It turns out that the berries at the end of the garden here in France are sloes, so there should be sloe gin in time for Christmas. Like olives, sloes are best picked after the first frost but you can cheat by sticking them in the freezer overnight. Each one has to be pricked with a needle in turn and, once added to the gin, left to stand for months, apart from the occasional shake of the bottle. I give them a particularly vigorous shake before heading to the airport for another round of interviews in London. I'm starting to develop a split personality. It's as if the guy who was both praised and condemned extravagantly for defying the government and publishing his diary is somebody else. Or is that wishful thinking?
To the Royal Geographical Society where I've been invited to take part in a debate on the motion that "it's the journalists, not the politicians, who have fouled our political culture". Somebody has dropped out at the last minute so I find myself on the wrong team, opposing the motion. Against us are two Labour stalwarts who I've always got on well with. How will they greet me after the publication of The Spin Doctor's Diary? Warmly, as it turns out. Denis MacShane says he's been telling everybody how realistic and fair he thinks the book is. I don't ask him how many of my former colleagues he's found to agree. I make a painfully balanced speech saying both the media and the politicians must take their share of the blame and worry that I'm starting to sound like a Liberal Democrat. I feel better after arguing with the Spectator's Peter Oborne, even though we are both supposed to be on the same side. We win hands down.
Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, tells MPs that he's looking at ways of stopping other people doing what I have done. Not surprisingly, the papers see it as a threat to Alastair Campbell's own diaries. Maybe my next writing should be something on the law of unintended consequences. Gus would no doubt have handled things very differently. It was only when his predecessor gave a blanket "no" that my publishers decided to take legal advice. There's no escaping the conclusion that successive governments relied mainly on intimidation to keep a lid on unhelpful publications. Once we realised the Cabinet Office had no effective power to censor me, should I have censored myself? Damned either way, it seemed to me.
If I read another review or snide diary piece suggesting that Peter Mandelson and I were lovers I may have to ring my mum to reassure her it's not true. If a straight man says he was a woman's friend is that taken to imply they slept together? No, I didn't think so. Silly me, but I naively thought the media were supposed to have got over all this homophobic crap.
It seems all my friends are getting hitched and most of them on the same day in December when it first becomes possible for gay couples to, in effect, tie the knot. My partner and I have never really thought about it. It's a hugely important step for equality and makes good financial sense, no doubt, but it feels oddly unromantic to jump at the first chance to do what everybody else has been doing with such mixed results for so long, just because you can.
I drop in at the Edvard Munch exhibition at the Royal Academy. I last saw some of the paintings in Oslo where most of them are on show after the artist left them to the city. I've never much liked The Scream but at least over there you can imagine it being the reaction to the price of a beer in a Norwegian bar. It comes as a disappointment, therefore, to learn that he painted it in Nice.
Back home in France and a friend tells me how impressed she is that I've made it on to the pages of Paris Match. She looks sceptical when I say I thought the reaction to the diary might well have been a big "so what, it was all a long time ago".
At least my first stab at a novel, Time and Fate, which came out almost indecently soon after the diary, should be less controversial. In many ways more rewarding, too. Fiction is the hardest thing I've ever turned my hand to and, no, I didn't learn the art in Downing Street. If I have got a split personality at least I know the novel was written by the same guy who picks the olives and the sloes. Mundane manual labour is great for the creative juices. But I shouldn't speak too loudly. I've a feeling Sir Gus would like me to be doing a lot more of it.
The Spin-Doctor's Diary (Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99). Time and Fate (Polperro Heritage Press, £7.95 )