It's been a very disturbing week, in every sense of the word. Shall we start with the weather? We’re British, after all.
As far as I recall, back in April we were all primed and ready for a heatwave summer. Water shortages were to become a fact of life and spring was set to begin on Boxing Day. But no. I haven't been this wet since my lost weekend at Woolwich barracks. People in Tewkesbury have got water up to their tasteful, burgundy wallpaper borders and the popularity of TV weathermen is on a par with that of paedophiles.
Second, I kept getting woken up at 5 am. My slumbers were being interrupted by something substantial living in my cellar. I lay awake, blinking into the darkness as I heard it chomping, pawing the ground, rubbing its burly haunches against the brickwork. A rodent or a fox? At that time in the morning your imagination runs riot. Maybe it's a lesbian?
The more I thought about it, the more feasible this became. Supposing some dykes had escaped from Stoke Newington and now, for reasons known only to the sisterhood, were scratching about in the nether regions of my country residence, pleasuring themselves with my home-grown courgettes? Should I put pellets down? Are they a protected species? Maybe there's a whole family of them living down there. It's their bristly crew cuts I can hear scrubbing against the floorboards. Now I come to think of it, I caught a distinct whiff of pipe smoke in the air the other evening.
But the next day all is explained by a neighbour. Similarly disturbed in the night, she had the bright idea of investigating. While I lay rigid in bed, paralysed by visions of Helga and Bertha living a feral existence in my cellar, she got up and looked in her utility room. There it was: a badger, sitting in her foot spa, bold as brass. She showed it the door with the help of a broom and now peace reigns once more
Advance copies of my forthcoming novel arrived, hot off the press. A thrilling moment for me, as you can imagine. Here it was at last, in all its Day-Glo pink-and-yellow glory. (The publishers haven’t exactly gone for subtlety.) I had a flick through to refresh my memory and then I saw it: a mistake. The lawyers had told me that a reference to Gloria Hunniford (implying that she’s a bit of a goer who hangs around nightclubs drinking, smoking and picking up strangers) was libellous. I had changed it to Fanny Cradock (dead – can’t object) but somehow the correction didn’t filter through. Now Gloria will sue me and I’ll have to pay her thousands in compensation. Unless, of course,
I can prove that it’s true after all . . . Have any New Statesman readers ever spotted Gloria dressed in rubber and smoking spliffs in seedy rave clubs? I need to know.
I then spent two days holed up in the library of the Charlotte Street Hotel doing press and photos to publicise the aforementioned book. Mercifully, out of 15 interviews I endured, only a couple amounted to what you might call a proper grilling. "Regular features" are all the rage these days. For these I was simply required to spill the beans about my favourite recipe (shepherd's pie), drink (snowball), TV show (Trisha) or car (Citroën 2CV) in exchange for a brief plug for the book at the end. Easy. It's the seasoned, cynical, devil-dog hacks that scare the centre spread out of me.
"How are you coping with the ageing process?" was the opening line from the Evening Standard. "You were rather beautiful once." My mouth opened and closed like a carp, but no sound was forthcoming.
Then, to rub salt in the wound, I read that Shilpa Shetty demands (and gets) £20,000 per interview. Instead of having a bruised ego and a numb brain, I could have been £300,000 better off. Almost enough to pay off Gloria Hunniford, I'd have thought.