As I cycled westwards along Piccadilly last week, I spotted Russell Brand walking eastwards, and gave him the little nod that we celebrities give one another.
I didn’t catch the return nod, as this deviation from full concentration on cycling wobbled me into the path of a taxi, and I had to quickly scudder inside the double yellows to avoid becoming celebrity purée.
I am a celebrity, as I have to constantly remind people, since I have over a thousand twitter followers, and that makes it official. Mind you, there are celebrities and there are celebrities: I couldn’t help noticing that other pedestrians were taking pictures with their mobiles of Russell’s retreating back. I checked over my shoulder: no amateur paps were recording my progress. With a heavy heart, I realised that if the incident with the taxi had been serious enough to send me to my maker, and Russell had rushed to my aid (no doubt thinking that such a small act of heroism would be an appropriate coda to Sachsgate in the mind of the public), the Evening Standard’s headline would’ve contained his name rather than mine. Hard on the heels of this distressing thought came an even more frightening possibility: that if, on the return journey I should fall under the wheels of another taxi, the headline might well read: ‘Cyclist maimed on Piccadilly; no celebrities harmed.’
Which would be factually inaccurate.
I have been recognised once, in Heathrow Airport, on my way to New York. One of the security staff saw my name, mentioned a few of the programmes I had worked on, and asked me to appear in a photograph with him (to the presumed bafflement of whoever he subsequently showed it to). This was extremely flattering, and to some extent made up for the time I walked off stage at a gig, went to the bar and asked for a drink, only to be told that only acts would be served. She seemed unwilling to believe that I was the person who’d been under the spotlight mere yards and moments away. But then, I have always worn my celebrity status lightly.
For example, I fixed the chain on a borrowed bicycle when it slipped off last week. Which isn’t to say celebrity status is somehow undercut by such actions: it’s no stretch of the imagination to visualise Bear Grylls, Alan Bennett, or Penelope Keith getting their hands greasy on the pavement. But I think we can all think of celebrities who wouldn’t even be seen on a bike, let alone performing emergency maintenance on one. (One notable exception: Eric Clapton was once spotted by a reliable friend changing a tyre on the Barnes side of the Hammersmith Bridge).
I am very lucky that I have been untroubled, in the main, by my public, to whom I am very grateful. Even my agent has been extremely good at extending me the privilege of my privacy, and as I sit by my dormant phone, typing, with my feet in tissue boxes, I think of Russell’s walk between the Ritz and BAFTA under the punishing gaze of a million camera phones, inhaling the teeming microbes and think, ‘There but for the grace of god go I.’