and reports of any organisation is to allow all stakeholders access themselves and form their own opinions, so here is what was interesting to me.

Some 95% of the BBC’s total expenses in the 12 months ending March 2017 was spent on Content and Delivery; in real terms, 5% is what comes out of their total income to run the organisation’s back office functions.

To put this in context; RTÉ reports a total Income of €337.6 million; of which €27.365m was spent on Acquired Programming; 8% if you are wondering. This does not include Sport Copyrights & Licences if you were wondering that too; 5.5% of total income by the way.

For those who might assume that Acquired Programming refers to content subbed in from local production companies and sub-contractors, let me also provide this figure – €38.62m for Direct Acquired Programme Costs; or 11.4% of total income.

Thankfully the RTÉ report provides an easily interpreted graphic to give you an idea of how many are employed by the Television dept:

An interesting question is how much of its overall programming hours are fulfilled by these Acquired Programming and Direct Acquired Programming expenditure items.

Meanwhile, to get a look at another suite of cost:total income tests here’s one of the old reliables; Executive & Board Renumeration.

Total Board costs as a % of Total Income: BBC .06% (.0006 of total Income) RTE .1% (.001). Dee Forbes’ 338k v Tony Hall’s 467K; one hundredth of RTÉ’s total income: one thousandth of the BBC’s.

That above should be digested alongside with this; Dee Forbes leads an organisation that in its last set of accounts reported €337.6 million income, of which 55% is Licence Fees, and employs (average WTE for year) 1,924 people.

Whereas Tony Hall is responsible for almost 21,000 employees (over 10 times more than Ms Forbes) and for an organisation that collects st£3.74billion from UK Licence payers and earns itself another st£1.2billion (again way over 10 times more than Ms Forbes.)

As a % of income and staff complement there is absolutely no arguing the value of money lapse just on this benchmark alone. But I would add that Tony Hall is probably being short-changed.

Yes, I know this is flame-throwing. But it is worth noting nonetheless that straight away the TV Licence Payers in the UK get significantly more out of their National Broadcaster than the Irish Licence Payer.

RTÉ is on a road to nowhere which only exposes the Irish Taxpayer to further financial risks. It needs to radically change every way it does business and at every level within the organisation. It continues to achieve cost cuts and they have the graphic to prove it:

But even this alongside the carving from the Land & Buildings on its balance sheet, they are only fooling themselves if they think realising cash here is all they need to do. The entity’s costs are still not under control when it is having to sell its silver rather than innovate.

Commissioning a new season of a series they have not already managed to sell on is pointless and not in any way strategic or wise programming; you can also read this as using tax payers’ money to invest further in a loss-making product.

They need to develop products they can export and they need to relocate from probably the most valuable real-estate in the country instead of this piecemeal selling off from Financial Year to Financial Year. But more importantly they need their own programming to win back their viewers.

The most watched show in YE 2017 was the Late Late Toy Show; which at least is their own format, albeit older than me, probably.  But its viewership is not loyal since the Toy Show is followed in the top 10 by a series of GAA All-Irelands and World Cup Play-Offs; all of which they have to compete for. Notably, the only scripted show in last year’s top ten was Mrs Brown/s New Year’s whatever. That probably makes my point.

If you are interested there is one measure between the two that is exactly spot on and nose to nose; both reports are a 192 pages long.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners. Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @vef_pip /a>. Vanessa will be on Broadsheet on the Telly tonight at 10pm.

Footnote: Vanessa writes: The BBC Management and Talent personnel don’t seem to suffer from the shyness their counterparts in RTE do when it comes to declaring their income. Here  is a tidy and well-presented transparent document detailing everyone employed or engaged by the BBC in Year Ending March 2017 in the 150K brackets.