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Oh, for James Martin’s entrancing confidence and fearless freedom

James Martin’s Islands to Highlands is currently on ITV. As a man who fearlessly eats, drinks and explores, Lucy Sweet can’t decide if she loves him or wants to be him.

In 2019, back when I got washed and dressed, I thought I knew who I was. Now I’m in full barnacle-under-a-rock mode and my tastes have become unrecognisable. First it was jigsaws, then it was a poncho I bought from a shop called Harbourside Interiors, and now I have developed a strange admiration for James Martin. Yes, James Martin of Saturday Kitchen fame, a man so awkward on live TV that he makes you want to put your head in a pan and boil it like a ham. 

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The thing is, I can’t decide whether I love James and want to marry him or I just want to crawl inside his body and become him. Every week on James Martin’s Islands to Highlands he’s barrelling confidently around the country, doing whatever the hell he likes. He gets to do what men are good at – going on jollies, eating, drinking and having a bloody good time. Although women do get time off, we are never truly off, because we’re always carrying a great weight of emotional labour round our necks, working out what to have for dinner next Tuesday and buying birthday cards for someone we met on holiday in 2007. We can only dream of being as free as James. He strides like a colossus around Britain, with his pink shirts and tweedy jackets and his big old head and neck, chucking ingredients about and scoffing everything that isn’t nailed down like some golden Bacchanalian god.

As a neurotic who second guesses everything she does, I’m entranced by his confidence

As a neurotic who second guesses everything she does, I’m entranced by his confidence. The other night James went to a Pick Your Own raspberry farm in Oxfordshire. “Brings back memories of your childhood, dunnit?” he asked as he plucked fistfuls of them and, with the aid of one portable gas ring, effortlessly created a massive comedy pudding that was essentially a delicious enormodome of swiss roll and raspberry custard. All while drinking a beer. Then he went striding into Raymond Blanc’s restaurant kitchen garden and said, “Do you want me to cook for yer?” as casually as if he was going to the shops to get him a packet of Nik Naks. The result was a dish of chicken with morels that defied description, then him and the Michelin-starred legend and owner of Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons had a manly bear hug. Credits roll, job done, back to the hotel for a pint and a round of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire on the quizzer. Easy.

This is how I want to live. Forget yoga and mindfulness, I want to be fearless and full of custard. I want to be James! Or maybe I just want to be a man? Either way, if James decides to develop a confidence-building course for anxious middle-aged women in ponchos, I’ll be his first customer.

James Martin’s Islands to Highlands is on ITV on Mondays at 8pm and ITV Hub

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