On a chilly afternoon, on the edge of spring, Ant McPartlin saw the world as he knew it slip from his grasp.
It wasn’t just his car the television star lost control of when he crashed into two oncoming vehicles in West London last Sunday.
It was everything else, too: his career, his future, his good standing, the affection and respect of the public.
Some diehard fans still see the troubled McPartlin, who has had problems with depression and addiction, as the victim in this sorry saga.
However, the fact that he reportedly drove a car while over the drink-drive limit and nearly ended the lives of an entire family shows a recklessness that will be hard for most to forgive.
Some diehard fans still see the troubled Ant McPartlin (pictured leaving his London home for rehab), who has had problems with depression and addiction, as the victim in his sorry drink-driving saga, WRITES JAN MOIR
You wouldn’t have guessed this from television reports the next day, mind you. It wasn’t long before the Showbiz Pals Battalion (Daytime Telly Company) raised rifles and rushed to Ant’s defence.
On Monday morning, an empathetic Lorraine Kelly sent her best wishes to McPartlin while discussing the accident on her live ITV show.
She did not mention the family whose three-year-old daughter was taken to hospital, nor extend the same sympathetic courtesies to them.
On This Morning later, Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby coped by Not Mentioning The Incident At All, an unusual omission for a couple who are usually all over the latest celeb scuttlebutt.
One can only imagine the coverage the incident would have received on their show had it been a star in the car who’d been hit by a drunk-driver, instead of the other way around.
Happier times: Ant McPartlin is pictured with his friend of 29 years and TV co-host Declan Donnelly
Surely we’d never have heard the end of it. Holly’s bottom lip would have been trembling like a snowdrop in a storm, Phillip would have been oscillating with righteous anger.
By the following day, all parties tried to redress the balance, but it was too late.
The genie was out of the bottle, the double standard clear for all to see, while the unsavoury implication remained that celebrities really do believe the usual moral codes do not apply to celebrities, especially one as valuable to ITV as Ant McPartlin.
Many not in the showbiz bubble were furious at the gentle handling of this explosive incident across the entertainment spectrum.
More worrying, perhaps, is the pervasive message being sent out by many with a vested interest that somehow none of this is McPartlin’s fault.
Why? Because he is suffering from depression, you idiots. He needs help, they say. Let’s hope, they chorus, he gets all the help and care he needs at this difficult time.
It would take a harder heart than mine not to wish him well, but I think it is wrong to make mental health and depression generous excuses for crimes.
Dec is pictured arriving home in west London yesterday while his friend Ant is in rehab
Ant has had a difficult time with drugs and alcohol, which are depressants in themselves.
No doubt they have kicked him into a spiral of even more depressive behaviour, but he has agency over his situation.
Some users might be more susceptible than others to the trap of addiction, but Ant and others like him are not in the grip of an uncontrollable disease that is to blame for all their woes.
They are not victims, and it doesn’t help them to be treated as helpless amoeba at the mercy of their own desire.
This whole concept of addiction as a disease originated in the U.S. not very long ago, where it was classified as such so that people could get it covered by their medical insurance policies.
If it was a disease, went the reasoning, then you could get treatment for it, and then you could get that treatment paid for.
However, it is your choice as an adult whether or not you swallow the drink and ingest the drugs that exacerbate your condition.
An underlying depression might be the reason why some people self-medicate, but all this does is lock users into a further spiral of depression, making them feel even more miserable.
In NHS facilities, professionals who work in drugs and alcohol services can only properly assess addicts once they have been off drugs or alcohol for three to six months.
Pictures show the 42-year-old in the aftermath of his car crash in Richmond, south west London
They have little sympathy for people like Ant, whose weakness harms others. And they accept, unlike many in showbusiness, that a lot of people drink and take drugs simply because they really bloody enjoy doing so.
How did Ant get to this sad juncture? After all, he is worth more than £60 million and is a national treasure — a man who, along with partner Declan Donnelly, has won 17 National Television Awards on the trot.
Since the year 2000, he has been a fixed point in the firmament of celebrity; few stars are more loved than he; an entire television station built its prime-time output on the back of his relentless good cheer — well, on screen at least.
Yet there isn’t always a connection between status and happiness. Ant’s life seemed golden, touched by privilege and good fortune, but it didn’t seem like that to him.
In Australia, James Packer, the billionaire ex-fiance of Mariah Carey, is stepping down from all businesses because of mental health issues.
Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can buy you the best treatment facilities on offer. So off he troops to rehab, the modern public signifier of regret and apology.
The Saturday Night Takeaway host is pictured with his legal team outside Kingston Police Station in south west London where he was interviewed before being charged with drink-driving
He joins the sad parade of stars who have fallen from grace, including wife-beater and serial cheat Ozzy Osbourne and drug aficionados Robbie Williams and Russell Brand.
Wayne Rooney was convicted of drink-driving last year after being three times over the limit, while Chris Tarrant and Mel Gibson both managed some kind of comeback after being convicted of the same crime.
Can the same happen to Ant McPartlin, this unhappy man-boy trapped in a persistent cheery, cheeky persona upon which an entire brand was hung?
Will he ever be forgiven for this dangerous and irresponsible act? I hope so.
But he and his friends have to acknowledge his guilt and responsibility first.
What a masterstroke from the BBC to bring back Fanny Cradock.
Many of her vintage cooking programmes are now available on iPlayer, soon to be followed by classic shows from golden oldies including Delia Smith and Keith Floyd.
God, Fanny! What a monster. Way back when, she was the reigning culinary queen in the age of deference, an autocratic gourmandette whose self-imposed mission was to teach the lower orders how to cook and introduce the awful peasants to the finer things in life.
Such as? Such as Madame Fleurette’s Flan (plums and chocolate) and French Yorkshire Pudding, which she said was basically a gougere and had been stolen from the French in the first place.
In Fanny’s world, foodstuffs were forever being made into jellies and pressed into moulds.
She put brandy in her fritter batter, used Trex in her gingerbread and made ‘special Creole dishes’ by adding orange juice to a stew or hotpot.
What a masterstroke from the BBC to bring back Fanny Cradock (pictured). Many of her vintage cooking programmes are now available on iPlayer, soon to be followed by classic shows from golden oldies including Delia Smith and Keith Floyd, WRITES JAN MOIR
‘I would sooner put a baby in the fridge than an egg,’ she would cry, while sweeping around the studio in her Balenciaga dresses.
I’ve always felt connected to Fanny. Like me, she once wrote for the Daily Telegraph. And like me, she was once that newspaper’s restaurant critic.
In 1949, she and Johnnie wrote a column called Bon Viveur, where they trundled around country and Continent writing reviews of restaurants and hotels.
Just over 50 years later, I would do the same thing myself, with my own Johnnie in tow. We had our share of filthy meals, but Fanny concentrated only on the positive and advised diners never to eat at restaurants ‘hemmed in by cars’.
She was bossy, superior and a crashing snob — and, like most snobs, she was a self-made construct.
Her real name was Phyllis and, instead of growing up in a French chateau, as she claimed, she was born and bred in Leytonstone, East London, and once sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door.
Fanny Cradock is pictured comparing sauces with French TV chef Raymond Oliver
Off stage, she consulted ouija boards, knocked back amphetamines and fed poor Johnnie nothing but sardines.
Viewers always assumed they were married but the couple didn’t tie the knot until 1977, by which time she had been booted off television for being too condescending and downright horrible to the guests on her show.
She was awful — and so was her Cheese a la Zizi — but I loved her, including her wonky lipstick and flying-crow eyebrows.
Today’s manicured celebrity chefs are always so needy, so desperate for the audience to love them and their latest buttery creations.
Fanny was a dame who didn’t give a damn — and that’s almost as refreshing as one of her ghastly powdered ginger cocktails.
It was a privilege to walk a mile or two in Fanny’s shoes, even though I don’t share her fondess for green cheese (add food colouring), pink milk (ditto) and angelica decoration. Still, cheers my dear! Welcome back.
Sadie Frost claimed this week that she thinks she has ‘definitely been a bit of a workaholic all my life’.
Yes, it can be exhausting designing knickers for a lingerie line that went bust quicker than a pop-front bra.
Then there was all that yoga, plus partying with Kate Moss — it is difficult to see where she found the time to squeeze in five minutes of honest work (and writing that book about vegan cupcakes doesn’t count).
Sadie Frost claimed this week that she thinks she has ‘definitely been a bit of a workaholic all my life’. She is pictured arriving at a London dinner this week
Anyway, now the deluded 52-year-old Primrose Hill party girl is thinking about ‘retiring quite soon’ — but from what?
‘I have been looking in the mirror and thinking: ‘How do some people do it? How are they not actually ageing?’ ‘ she wondered this week.
‘I looked at the Golden Globes, and women that always looked so much older than me are now looking ten years younger than me.’
Perhaps it’s all the hard toil that has aged her. Ahem.
Love the new Britney Spears doll Mattel have just brought out. No, hang on a minute — apparently, it is Britney herself!
The poor woman has been plasticised to within an inch of her belly button in a new advertising campaign.
It’s not even setting a body dysmorphic bad example, because she looks so unnatural that no one could believe it was her in the first place.
No schoolgirls have been harmed in the making of this ad.
And those who were once impressed by Britney must now think she looks a bit foolish. In more ways than one.
Love the new Britney Spears doll Mattel have just brought out. No, hang on a minute — apparently, it is Britney herself! WRITES JAN MOIR
No more fumbling for loose change in the pews — contactless cards are now to be allowed on church collection plates.
A volunteer will do the transactions on a handheld machine, it seems. Is the service charge included? Let us hope and pray it is.
Danny Boyle is to direct the next Bond film. He is a genius, but I am already worried that he has stated his Bond girls will reflect the mores of the #MeToo movement, WRITES JAN MOIR
Danny Boyle is to direct the next Bond film. He is a genius, of course, but I am already worried that he has stated his Bond girls will reflect the mores of the #MeToo movement.
What does this mean? That they are going to accuse Bond of sexual harassment?
Let’s hope he doesn’t turn 007 into a worthy wimp. From Russia With A Polite Handshake?