You might have thought you'd heard every possible story about the filming of Bridget Jones's Diary, but I'm afraid I have to burden you with just one more. Last July, I was called up by a charming producer who asked whether I'd like to appear in the film. It would involve two days' work, he said, and earn me £4,000. What's more, I'd have a whole mini-scene to myself with Renee Zellweger, in which she would talk to me "in a humorous way" about my book How Proust Can Change Your Life. I thought hard for a nanosecond and accepted. A few days later, I found myself on the set of that now-famous Kafka's Motorbike launch party, shooting the following with Renee:
Bridget (comes up to a group of literary types discussing How Proust Can Change Your Life, listens for a moment and says): "That book sounds so boring, I'd rather put an axe through my head than read it."
Literary type: "Really Bridget, well then I'm sure you'd like to meet the author."
Literary type: "Bridget, can I introduce you to Alain de Botton."
Bridget (very embarrassed): Oh, Mr de Bottom, I'm so sorry, I . . . well . . . ehm . . . mmm . . . ha . . . la . . . la . . . I'm sure Prewst is very fascinating really, and your book sounds so profound."
AdB: "It doesn't matter at all, I find it rather dull myself. It is Proust, though."
Literary type: "And it's Mr de Botton, too."
Bridget: "Oh, is it really, how lovely and also . . . how interesting, well . . . lovely . . . but I must mingle . . . hmm . . . la."
The shooting over, I lost no time in telling everyone I was a film star, I recounted tales of lunch with Hugh and Colin (both very charming), of dedicating a copy of my book to Renee (who acted flawlessly in promising to read it), of speaking Swiss-German with Renee (her father and my mother are Swiss), and of chatting with Tracey McLeod, Julian Barnes, Sebastian Faulks and Salman Rushdie on set. Then, a few weeks before the film was due to come out, the producer called up and informed me that my scene had been cut "for timing reasons", but that I would still appear very briefly in a "long shot" of the party and would I like to come to the cast and crew party anyway. The bastards. I'm still not sure I've recovered. At least, I've diverted some of my sadness into efforts to get hold of my second of fame from the cutting-room floor: it would be a great thing to show guests before dinner: "Hey, do you want to see a piece of BJD, the unedited version with me in it, it only lasts a tick . . ." - but the once charming producer isn't taking my calls.
If that brush with fame wasn't enough, last week I flew down to Marseilles and was assigned a seat on the plane right next to Tom Stoppard. Because I make it a policy never to talk to anyone I'm interested in (women especially - they might think I was desperate), I let him get on with reading the TLS and the LRB. But a stewardess was less inhibited and, over the Channel, asked him: "Sir, did you just connect from the Geneva flight?" "No," replied a surly Stoppard. "Really, were you on a Rome flight yesterday?" "No." "It's just that you look really familiar to me, I thought I'd been on another flight with you recently." A voice in Stoppard's head must have wanted to say, "Look, you blithering idiot, of course I look familiar, I'm Tom Stoppard, famous playwright and genius. Now just leave me alone to read the bloody papers." But naturally, he didn't let on - and the stewardess continued down the aisle none the wiser.
A few months ago, I decided to waste some money by setting up a website with information about my books, forthcoming events, etc. No one took any notice until the other day when I was interviewed by a German magazine, which asked me what my "plans and hopes" were for the future of my website. Puzzled by this grand question of a small initiative, I joked dryly that my immediate plan was to raise some capital, float the website on the Nasdaq and then retire in a few years with an internet fortune. I thought the interviewer had got the jokelet, but I've just received a copy of the interview which declares, in bold letters beneath the title, "Author with ambitions to float his website on the Nasdaq". I am not the first to point out that irony doesn't tend to travel well across the North Sea.
When I was young, I wrote a few books about love which earned me the unlikely title of Dr Love and a reputation for having something to say on the subject. I imagine that's why the other day I had a phone call from a company with plans to manufacture a fascinating machine called a "Dater Transmitter". The idea behind the machine is that finding a partner is generally an excruciating process because it's so hard to tell if someone is interested in you. It's usually only after you have lunged across the sofa that you get to find out if the beloved thinks you're the Elephant Man. But with a Dater Transmitter, life becomes a lot easier. It's a small box, the size of a mobile phone, with a red and a green light at the top. If two people have one on and are interested in each other, the machine lights up green; if they are uninterested, it lights up red. So, by consulting your machine, you know very quickly whether you should move on or not. The makers of the Dater Transmitter are approaching a number of people in the "love field" looking for product endorsement. I don't like the idea of endorsing, but this is one product I'm more than happy to back. It could increase the sum of single-human happiness far more than the next generation of mobile phones or any number of other useless gadgets for the home.