For some months now, I have been giving my occupation as ‘celebrity’. It all started when I half-watched a tv show and thought the people on it were remarkable only for their slightly higher than average levels of doltish nobbery and low levels of self control. At the end of the programme, it turned out to be a ‘celebrity edition.’ I’d had no idea. At first I felt bad about not recognising either of the celebrities paraded for my especial viewing pleasure; I had been an agent for five years, after all (I booked that Mikhail Gorbachev, y’know, or at least should if you’ve spent more than thirty seconds in my company). Quickly the feeling turned to smug satisfaction, and then realisation that here was a trick I could pull. I eagerly switched on my computer and fired off emails declining any involvement whatsoever with the following programmes:
Celebrity Big Brother
Celebrity Come Dine With Me
I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here
Celebrity Bargain Hunt
Celebrity Cash in the Attic
Celebrity Family Fortunes
Celebrity Embarrassing Bodies
Actually, Saturday Kitchen was a bit of a wrench, but I have my principles. The only shred of temptation I feel to appear on any of these is the knowledge that I would then be close enough to rough up the craven, gurning host in front of millions of viewers. John Humphrys is the exception here, as he clearly doesn’t know who any of his celebrity guests are (‘You are one of the country’s most glistening and dazzling celebrities. [Sotto voce] It says here.’) He probably thinks Heat is a magazine dedicated to the boiler industry (which in a strange way it sort of is. Private joke. Ignore).
So you can imagine (though if you can’t, keep reading because I’m going to tell you) my dismay when the next day I opened the paper and found I had been papped. Or rather, MacGuffin had. In an article about the canal, MacGuffin’s image was cynically employed to convey a sense of glamour, the publication basking in the glow of my recently acquired celebrity status. I won’t give this tiresome rag the oxygen of publicity by name-checking them here. There she was, my home, exposed for any uncultured pleb to drool over, reproduced in untold number on common cheap paper, with a staple in her hull. I paced the train carriage (yes reader, I use public transport: keeping it real) with a film of angstsweat pricking my forehead, wearing an expression that I fear may have put off nervous autograph hunters. I apologise for this; I try to be approachable to the little people who have put me where I am today, and you should pretend that I’m just like you really, though of course I’m not. That night, ensconced in MacGuffin’s hull, I twisted sleeplessly under the duvet, mind filled with images of massed grunting troglodytes feverishly caressing her picture with blunt fingers, greasy from yet another night of Chicken Cottage, doubtless imagining me within. I felt their dull, hungry eyes on my defenceless body (I have recently lost weight). I felt naked, though I was in fact wearing my favourite checked blue pantaloons. MacGuffin’s steel hull had never felt so gossamer.
Must this, then, be my lot? May I have no privacy? What next? First MacGuffin, then – who knows? – long lens shots of me at the beach? I can taste bile in my mouth as I realise I’ve been going to a public gym all this time. Surely it’s not implausible to conclude that a star-struck fellow exercisee will have snapped me Diana-style at the scissor press? I expect the red tops are sitting on a bundle of pix of parts of my body I had hitherto been prepared to share only with my life partner and the thousands of members of LA Fitness. The telephone becomes a thing of horror, the instrument enabling a leering, ink-stained Fleet Street editor to access me at any time of the day or night, to strike some sordid deal. What pact will I be forced to enter into to keep my privacy, what price will be exacted? O Paris! How I love you in the autumn! I was always happy there, seated outside my favourite bistro, cardboard beermats twixt cobble and table leg, the espresso steam condensing on my sunglasses as the passing Parisians afforded me some analogue of insouciant disregard.
I have tired myself, and must now rest. It seems silly, but when I’m not in the remorseless glare of the public, I like to occupy myself with hobbies. Sometimes I think that if I couldn’t spend a few hours each day cataloguing my urine collection, I’d go insane.