I've been enjoying my food lately. I'm not sure if this is a sad reflection on the absence of any other sensory pleasures in my life, or a natural instinct to nourish oneself during a cold snap. Either way, food is all I can think about. I lie in bed planning tomorrow's casserole and hunt the shelves of Waitrose for bay leaves and pearl barley. Food excites me in a way that men or show business can't.
I now accept invitations only if the promise of a good feed is involved. I went recently to the offices of this very journal for the New Statesman lunch. My hopes were high when I saw the real linen napkins, side plates, condiments and a selection of cutlery. Alas, restraint on all fronts was encouraged by a starter that was either smoked salmon or some attempt at pickled red peppers, I'm not sure which. This was followed by a main course of grey fish, which lay wet and lifeless on my plate like an old glove rescued from the canal. This was washed down, if you dared, with a nicotine-yellow Chardonnay so oaky it dribbled down the back of the throat like honey mixed with Swarfega. At least they're not squandering your subscriptions.
Little did I know, but the main feature of these lunches isn't the menu but the "heated debate" that takes place after. The topic was the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. "Would you like to kick off?" asked the proprietor, and 15 pairs of intelligent, left-wing eyes peered at me with anticipation.
Now, following a depressive episode some years ago, I'm a great one for dividing my thoughts into negative and positive before granting them permission to tarry a while. It's a kind of emotional apartheid, whereby a dispassionate passport controller analyses the substance of each passing consideration. Those related to the war in Iraq, child abuse or the rights and wrongs of publishing third-rate cartoons that inspire rioting and arson are rarely given a green stamp. My time is limited. Best to use it positively. The result of this is a happier inner dialogue, but there are other embarrassing consequences, namely areas of popular discussion that I simply have no opinion about.
This was the case with the troublesome cartoons. I could hold my own at any Cambridge debating society if the subject were "Preston and Chantelle", "Lovely Walks on the Footpaths of Romney Marshes", or "Delicious High-Fat Snacks", but a subject like these cartoons had me shrugging with self-imposed ignorance. "I'm sure it will all blow over soon," I said vaguely. "Is there any more cheese?" After an awkward pause, better-informed guests began a passionate discourse.
I started to get a bit fidgety, realising I had to be at the BBC to be interviewed by Terry Wogan for his new show, Wogan: now and then. I allowed myself to think about Terry. What a fantastic man. His contribution to the nation's ability to cope with life is inestimable. If only he could broadcast to hot-headed radical Muslims and insensitive editors alike, their misjudgements might evaporate, soothed by his mighty therapeutic skills.
Whatever. The finger buffet in the green room after the recording was a very appetising spread. Peking duck, spicy fish cakes and mini chocolate eclairs. I ate and ate until all seemed well with the world.
Of course, all this comfort scoffing with little exercise means midriff bulge and hamster cheeks. I shall soon become the Anne Diamond of the comedy world. This seems to bother other people a lot more than it bothers me. My funky young stylist arrived with some suits for me to consider for a forthcoming TV appearance on Davina McCall's new chat show. None of them fitted and she looked at me as if I'd been caught defecating on a Liberal Democrat MP.
When Cocaine Kate's alleged drug-taking was plastered over the papers, someone at a fashion show was heard to say: "At least she hasn't done anything terrible, like get fat." As far as I'm concerned, fat is the new thin. My voracious appetite may turn out to be a crafty career move. My profile has been a bit low lately; I considered a trip to the Priory, alopecia or a mysterious disappearance but they all seemed too energetic and not food-orientated enough. My agent tells me Celebrity Fat Club has just been recommissioned. A few more Bakewell tarts and I could be in the running.
PS: My stylist managed to find a suit big enough for me to wear on Davina. The previous guest was Vernon Kay, and the seat was still warm. Am I the first person to have an orgasm on the BBC, or has Natasha Kaplinski beaten me to it?