Sibling harmony is a rare skill

 

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I never thought I'd feel sympathy for geeky David Miliband, but I do. Sibling rivalry is a nasty canker that quietly eats away at a relationship. It starts off as a bit of harmless fun; then, before you know it, you're not speaking and it can take decades to repair the damage. My younger sister and I had a horrible relationship, which was finally patched up when our mother was dying.

Pat was clever, attractive, much nicer than me, with loads of friends (I never knew) and people skills (which I completely lack). Yet she thought I was my dad's favourite (he wanted a boy and I would accompany him to football matches) and she decided not to compete at secondary school, failing most of her exams as a protest. She thought I was stuck up, snobby and sneery, and she was right. I was thrilled when we finally moved to a semi in suburbia and I could have my own bedroom. Naturally it was bigger than hers. Things were made worse when our parents argued, as each of them claimed a child. My mother ran off for a week at one stage, taking my sister. Sick of the lot of us, my sister ran off for another week (claiming afterwards she wanted a holiday – but the truth was that she was sick of being compared to me) and stole my savings book.

It's easy for me to understand David Miliband's mindset: why pretend you get on with your brother or sister when they are doing well, have a job you wanted and now you are seen as a failure in comparison? David's solution is radical: not only leaving his chosen career, but quitting the country for somewhere he'll be judged on his own capabilities. Two children can have a close bond, but when both are talented and work in the same profession or family business, it can be disastrous.

The old idea of a close-knit nuclear family with two kids is going out of fashion. New research from the Office for National Statistics shows there's been a huge increase in the number of only-child households, and, based on current trends, they will be in the majority within 10 years. The reasons will be a combination of financial and practical: time-poor professionals and career women who have decided that one is best because that's all they can cope with. Any more could have a detrimental effect on bank balances and job prospects. When Pat was suffering with brain and lung cancer I did everything I could to help, and when she died I deeply regretted all the decades we had fought so bitterly. David and Ed say they are friends. I know that's not the truth. One day, I hope they will be able to resume their relationship again.

Brucie does well

With over 30 years of conducting television interviews, there are few people I genuinely find awesome – and last week it was a real treat to meet Bruce Forsyth. At 85, he's astonishing, sharp as a pin and outrageous fun. He hinted he's thinking of stepping down from Strictly, taking a lesser role in future. What does he have to prove? He's hosted 10 series.

Bruce reminded me that I provided the commentary for a charity tennis match he played in at the Royal Albert Hall at least 25 years ago – his memory is phenomenal. Brucie was the first person I saw on television. When we finally got a set, my family silently gathered around it for Sunday Night at the London Palladium, about the only time we stopped bickering! On The Generation Game, he mastered the polite insult, mocking contestants as they struggled to master simple tasks. A genius! And he is back on the road this summer with shows in Manchester, Birmingham and London.

Chocs away!

Easter at my house is not complete without Lindt chocolate bunnies in their distinctive gold foil. For 12 years, the Swiss firm has fought a bitter copyright battle with a German company, claiming their gold bunnies are illegal. Last week, after spending a fortune, Lindt (which dates from 1840) was forced to admit defeat, as the German rivals claimed their bunnies were at least 50 years old (these chocolate animals live far longer than the real thing) – so there could be two gold bunny families on sale in future.

Easter eggs have become fashion statements, with salted caramel, hideous milky animals and bouquets of sugary icing flowers. Last year I received a "modern" egg that looked exactly like a lump of granite. The humble Easter egg is no longer a sugary treat, but a chance to make a political statement: eggs are ranked for their use of palm oil, whether they carry the Christian message, and if their ingredients are organic and ethically sourced. Please! It's just an egg.

Snow business

In the Yorkshire Dales this weekend, the snow is piled up to depths of 15 feet, and many lanes in remote parts of the Pennines and County Durham are still impassable. So why do people still try to walk through frozen snow in our national parks, without any training and without the right equipment?

Avalanches and ice have seen six people die within a month this year in the Cairngorms and Glencoe, and yet this Sunday hundreds of macho men and woman will be setting out and hoping Mountain Rescue teams will come to their aid if they get into difficulties. In Snowdonia, rescuers recently went to the aid of a woman and her son who were walking at 3,000 feet in unsuitable clothes without crampons and ice axes in a blizzard. They ended up trapped on an ice shelf above a 1,000ft drop.

Bitterly cold temperatures, high winds and snow means conditions will be treacherous, with avalanche warnings out and park wardens saying they want people to explore the lower slopes. I slipped and broken my ankle in a downpour walking in Glencoe a few years ago. I crawled back down the mountain, forded a river and drove myself to Fort William to get it set – painful but not a burden on others. Trekkers are charged if they are rescued in the Himalayas; that should happen here.

Blumen cheek

The gorgeous Waitrose television advert for Easter lamb features a cute ginger-haired boyhood version of Heston Blumenthal "discovering" a taste sensation on holiday – roasted Provençal-style with garlic, rosemary and studded with slivers of anchovies.

Anchovies are presented as something daring and different, but meat and fish have been cooked together in Britain since medieval times, long before Heston invented "molecular gastronomy". The ad has been so successful that sales of tinned anchovies have rocketed 400 per cent in a week. I can remember cooking unctuous roast lamb stuffed with crabmeat at least 20 years ago, stewed rabbit with apricots and shellfish is delicious, and oysters are great in a steak pie.

Heston is a great chef. I wish he wouldn't claim to have discovered something that has been around for ages.

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