I was without my dance partner last week. John Stapleton had abandoned me on the GMTV sofa for the comforts of a hotel in Manchester and a well-stocked mini-bar. Apparently this particular Labour party conference was like a family having problems, putting on a brave face for Christmas, according to one of those attending. I sat on the sofa in splendid isolation, and talked about global meltdowns. Greg Wise came in to do an interview on GMTV Today. He is one of the nicest men in showbiz. And possibly the most handsome. Last time he was in, I bored him to death with plays I had seen. I thought I saw panic in his eyes as I approached, so I left him contemplating a stain on the wall.
In the evening, I nipped down to an art gal-lery near the Ritz, where the award-winning cartoonist Martin Rowson (the Guardian, Daily Mirror, The Spectator) was having a F— party to celebrate his latest book, called F—: The Human Odyssey, a series of paintings telling the story of earth with only that word in the speech bubbles. One of my favourites is ‘The Shakespearian Theatre’, with the word repeated in iambic pentameter.
On Tuesday, I phoned Stapes after the News Hour for a debrief. He told me he had gone out for a Chinese the night before with Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, our editor, Martin Frizell, and our political editor, Gloria de Piero. There was a lull in the conversation, and he asked Alan, ‘Are you going to get promoted?’ There was a silence. ‘I’m not sure there’s going to be a reshuffle,’ said Johnson. ‘I was talking about QPR,’ said John.
Clare Nasir, our weather presenter, asked me if I’d seen any warm trousers for her outside broadcasts, with winter coming up. I spotted the perfect pair in La Calisto at the Royal Opera House. It’s after Metamorphoses by Ovid (Book Two, if you’re wondering), and despite the dirgy 17th-century music I love it. The costumes are marvellous — there’s a huge chameleon on wheels dishing out drinks (I want, I want, I want), a louche cow standing on two hooves (yes, yes, I’ll have two), three beautiful peacocks (how nice would that be on the balcony?) and a couple of large goats, one of whom is wearing voluminous furry spotty trousers.
Wednesday, and the Stapes was still in Manchester, where he was interviewing the Prime Minister. In the studio we made do with Liam Neeson and Will Young. Liam Neeson will not have remembered the last time I met him. I was trying every single whisky at the Athenaeum with Lynda Bellingham. We asked him to join us. He did. But frankly, I don’t recall much of the evening.
Kathy Lette’s book launch (To Love, Honour and Betray) is already roasting by the time I get to the Haymarket Hotel. It’s a pool party with drag queens and men in tiny trunks. I have my photo taken with Craig, who’s about seven foot tall in his stilettos and huge hair. And then with Anneka Rice and Jason Donovan. No doubt it’ll be on the front page of every newspaper tomorrow. No doubt at all.
On Thursday, I have my dance partner back. We have a rant in make-up about those responsible for the financial crisis. We think they should be declared bankrupt and forced to hand over everything they own. Why should they continue to thrive when they’ve made the rest of us paranoid about our savings/pensions/houses? I feel a campaign coming on. In the afternoon, I take the Tube to Broadcasting House for Open Book. I’m to discuss 100 Must-Read Books for Men with one of its authors, Stephen E. Andrews. I think men who read, read. Or go into publishing. Those who don’t read will read this book because it’s a list. I make the point that it would be even better if the pages were made of pizza and there was a token for beer at the end. Mr Andrews disagrees. With hindsight, I may be on his side. It would attract flies.
The evening brings the Royal Court and The Girlfriend Experience. It’s a play based entirely on the conversations of prostitutes, who work in a brothel by the sea where mature women specialise in what they describe as ‘a surprisingly caring and sympathetic service’. John offers that to bottles of Chardonnay.
What a beautiful, sunny week it’s been. And Friday is no exception. A shame, really, that I have to sit in a car for an hour and a half to go to Welwyn Garden City for a book signing at WH Smith. The manager and assistant manager are lovely, and I sit drinking tea in their office, signing a stack of my most excellent novel Coming Up Next. It’s doing very well, thank you, but I wonder if it wouldn’t sell even more if it was printed on very thinly sliced white chocolate with a coupon for a glass of Pinot Grigio at the end. Must mention it to HarperCollins.
And then it’s Saturday, and Fiona Bruce’s 1980s party. It takes me ten minutes to make my hair into a puffball. I put on leggings, a top I bought in Dorothy Perkins and a pair of leg warmers, and go to meet up with a multitude of Madonnas, a brace of Adam Ants, a solitary Jimmy Savile and two people from the Ten O’clock News who I drunkenly berate for not dressing up. Dance like a demon until midnight and wake up on Sunday with stiff hair and a hangover. I hate it when the Prosecco is off. And I’m on my own again tomorrow. Stapes is off for another mini-bar experience, allegedly covering some story of major importance.