MRS. Quinn’s rise to fame, by Olivia Ford
From the looks of it, 77-year-old Jennifer Quinn leads a life that belongs in “Masterpiece Theater.” She lives in bucolic Kittlesham, an English town that makes you feel like you’ve “entered a secret garden or the back of a wardrobe”, with “delightfully uneven houses and medieval pubs”.
Every morning, Bernard, Jennifer’s husband of almost 60 years, wakes her up with a cup of tea and the newspaper folded to her liking. Their house is permeated with the smells of tea loaves, biscuits and tarts – because baking is Jennifer Quinn’s “super power”, as Bernard tells anyone who will listen. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t measure flour and sugar on her old-fashioned kitchen scale and whip up something sweet in their beloved kitchen. If you were in charge of closed captioning for Olivia Ford’s “Masterpiece” production, you would write “(upbeat string music)” on every other frame to evoke a quiet, charming life together.
The problem is that Jennifer wants something more. She and Bernard never had children, unless you count their adorable grandniece Poppy. She never had a career either, and watching Bernard fall asleep in front of the TV – and thinking about their marriage entering its final chapter – makes Jennifer want something of her own.
Spontaneously, secretly, she applies to take part in “Britain Bakes”, the popular show that Bernard pretends not to watch while reading. “I have spent my life being guided less by big ambitions than by small victories,” she wrote in her application. “The perfect swirl in a Swiss roll, the smooth pink dome of an expertly made summer pudding, cut into a baked Alaska only to find that the ice cream stayed cold.”