What have I done? I’ve been in the Big Brother House less than a fortnight, yet the real world feels far away and very long ago.
Has Trump launched a nuclear strike on China? Is Theresa May still PM?
These are questions I can’t answer, of course, because I’ve had no contact with the outside since New Year’s Eve.
Rachel Johnson, 52, lifts the lid on her fortnight in the Celebrity Big Brother house in a secret dispatch
I’ve heard nothing of friends or family and have seen no media.
I’m stuck with only my ever-present housemates for company – and bossy, controlling Big Brother.
Cameras follow my every move, microphones pick up every whispered word.
The only places without cameras are the toilets, and those don’t lock.
(I have introduced a system whereby housemates cry ‘Woo-hoo’ as they approach to try to secure a little privacy).
I can see now why Vanessa Feltz had a full-on meltdown in here during the first series in 2001, and why Germaine Greer bailed after just a couple of days when she gave CBB a whirl in 2005.
Worst of all is the appalling sleep deprivation.
The lights in the dormitories stay on until the last person has come to bed, and most nights that means dawn.
We are zombies on autopilot.
Amid the chaos of the House, only one thing is certain: that as soon as I’ve fallen into bed with an eyemask on, ear plugs in, over-thecounter sleep aids thoroughly swallowed and a pillow over my head, the loudspeaker will boom into life.
‘This is Big Brother. Will Rachel come to the diary room.’
And you can’t catch up in the daytime.
If I even so much as close my eyes, Big Brother takes to the tannoy once more: ‘Housemates are reminded they are not allowed to sleep during the day.’
A day, let me remind you, can last until five in the morning.
Why, then, am I here, held prisoner along with 15 others (at the time of writing), caged like an exhausted animal in a zoo?
Why have I allowed this to happen? Well, the fee, I admit was a consideration.
Like many working mothers, I don’t have a pension.
Rachel (pictured getting cosy with housemate Jonny Mitchell in the garden) admits being an old-fashioned flirt
And I’m sticking to my story that I liked the pitch: that 2018 would be a special edition of Celebrity Big Brother, a Year of the Woman series to honour 100 years of female suffrage.
It is a splendid cause well worth celebrating.
Right now, I’m not sure quite how the empowerment stuff is working out – or how it could ever work out, given that our ‘allfemale’ show has been crashed by a gang of eight men.
We are currently waiting on them hand and foot like robotic Stepford Wives.
The idea is this: we are being pitted against the male contestants in a faux-battle of the sexes, to establish whether women or men ‘hold the power’.
Hmm. It’s certainly changed the dynamic, and – because I know how these things work – I’m bound to be accused of old-fashioned flirting.
Everyone here at least pretends to be instant bezzies with everyone else.
In my defence, the ‘slut drop’ dance move I demonstrated on Day 3 is not nearly as saucy as it sounds – certainly not when I taught the others how to do it.
(I’d first been shown it by uber-glamorous actress Liz Hurley).
It’s easy: just one, two, down to the floor, then straight back up. Hard on the knees, though.
And my display of ‘twerking’ the following day with Andrew Brady, formerly an Apprentice contestant, was decidedly restrained, if not actually half-hearted.
Then there was the incident on Tuesday when I nominated Jonny Mitchell, a heart-throb who has previously featured on Love Island, for eviction from the House.
I claimed, justifiably, that as a married woman I didn’t trust myself around him because he was so gorgeous etc.
‘He’s a single guy and it’s a completely valid reason. He’s just too much of a temptation.’
OK, I accept saying that, but I insist it was a moment of panic – nominations are horrible, like drowning kittens – not an episode of peak flirt.
I didn’t want to make a negative comment about the poor man, who is already made out to be a Love Island love rat, so I swerved.
‘I’ve danced cheek-to-cheek a la Princess Diana with the wonderful Wayne Sleep, darling, who’s given me a lesson in ballet and one in tap dancing,’ she writes
Jonny took my comments like a man and I do hope my loved ones did too.
All that said, I fully admit that I am trying (and probably failing) to game the system.
For example, I don’t use the hot tub unless I’m with scenic Ashley James from Made In Chelsea (who has double G boobs) or Jess Impiazzi (double Ds apparently), an actress and model who made her name in a reality show called Ex On The Beach.
I’m calculating that if I ensure my hot tub outings coincide with appearances by one of these ‘stunnas’, then the cameras will be rather less interested in me, and that it’s less likely the nation will be treated to a gruesome display of RJ in her bikini.
Unlike the resident CBB hotties, I am far happier in my ‘loungerie’ of sweat-pants and Tshirt than cavorting in lingerie.
Our transexual newsreader, India Willoughby, who worked for BBC Borders, thinks differently – preferring a great deal of make-up and few clothes.
My patience with her endless strops when people don’t react to her ‘as a woman’ has worn thin.
In case you haven’t seen CBB, India’s trademark is to prance away in a calculated display-flounce should anyone ‘misgender’ her, or one of the men suggest they wouldn’t like to date her.
The feisty contestant even gave housemates a demonstration of her very own take on the ‘slut drop’
As she has explained at length, calling her ‘he’ or ‘him’ is a dagger to the heart.
I’ve no doubt that’s true. But trust me, after another self-obsessed monologue about how she was John for 50 years yet was always ‘just a woman’, this is an easy mistake to make.
She has given us plenty to talk about, but her nightly tantrums have certainly lowered the mood at times, to say the least.
To alleviate the boredom, we have daily tasks, where we are taken off to decorate fairycakes, change tyres, or assemble toy cars in the dark bowels of the building.
In between tasks is a world of lounging, drinking, chatting, smoking, cooking, eating – and offending India.
However, the House truly sparked into life during the live show on Tuesday, when we were plunged into face-to-face ‘nominations’.
The first reckoning.
Emma Willis, the presenter, entered the House and the women had to sit on the sofas and name two housemates to leave.
My palms started buzzing as if I was being electrocuted, this was so traumatic.
No fewer than five out of the eight women nominated India for eviction but she looked satisfied as if this was part of her game-plan.
Why? Well, apparently the public love a villain (so might keep her in) but if she goes, as she revealed, ‘Don’t worry, I’m just going to slag you all off on Twitter and across the media in interviews and articles anyway.’
Knock yourself out, India! As far as I’m concerned, fill your boots. (In the event, her ploy failed and she left after a public vote on Friday).
So, here I am – entombed in a hangar in Elstree for up to a month.
Whirring cameras keep me in view at all time. Every vertical surface has both eyes and ears.
When the men arrived in the house on Day 4, I learned to my horror that Ann Widdecombe’s snoring had been broadcast on live TV.
Yet, believe it or not, there are some upsides to life in here.
I’ve had a foot rub from an R&B star named Ginuwine.
I’ve danced cheek-to-cheek a la Princess Diana with the wonderful Wayne Sleep, darling, who’s given me a lesson in ballet and one in tap dancing.
I’ve shot the breeze with Liverpool FC’s living legend John Barnes, covering everything from slavery to the dramatic finish to the 1989 football season.
I’ve had a lecture from Ann about the Reformation and everything else besides – from the NHS and the failings of the #MeToo movement to the non-existence of climate change.
But endless late nights and trying to sleep with the bedroom light on is tough – and she’s still confused about where her second pair of knickers have got to
We moan a bit (in fact a lot) about the shortage of sleep and the strong lights and the lack of fresh air.
About the air conditioning and the fact that the fresh coffee pods in the espresso machine ran out days ago.
I don’t even get a bed to myself – and find myself sharing with Ashley.
But the truth is, none of us really wants to go because however cream-crackered, we’re addicted to the action in here.
Though there are times when I think I am completely batty for taking part, I know I’ll miss it when it’s over.
So before you dismiss CBB as an exercise in over-lit inanity and reach for the zapper, I’d ask you to think about the following, compelling, questions: Will John Barnes ever run out of things to say?
Will India ever wear suitable clothes for a woman of 52?
Will Jess (as I hope) win?
And what does any of this prove about feminism?
More importantly, who stole my toothpaste?
And will my knickers – I put five in the wash and only one pair came back – ever re-emerge?