Show Hide image

Diary: Zoe Williams

Celebrities, squirrels and . . . I forget

I spent Sunday in a locked pen, down the side of the red carpet to the Baftas, with 70 competition winners. It was a revelation. Not that Angelina has freakishly small ankles (though she has), nor that England is no place to stand outside in February (though it isn't) - but for the massive myth-making that surrounds the entertainment industry. I thought, well, apart from Kate Winslet, I don't know who any of these people are but these competition winners will know. They've entered competitions. They obviously a) read Heat and b) have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But the Heat/OCD crossover group recognised nobody, apart from Kate Winslet. They must have been thinking: "These journalists will know. They're in a parasitic industry. If they don't know, when they rely for their bread and butter on the chimera that any of this matters, well, what kind of parasites are they? Totally incompetent parasites! They couldn't even give you diarrhoea."

Good point, but it was getting embarrassing. We were making a lot of noise, but generating no actual names. The fella out of Slumdog Millionaire came past.

"Pev! PAV. No DAV! Dave? That can't be right . . . Dev Patel! DEV PATEL!" As soon as there was enough confidence, we all joined in. "DEV!" He sailed past and I don't blame him. It's a red carpet, for God's sake, not a parlour game where someone has to guess the Rizla on your forehead.

"He wasn't much fun," said a winner from Capital Radio.

We moved on. "DANNY. DANNY," we started. There really seemed to be some confidence, here. Like, at least one of us knew who we were calling, and why. But then the loudest Danny-shouter breaks off and goes "Danni who, Dannii Minogue?" "No, not Minogue, you numbnut. Danny Boyle! Was it you who said Pav and put Dev off us? WAS IT?"

This is why we're locked in, of course. It's not in case we try to steal one of Angelina's tattoos with her body still attached. It's to stop us getting bored and wandering off to get a kebab. True fans don't exist. Or maybe they're all in prison? No, I think they don't exist.

Last week I ate grey squirrel. It was at Corrigan's, the fabled new(ish) home of Richard Corrigan, who is a handsome chef. Shamingly, that was Reason One behind my perverse order. I was showing off. By asking for this disgusting, inedible rodent, I subconsciously hoped that the chef would think to himself: "I'll bet that diner's idiosyncratic, a bit mysterious . . . Let me go and have a look."

What is wrong with me? I don't want to flirt with chefs! And plus, it was the 20th squirrel to shift that day. Every sucker was eating it. He could have changed the joint's name to the Colonel's Fried Squirrel, though I should point out that it was not fried, it was in a ballantine, with a white-raisin stuffing. Ballantine is just another word for boned and rolled. I'd take my hat off to a person who could serve a squirrel without boning and rolling it, but never mind that for now.

Reason Two, I was puzzled by the pricing. It was a tenner. I'm not carping, I'm wondering. Like, who sells squirrels? Who catches them? You know there's a £75 fine if your dog kills a squirrel in a park? Do butchers get fined, also? Does the point-of-sale value reflect that £75 (in which case, generous cut, my friend; I don't mind that you bulked it out with raisins)? Or do they farm squirrels? In which case they should farm the red ones. They are cuter, and I feel sure that is reflected in the taste.

Anyway, it was profoundly horrible. There was an overriding sweetness that just made you doubt the flesh even more, for not being able to taste it properly. In my final mouthful, I crunched a tiny bone and thought I might have stumbled on pure evil. And then licked it. Ballantined my arse. I only wish that had been my first mouthful, then I could have saved myself the subsequent seven.

And yet, the experience has brought me even closer to my dog. In retrospect, I think that was my reason all along.

New research came out this week to say that pregger-head doesn't exist, or if you would like that rendered scientifically, that women's brainpower during pregnancy does not show significant diminution. I went on BBC Breakfast to share my thoughts - I was going to tell them all the hilarious things I forgot while I was pregnant. What does that green light mean again? (Go!) What are those shiny things called you put peas in? (Saucepans!) But once I got under the bright lights, everything went clean out of my head. Anecdotes I have polished to a high, some would say mendacious, shine, had slipped away, like mercury. I couldn't remember a thing. I could barely even remember being pregnant. If I don't remember soon, I thought, it's going to look like I'm still pregnant, that I became so forgetful that I forgot to give birth well over a year ago.

The thought amused me, but made me forget even more, until my mind was so empty, it would have been a good time to learn a new alphabet. I think this is what golfers call the yips. Or else, TV

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The New Depression