Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'The panic was rising. I couldn't make myself a cheese-making rock star or suddenly know everything about books'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

"So you're happy to take part in the Independent Contributors' Christmas Auction, right," said my boss.

"Course," I quickly replied. The Independent does this every year: all their contributors offer something it might be a cartoon (nice) or a night out (fun). It could involve a tour of something or joining the contributor at a meaty talk or debate. Whatever that journalist or illustrator focuses on well, they offer something that suits that.

It raises a whole lot of money that gets split between some great charities (there is one that is, um, focusing on buying one particular gorilla a nice lunch, but you know... me and animals it's not a good mix), but the rest of the money is spent rather brilliantly.

"So," continued my boss, "what are you going to offer then?"


"Claud? You there? Alex James shows his highest bidder how to make cheese..."

More silence.

"John Walsh takes them to a great literary event. A couple of years ago the person who won that lot went to Bill Clinton's book launch. The guy met Clinton and they chatted and he had his book signed and, you know, it was great."


"You could have lunch with whoever won your lot? Tracey Emin has lunch, which is pretty amazing because, you know, she's Tracey Emin."

(Sharp intake of breath)

"You there?"


"Have a think and get back to me."

Have a think? What can I possibly offer? I can't draw; I can barely write. I warble on about how my husband quite likes tortilla chips. I think I got four columns out of the fact I don't really think I'm a cat person and now I have to offer up something important something that has to raise a lot of money.

I quickly phoned my husband.

"We're moving to the country and it's about time we started making cheese."

"Are you still asleep?"


"You've started talking in your sleep."

"And when were you going to tell me that?"

"I was waiting."

"For what, exactly?"

"Until we were alone and had nothing to say."

"You're really weird."

"What kind of cheese?"

"Excuse me?"

"What kind of cheese will we make?"

"Scrap that. You're demented. I've started talking in my sleep and you haven't shared it with me in case we run out of things to talk about. Have you met me? We never run out of things to talk about. So you were planning on bringing this up in about 30 years' time when we're playing dominoes on a cruise ship. I would finally be stuck for something to say, and you would bring up the fascinating fact that I chat in my sleep. I can hardly live with you in a metropolis; let's not put ourselves under the added pressure of living in a field and being in charge of a dairy farm, eh?"

"All I'm saying is Cheddar yes, Stilton no."

I had to hang up. Now the panic was rising. I couldn't make myself a cheese-making rock star and I couldn't suddenly know everything about books. I can't say that I'm one of the leading artists of my time and so lunch is out.

I called my best friend, Lucy.

"Luce, I need to give something for an auction that has to do with me being there. It has to be about me."

"Your husband's been on the phone."

"Does he want to know what I want for Christmas again?"

"It wasn't that particular dilemma..."

"Just as long as it's not a bloody Terry's Chocolate Orange."

"You love those."

"Every year. For the last 10 years. That's all I'm saying..."

"Why don't they do a mint one?"

"Um. Because then it wouldn't be an orange."

"They could do a mint leaf."

"What did he want?"

"He thinks you're unravelling because you can't match up to the other Indy columnists."

"He's right."

"Why don't you take them round a Terry's Chocolate Orange factory and at the end you could meet Terry and suggest other flavours... Terry's Coffee Bean... Terry's Strawberry Crme..."

"You know it's not owned by an actual man called Terry, right?"

"On second thoughts, absolutely no one would bid for that..."

I quickly pretended someone was on the other line. I called my boss back.

"Yep. Yep. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Stick that on page 6. I want more drama on the trees. Find me a picture of a sad oak. What is it, Claud?"

"I can't think of anything like a lunch or a debate or a fashion show..."


"So. What I was thinking..."


"Was that I offer, like, a long time at my house. They can come to the zoo and I can cook and they can watch my husband eat crisps with his feet, which is sort of becoming a Saturday tradition, and they could stay over and maybe they might fancy the aquarium and, uh, they could come round to my mum's?"

"Bang goes the gorilla."