All apologies

<strong>The Book of Regrets</strong>

Compiled by Juliet Solomon <em>JR Books, 194pp, £10.99</em>

The phone rings. It’s someone from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, someone called Juliet Solomon. She explains: she’s compiling this book about regrets. It’s for a good cause – could you manage a couple of quick sentences?

You pause. Nothing springs to mind – you’re a relatively successful celebrity, what’s to regret? You’re not Michael Jackson or Madonna, or even Robbie Williams, so you can’t really moan about being too famous. You’re at just the right level: Tom Conti, Jo Brand or Rowan Williams, hell, you’re Wendy Cope. You do what you love, you live in a big house, the public – or at least the ones you care about – love you. What’s this woman trying to prove?

“Have I made any mistakes?” Gareth Southgate muses. “Yes,” comes the answer. “Do I have any regrets? No.” John Humphrys seethes with rage about not going to university, and that this might explain why he is “such a stroppy sod”. Alan Hansen merely mutters something about wishing that he had learned to play the piano, while Antony Worrall Thompson is disarmingly candid: “I regret having been so impulsive in the choice of my early wives,” he sighs.

That wasn’t too bad, was it? You hang up. You listen to Call You and Yours. Bliss!

Matthew Taunton is a Leverhulme Fellow in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA, and is currently working on a book about the cultural resonances of the Russian Revolution in Britain.

This article first appeared in the 19 November 2007 issue of the New Statesman, New best friends?