News, Culture & Society

A dozen pints with my mates and a curry… that will be my taste of freedom

Sunday, April 5

Honor Blackman, my favourite Bond girl as sassy Pussy Galore, died today, aged 94, at her home in Lewes, East Sussex, three miles from my village of Newick.

A statement said: ‘Honor died peacefully, from natural causes, at home, surrounded by her family.’

By very sad coincidence, a great friend of mine who attended school in Lewes with me contacted me to say her lovely 87-year-old mother died yesterday from coronavirus in a local care home and had been unable to see any of her family once she tested positive.

So, my friend’s last conversation with her mum was on FaceTime.

Honor Blackman, who died the way we’d surely all like to die, has been rightly lauded for her wonderful eight-decade career as an actress

This devastating disease has caused so much horrific pain and grief, but the appalling isolation it inflicts on people as they fight for their lives, and in many cases as they lose that fight, is especially cruel.

Honor Blackman, who died the way we’d surely all like to die, has been rightly lauded for her wonderful eight-decade career as an actress.

Pauline Middleton wasn’t famous to the wider world, but she was well known in her local community and deserves equal praise for being a kind, decent person who worked selflessly for numerous charities. RIP.

Tuesday, April 7

Boris Johnson is in intensive care with coronavirus, which has brought sharp focus to the fact that Covid-19 can strike anyone, regardless of age or status.

I’ve known Boris for 25 years and wish him nothing but a full speedy recovery.

But in a sign of the viciously ugly partisan times we’ve endured since Brexit ripped the country in two, some disgusting morons promptly delighted in his deteriorating condition, epitomised by Rail, Maritime and Transport union boss Steve Hedley, who said on Facebook he would ‘throw a party’ if Boris dies, and hoped the whole Cabinet would catch the disease.

‘Is this factual?’ texted an enraged Sir Ian Botham on hearing about Hedley’s comments.

‘Yes,’ I replied.

Seconds later, Beefy came off his long run to tweet on behalf of the nation: ‘Steve Hedley, you are the lowest of lowlife that exists on this planet, you are a revolting piece of trash and I hope you never hold a position of office again… disgusting.’

The Johnson family, most of whom I’ve known as long as Boris, are a legendarily tough bunch, but I can only imagine how shocking this must be for them, especially after all the joy they experienced when he won the Election in December.

His dad Stanley was the first person I saw the morning after Boris beat Jeremy Corbyn with a thumping majority, and he hugged me in wild jubilation in the Good Morning Britain corridor crying: ‘My boy’s done it!’

Now his boy’s fighting for his life.

‘I’m so sorry,’ I emailed Stanley today, ‘what a dreadful situation. Just want to say we’re all rooting for your son and willing him to pull through.’

‘How kind of you to write,’ he replied. ‘Yesterday was pretty grim, but at least today so far hasn’t brought any deterioration.’

I also texted Boris’s sister Rachel to offer support.

‘It’s been a harrowing, nerve-shredding time,’ she replied.

Wednesday, April 8

Last night, I was sitting watching TV when water suddenly began pouring through the ceiling.

It turned out that my wife Celia had run a bath and forgotten about it.

This was such an unusual memory failing on her part that she felt compelled to issue a rare apology: ‘So sorry, I’m clearly losing my mind amid all this madness.’

‘Don’t worry,’ I chuckled, as we mopped up. ‘I’ll hold things together for both of us.’

This morning, I was about to walk out on to the GMB studio floor at 5.55am when I looked in the mirror and, to my horror, realised I’d completely forgotten to shave when I got up.

Cue a frantic search of the deserted make-up room that finally unearthed a blunt electric razor, just in time for me to give it a quick rake across my face, then run on set, panting like a thirsty labrador.

‘You OK?’ asked Susanna.

‘It’s a long story,’ I sighed, scratching my erratic stubble.

We’re all going nuts.

Thursday, April 9

Boris, thankfully, is out of intensive care. ‘What a relief!’ I texted Rachel.

‘I can draw breath today,’ she replied, ‘but bloody hell…’

This unprecedented crisis is producing so many ‘bloody hell’ moments.

Monday, April 13

‘I want to go back to normal,’ exclaimed Susanna this morning, as we chatted off-camera with Lorraine Kelly between our two shows.

‘I know,’ Lorraine agreed. ‘I’m fed up with this now. I crave just being able to go to Starbucks again and buy a coffee.’

It’s funny how it’s not life’s luxuries we miss most, but the simplest of pleasures.

When we do return to any kind of ‘normality’, I wouldn’t jet off to any of my preferred glamour haunts like Beverly Hills, Antigua or St Tropez.

Nope. I’d just jump in my car, head down to Newick, rendezvous with my cricket club mates at the Royal Oak pub, drink at least 12 pints of Harvey’s best bitter, then stumble joyfully to the next-door tandoori restaurant for a chicken tikka masala. That’s what freedom would taste like to me.

Tuesday, April 14

Talking of simple pleasures, in last week’s column I listed ten famous people from Princess Diana and Bill Clinton to Nelson Mandela and Beyoncé – nine of whom I’d met, one of whom I hadn’t, and asked readers to guess which was the latter.

The answer was Michael Jackson, though I did once interview him on the phone, and asked him if he ever did normal things.

‘I go to the movies every Thursday with my friend Elizabeth Taylor,’ he said. ‘We walk in, sit down, watch our film and walk out. Just like everyone else.’

Then he chuckled. ‘Though every time we leave, the audience all stand up and applaud us.’