There were no volunteers for Carnival Queen - maybe because an old winner was allegedly done for GBH

I was sipping a half in our village pub, the Barley Mow, some months ago, when the question was popped: would I open the village carnival this year? Astonished and flattered - the local wildlife painter and local radio presenter had, after all, performed the honours in recent years - I accepted immediately and vowed to practise my ribbon-cutting. Last week, as the Great Day approached, I asked in the pub how arrangements were progressing. Ann, the landlady, sighed. A number of unforeseen hitches had come up. The recent bad weather meant haymaking was late, and the distinct possibility loomed of there being no farm trailers to use as floats. The phone number for the bunting had been lost and a grey fog of anxious speculation surrounded the band. Most disastrous of all, there was no Carnival Queen - the village-hall disco arranged for the purpose had thrown up no one suitable, or at least no one suitable who wanted to do it. There may have been a link between the lack of volunteers and the ugly and unsubstantiated rumour that a recent Queen has allegedly been done for GBH. I discussed the carnival's run of ill-luck with Alan, the landlord of the Barley Mow. "Didn't realise it was cursed," I said. He raised an eyebrow and told me that, last year, the coach carrying the brass band had crashed on the M1. "Oh yes," Ann chimed in, "and there was the year that that writer opened it. Only he didn't - he had a heart attack on the morning and never turned up."


Alan, too, was uneasy. The high point of carnival week is the annual World Championship Hen Races, organised by the Barley Mow and featuring the best and fastest of the local poultry racing after trails of corn across the pub's car park. Last year, a rogue hen from Milton Keynes snatched the glory from under their very beaks. In mitigation, there were mutterings of dirty tricks - the Milton Keynes entrant's corn was widely held to be soaked in Southern Comfort. Small wonder now, as the dread anniversary approached, that Alan was apprehensive. Came the hour, came the woman, however; clutching my speech, I climbed on to the podium - only to be flattened immediately by the mulleted and orange-blazered master of ceremonies, who was confounded to discover that I was not, as he had for some reason believed, J K Rowling. After this came the onerous task of judging the best-decorated house, float (there were some, in the end) and fancy-dress costume - a diplomatic conundrum for the most long-standing of residents, let alone an incomer apparently masquerading as the creator of Harry Potter. In the end, prizes respectively went to a cottage done up like the Teddy Bears' Picnic, a group of transvestites in ballgowns (carnival queens, after all) and the Tin Man, a small boy encased in a tube, with his face sprayed silver and a funnel tied to his head.


Soon it was time to leave the responsibilities of high office for London and the Cartier Polo International. Tickets and passes dangling like Christmas decorations, we made our way to Windsor Great Park where, under glorious blue skies and designer garden umbrellas, a selection of babes in killer heels (in Andrew Neil's case, killer co-respondent shoes) had gathered, clutching vase-sized glasses of champagne and trying to work out who, under the universal yellow Pers- pex sunglasses, was famous. Minnie Driver smoked theatrically ("Oh my God," panicked a celebrated editor, "I've got to sit next to her at lunch. Anyone know what her last film was called?") and Angelina Jolie disappeared (allegedly in a strop) before I even had the chance to see if her lips were real. Will Carling (there with Son of Ali) rewarded my smile with a harassed stare, which I later found out was probably due to SoA wetting one of the magnificent fringed chair cushions.


Never a confident dresser, I was thrilled when a glossy-mag fashion editor I know asked me if my gold metal bag was Gucci. "Oasis, £18," I laughed triumphantly. "What are you wearing?"

"Dodgy Banana and Albert Ferret."

I frowned. "New designers, are they?"

"Dolce & Gabbana and Alberta Ferretti," she laughed triumphantly. It is so long since I worked on a glossy, I'd forgotten that one should never try to get one over on a fashion editor. My experiences on Tatler inspired my first novel, Simply Divine, which is being turned into a film by Warner Bros. Over a delicious lamb fillet, I discussed with my neighbour, a film producer, the wisdom of e-mailing Hollywood with cast ideas. Admittedly, I haven't done this since my (post-Gladiator) suggestion that Russell Crowe be given a part ("I know it's a film about glossy magazines, but surely he could do drag? Or gay?" I had urged). The producer agreed this was probably why I hadn't heard from Warner Bros for some time.


My new book, the world's first nanny bonkbuster, is called Bad Heir Day (Headline, £5.99), although whether it will get the Warner Bros treatment remains to be seen. But the wonderful Cartier Polo certainly should. All human life is there, and what isn't is trying to get in. From the other side of the Cartier compound's white-picket edges, a few balding, braying types tried to bluff their way in. "Bless 'em," said the security guard. "You can't blame 'em for trying. Mind you, it's amazing what people will do to try to get in. Last year, when Prince William came, I had someone offering me sexual favours." A very bad heir day indeed. On the other hand, perhaps not.