OH dear, Jay Rayner!
The highbrow restaurant critic is tying himself in knots trying not to be beastly about Newbury – the town he once infamously dissed by comparing it to the Swiss cheese Emmental, in that it was supposedly “solid, workmanlike - and very, very dull.”
Surely this could have nothing to do with the rate of ticket sales for his one-man show at the town’s Corn Exchange tonight (Friday, May 6)…could it?
The son of the successful broadcaster, journalist and national newspaper agony aunt, the late Claire Rayner, has taken the unusual step of issuing press statements ahead of his show, acknowledging: “Newbury doesn’t forget.”
In an “unreserved apology” Mr Rayner writes: “While ticket sales are now well into a healthy three figures, I understand some potential audience members may have been put off by what are regarded as disobliging comments I made about Newbury in 2011.
“I want to say now, and for the record, that the article was not meant as an insult to the kind and interesting people of Newbury.”
So there you are; that’s all right then.
But wait – there’s more.
Mr Rayner continues: “I can also see now that using the word ‘dull’ to refer to Newbury – a bustling cosmopolitan metropolis, with a cultural life to challenge that of Renaissance Florence – was completely and utterly wrong.
“In my defence, further on in the article I went on to point out that my use of the word was just a first impression and wrong both for Emmental and, therefore, Newbury. While some misguided fools might regard them as lacking a certain glamour, both are industrious work houses, where real work gets done.
"In Newbury’s case it is a hub for the British tech industry. That, after all, is why Vodaphone (sic) has made its home there. In the case of Emmental, it is the ballast upon which that brilliant Swiss dish cheese fondue is built. Without Emmental, a fondue would be nothing.”
He would like us to take his words as a “token of my respect and regard,” adding: “More than anything, I’m just so bloody sorry. Newbury, please forgive me.”
Mr Rayner concludes: “Can I also encourage you to come to the show. As well as taking you on a journey through truly awful restaurant experiences, I will offer the audience a number of opportunities during which they can call me a self-regarding, up-him-himself, snobby, London-centric t*sser to my face.
"Indeed, I would welcome it.”