Fresh pasta, risotto and spinach were generously donated to anyone who didn't look homeless

In April I officially become a TV "face", presenting My Secret on Channel 5. With the appearance of a new wardrobe (on loan) and a trendy group of TV friends (also on loan), doors are magically opening for me. On Friday, for example, my bosses at Anglia presented me with that shining example of success and status . . . the first-class rail ticket. Clutching the expensive piece of card in my soon to be manicured hand, it felt as if, without even leaving the platform, I had finally arrived.

I have adapted to the daily rigours of boeuf en croute en route quicker than you can say "champagne socialist". But life is not all a bed of roses. This is mainly because the final London-bound train from Norwich is replaced by the Sprinter Service from hell. The Sprinter Service features: draughty long compartments (far too shabby for the transportation of veal calves), seats that face backwards (for maximum motion sickness) and all the leg space of a Sinclair C5. To add insult to injury, the "Sprinter" is no faster than an ordinary train and the public address announces chirpily on departure: "There is no first class here, no buffet here and definitely no smoking here . . . enjoy your journey." Yeah, right.

Wrapped in my scarf and "enjoying" my journey, I engrossed myself in The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman by Louis de Bernieres. A chapter concerning the South American version of zero tolerance (free cement boots for all homeless teenagers) had me hooked.

Suddenly, our cattle train lurched to a halt. A group of the disaffected from the town of Diss had thrown wire across the overhead cables, crippling our Sprinter for the foreseeable future. After 40 minutes' delay, I was beginning to find the vigilantes in the novel more heroic than barbaric. How do you quickly and cheaply help people who are hungry, cold and traumatised, I kept wondering? Then it came to me. Free flasks of coffee and woolly gloves would be a start. So what about it, Anglia Railways? And while you're at it - can I have a refund for my £82 first-class ticket?

Another Sunday and another newspaper review forces me out of bed whimpering at 7am. But this one is different. This one is with Parky. Yes, Parky. But just what is the big deal? When Robbie Williams leapt around on the Parkinson show yapping, "Mum, look, I'm with Parky", I sighed and shook my head. When Caroline Aherne admitted to an attack of nerves during her interview I tutted in disbelief.

I went into the Radio 2 studio certain that no broadcaster yet born could reduce me to a girlish, giggling wreck. Wrong. The minute Michael Parkinson gripped my hand firmly and turned his crinkly smile on me, I whimpered, "Oh my God, you really are Parky". It's his voice that does it. That heady mix of Geoff Boycott and Richard Burton . . .

Quickly regaining my composure, I proudly showed off my emu impression (forearm rigid in the air and hand in angry beak mode). Bless him, he laughed as if he'd never seen it before. The highlight of the morning, though, was discovering a classic piece of BBC trivia. Which lovable comic rogue in the seventies, with his own catchphrase, had a dressing-room the same size as Michael Parkinson's? John Inman, perhaps? Or what about Eric Morecambe? Neither. The icon in question was none other than Mr Basil Brush. Clearly both budgets and humour have changed a great deal since those halcyon days of light entertainment.

Tribune dinners always leave me reeling. I was seated next to Michael Foot at the Gay Hussar on Thursday night and to the only other person (with Parky) guaranteed to make my knees (and brain) go weak: the radical comedian Mark Thomas. Blearily I reminded him that during the election I had roared during his stand-up show in Hampstead and then earnestly approached him with "would you like to appear at a benefit for the Labour Party next month?". The astonished Mark then reminded me that the last 20 minutes of his act are always a diatribe against the "evils" of new Labour and that no one working on "the project" has a sense of humour. After all, someone there sent me to ask him to raise money on their behalf - a suicide mission.

Sunday 21 March saw the first ever "World's Tastiest Street Party" in Soho. I joined the surprised tourists and locals to sample the menus of Dean, Frith and Greek Streets. Cuban and calypso bands were on hand to provide a sunny atmosphere in the freezing drizzle. I was a "special guest" of the television chef Aldo Zilli. My "Access All Areas Pass" at Dell' Ugo guaranteed me free champagne all afternoon and a warm seat. But "Zilli Fish" was definitely the place to see and be seen. Fresh seafood pasta, risotto and spinach salad were generously donated to anyone who didn't look homeless and both bar and restaurant were packed. I waited some time to be seated and then, strangely, the normally flirtatious Aldo forgot to air-kiss me. A waiter told me to grab a paper plate and help myself to food and when I ordered drinks from the bar, I was . . . horror . . . asked to pay for them in cash. What could possibly be the cause of all this indifference? The presence of super celebrity, that's what. Chris Evans was holding court at one table (his plate was china, not paper, I noticed), while at the back Paul Young and wife Stacey sipped (free) cappuccinos and laughed with my erstwhile pal Aldo.

The rest of Britain may now be middle class, but in celebrity land I'm still very much a member of the great unwashed.

This article first appeared in the 02 April 1999 issue of the New Statesman, How the doves turned hawkish