There's no danger of me having any illusions about my appearance or vocal appeal, thanks to the critics

I do not keep a car in London, unlike most of the would-be candidates for mayor. Why add to the pollution when I can walk or use the Tube (and taxis after dark)? My biggest problem with most government ministers (and especially John Prescott) is that they seem to have lost all touch with reality. I might have a TV series on BBC2 every Friday night about walking, but I get the Circle Line to lunch in Great Portland Street or the Metropolitan Line to the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. The problems of London will never be solved by committee or from the back seats of chauffeur-driven cars.

Last Sunday I walked from Bow to Limehouse along the canal and then along the Thames path to Tower Bridge. It was a sunny day - and I passed just two other walkers in half an hour. Wouldn't millennium fund money be better spent on promoting and maintaining these inner-city walks and green arteries rather than building temporary structures with pretentious themes?

I know I sound evangelistic about walking, but nothing I have ever filmed or written has brought such an enthusiastic response from the public. As for the Thames path - a great idea, but ruined by numerous private developers who lock the access gates to their river frontage. Walkers are forced back on to the roadside, when we have already legally won the battle for riverside access. Chris Smith (a keen walker) should use Lottery funds to appoint walk tsars to ensure long-distance routes like the Thames path are open and maintained. Much better than a drugs tsar!


In Yorkshire, my second home, nothing raises my hackles more than caravans. Last week a nasty rash of them appeared in a field outside my village. At the end of the weekend, their owners went home and left about ten of these ugly white boxes as blots on my landscape. The valley is designated an area of outstanding natural beauty, which means you can't alter your house or turn a barn into a home without a big fuss - but you can leave your caravan marooned in a field for weeks. If I report the offending vehicles to Harrogate planning department, am I risking the wrath of the farmer who owns the field and charges rent? I've spent hours pondering the problem, and finally decided my view is worth the potential local aggro. But it's not easy living in a small village.


On 10 April I went to the Linda McCartney tribute concert at the Royal Albert Hall. My evening was made when Tom Jones strode out on to the stage. I stood up in our box and started screaming and a woman ran down the aisle and threw her bra at him. Sadly, it fell short of the stage and hit the TV cameraman on the head, so when the show is transmitted viewers will be denied this exciting moment in pop.

Heather Small from M People did two numbers wearing a pink dress that did her magnificent figure no favours. I made some loud remarks to my companions about "obviously she bought it off a barrow in Walthamstow market". Imagine my horror when Ms Small appeared in the interval and sat two feet from me in the next box. "Never trash famous women" must be my mantra from now on. At the party afterwards both Des'ree and Marianne Faithfull said they were keen walkers. Now how about one of them as president of the Ramblers' Association?

Over the years I have been dealt my fair share of brickbats by the press. No danger of me having any illusions about my appearance or vocal appeal, thanks to the pens of our critics. Only the other week a bitch in the Sunday Telegraph spent about 500 words trashing me and yet made my new book, As the Crow Flies, her pick of the day. Confused or what?

Anyway, this week I felt I had finally arrived when I opened the latest Viz and saw a whole comic strip entitled "Street-porter Crusoe". It stars a foul-mouthed woman with big teeth being rescued from the Titanic by a hapless loyal slave. She ends up on a desert island moaning about everything this serf provides, from the shelter ("it's vernacular and should have been postmodern") to the sandwiches made with wheat he's grown ("I hate white bread"). Make that writer TV critic of the Sunday Telegraph, please. At least the jokes will be accurate.


For the next few weeks I'll be promoting As the Crow Flies. Thank goodness it's a paperback. My last book was a costly hardback and I made the fatal mistake of appearing at a literary lunch with Sir Roy Strong. I'd prepared a proper speech; he simply stood up and read extracts from his latest paperback, delighting the ladies present. My humiliation was complete at the signing afterwards. At £17.99, I couldn't compete with the glamorous (and cheaper) gardening expert.

At another of these occasions, I spoke before Uri Geller, who then used me as a Debbie (Mrs Paul Daniels) type assistant throughout a short chat that involved a lot of spoon-bending. Once again, my book-signing queue was so much shorter than that of the psychic vampire.

I think I'm in with a chance this time around - my book is only £5.99, and even though I can't bend spoons, I can tell a few jokes about Elton John and Vic Reeves, who walked with me for some of the way from Edinburgh to London. And if my lunch ladies haven't heard of Vic Reeves, I've got an anecdote or two about Ronnie Corbett ready to roll. Mind you, I've just seen that one of my appearances will be with the glamorous Robin Day. I'll have to fight dirty this time round. Perhaps I should adopt the Monica Lewinsky approach, get big hair and burst into tears.