jo brand's week

Tuesday found me in Selfridges, having agreed to work there for two hours on behalf of the Terrence Higgins Trust. Selfridges was donating 10 per cent of takings for the evening. I have to confess these things are an ordeal. One has to steel oneself to be an exhibit and to be moved around as required. The usual gaggle of charming photographers had their imaginations working overtime in Santa's grotto as they suggested I drape myself seductively over Santa, who looked as unhappy about the idea as I did. The experience was eased to a great extent by the staff, who whisked me round and let me have the odd sneaky fag behind various displays (Thank you Tony, Paul, Penny and Mark). Other people off the telly were doing similar things ("Go on Jo, give 'im a kiss," as I passed Richard Wilson). But there's no doubt that doing some good does do you good. Everyone in Selfridges was in such a good mood that I can't imagine why they don't do it every day. Well, perhaps I can.

Sitting in a queue of traffic on the A40 out of London to Oxford is something I do quite a lot. At the traffic lights, various blokes ply their wares to disgruntled travellers sitting nose to tail. The other day my reverie was interrupted by someone shouting at me, "Oi, Jo!" I turned to see a lorry driver. "Oh Gawd, here we go," I thought - and then realised he was proffering a bunch of roses. With a cheery "Happy Christmas," he passed them to me. What a surprise, because I wasn't even wearing Impulse.

As the Mirror metamorphoses into The Sun, with just the lack of a pair of exposed mammaries to choose between them, it is depressing to realise that the vast majority of people in this country who purchase newspapers - and I use that term loosely - are being challenged intellectually only up to the age of nine. This presumably must be why women are concerned only about Tony Blair's barnet, why no one gives a toss about Europe and why supermodels' opinions on life are valued. The tabloids are a depressing indictment of contemporary British life ... Oh yeah, and they slag me off all the time too.

A company from America has taken over its first British prison, heralding, one would imagine, a bit of a rush by the Americans to sort out our criminal population, as if they hadn't got enough to do back home. Still, it's not really about that is it, silly me; it's about making profits on the backs of a section of the population many of whom started life without a hope. Not having a hope in England does put you in a slightly better position than not having a hope in America, where the size of the prison population is a testament to the desperation of people who have nothing in the richest society in the world. Still, an American ethos which is all but ingrained in this country anyway will ensure that the charmingly named Corrections Corporation of America will be able to drum up plenty of new business, l'm sure.

All those fitness-obsessed people who have tried to force relentless sporting activity down the throats of the rest of us must be very saddened this week to discover that research has shown that young types who take part in non-team sports such as aerobics and tennis are far more likely to become delinquents than those who don't. I have to confess having only been to aerobics once in my life, some 10 or so years ago, and it was the most hideous nightmare I have ever indulged in which seemed to me reminiscent of the atmosphere of those Hitler Youth mass exercises. At one point we had to do arm exercises to the extended version of "Free Nelson Mandela", and I found myself thinking after some minutes, "I wish they bloody would," if only to release us all from this torment. I never went back and I can say, with my poor limp hand on my heart, that since then I've not even indulged in the teeniest bit of shoplifting.

The ego of some people is breathtaking sometimes. I saw a little snippet of news this week about an Essex businessman who has recently paid pounds 80,000 to have a personalised number plate bearing his name, "Nigel". I cannot understand why you would want to drive round and demonstrate to the rest of the traffic on the road that you are prepared to spend a large fortune on attaching your own "I'm a bit of a big head" name to your vehicle. Spending that amount of money on a minor ego massage, when it could have gone to a million better places, seems obscene to me. l'd like to creep up his drive one night and replace it with a new number plate bearing the legend "Knobhead", for that is what he is.

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