Editor-at-large: Janet's Jungle Diary

When our editor-at-large, Janet Street-Porter, flew off to the jungle we were afraid for her, afraid for her camp mates, afraid for the snakes. We should have known better. Now JSP returns in glory, with the frank, bitchy inside story of how she became queen of low-rent, high-rating 'reality' TV
Click to follow
The Independent Online

One of the reasons I decided to take part in I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! was the opportunity to keep a diary. But the programme-makers decided that I could only write it for 30 minutes a day (in two 15-minute sessions) at times they dictated, and only within the confines of the small bush telegraph hut, where contestants face a blank wall behind which is a hidden camera. We were body-searched before we went in to the jungle, and writing equipment was otherwise banned. I kept my small black moleskin notebook in a polythene bag in my rucksack. In the torrential rain and humid temperatures of the tropical rain forest, everything soon got damp and smelly. I washed my socks out and they took three days to dry! Nine people were brought together in the jungle-like conditions of the Australian bush by ITV, which broadcast almost everything we did, day and night, while the public voted on who should be subjected to trials or ejected from the set. With me at the beginning were, in no particular order: the singers Brian Harvey (formerly of E17), Sheila Ferguson (ex-Three Degrees) and Natalie Appleton (All Saints); the comedian Joe Pasquale; Antonio Fargas from Starsky & Hutch (known by his character's name in that series as Huggy Bear); the former royal valet Paul Burrell; Fran Cosgrave, who is a nightclub owner and has dated famous women; and Nancy Sorrell, best known as the wife of Vic Reeves.

Our possessions were minimal; a change of clothes, a bar of soap and one horrible green towel (damp from day one). I forgot a swimsuit, so the production team bought me a rather fetching swirly pink one. Luckily it covered my midriff! The shampoo we were given was like paint stripper, so I used it to wash my socks. I swam every day and wet my hair, slathering it in conditioner. It ended up looking terrific and so did my skin, which made me wonder what on earth I was doing spending a fortune on Crème de la Mer back in London. Sadly my body soon became a human painting-by-numbers canvas of bright red mosquito bites.

By the end of the 17 days I had lost more than 2.5kg in weight; my legs and arms were covered in scratches and bruises; and I had about 30 insect bites. As watches were banned, I can only guess that I fell asleep around 9pm and awoke at first light, around 4.30am. Our beds were swags, canvas panels raised off the ground on poles, with thin foam mattresses and sleeping bags. Towards the end, rats were running around the camp and over my feet as I tried to cook - but they looked pretty clean, unlike the mean black creatures I encounter in London. I just let them get on with it - after all we'd invaded their environment, not the other way round.

Saturday 20 November. Day 1

Wake up in Versace Hotel, Surfer's Paradise, on the Gold Coast of Queensland in Australia at 5am, feeling as if I am on Death Row. Taken out of the hotel, put in a limo and driven back in again for the photographers. I meet the others on a roof terrace at 7.30am. It's already sweltering. Paul Burrell looks sweaty in a long-sleeved white shirt. (From now on we never see his arms covered up again - he's determined to flash his biceps at the world while in the jungle.) Fran's got a weird haircut; it looks as if someone had an epileptic fit while they wielded the clippers. Natalie Appleton is small and nervy, Sophie Anderton a bit shy, Nancy Sorrell very bubbly and chatty. Joe quiet, Sheila Ferguson very glamorous, Huggy (Antonio Fargas) pretty cool.

Dr Bob gives us a health and safety talk; shows us specimens of horrible insects, including jumping ants, ticks, biting spiders in all sizes and snakes that "chew". Even the trees are full of thorns. Natalie already looks sick. I realise it's mostly bullshit designed to destabilise us for the benefit of the cameras. I loathe Dr Bob.

We are split into two groups. My helicopter swoops about a lot over the mountains and jungle which is just inland from the resort. All the girls talk hysterically at the top of their voices. Natalie says she wants to be sick - hopefully not in my hat!

Next we have to get on horses. (The last time I rode, 20 years ago, the horse bolted - but I take a deep breath and get on with it.) We slither and slide down a one-in-three slope, banging our heads on branches and our legs on tree trunks. Natalie whimpering, Sheila moaning, Sophie an expert rider. A brief stop for a cup of bush tea and a slice of damp bread cooked in embers. I save half the bread; it might be ages before dinner. Then a 45- minute walk up and down steep slopes before following a stream into the camp site.

There are not enough beds for all of us. We have a stone circle for a fire, a few logs and a plastic food box containing rations of rice and beans (to last three days) and olive oil. Huggy tries to light a fire with flint, and gets sparks but they don't catch. No matches. I find some lamp fuel and chuck that. Result! Immediately a "voice of god" booms out from hidden speakers: "Do not put fuel on the fire!"

Natalie is shaking uncontrollably and wants to leave. Then a shout, and Fran, Nancy, Joe and Paul appear - they were dropped from a plane! Brian isn't here, because his granny has died and he's upset. Will he join us later? A basket on an overhead pulley drops in, filled with veg and meat for supper. I cook a stir-fry of wild boar, potatoes, sprouting broccoli and tomatoes. The meat tastes like pork. Retire early.

Sunday 21 November. Day 2

It rains in the night. I get up and help Nancy deal with her bed, which is soaking as the overhead canopy doesn't extend far enough over us. Awoken again by Natalie screaming: "SPIDER IN MY BED." There isn't. Have had two hours sleep at most, feel shattered.

Huggy and the men decide they are hungry so they cook rice and potatoes. It must be 9am. Going to have to wrestle control of cooking from the chaps; otherwise we will run out in two days. Extra food depends on how we do in the bush tucker trials, and this week the public is voting for who should do them each day. Today Fran and Joe do the trial and score only four stars, each of which represents a portion. Not great when there are nine people for dinner. Brian arrives - easily the noisiest person in camp, and now smokers are in the majority. Ugh! They get 10 a day, strictly rationed.

Everyone moans about hunger, so dinner is started by Huggy too early. Half a red cabbage, some mystery meat (find out later it was crocodile), 20 mangetout and one sweet potato arrive in the basket. Huggy uses almost all the oil. Brian spits his food on the floor, says it is disgusting. I point out the rat problem, so he picks it up and hurls it in a bush, not in the plastic refuse bag. Joe tells some pretty incomprehensible jokes, but he is an uncomplaining hard worker. Sheila is issuing a lot of orders but doesn't actually lift logs or fetch water. She's got a set of very long acrylic nails to protect.

Monday 22 November. Day 3

Sheila is camp leader (a new one is chosen each day) and me cook. Prepare boiled rice with papaya for breakfast; Brian says it's "fucking muck". Try a little chat and "bond" with the troubled little fellow. He's a bag of nerves and I persuade him not to take his antidepressants. Natalie chosen for trial on a high wire. She's afraid of heights but the plucky girl gets seven stars, better than the men did yesterday. She has a little weep on her bed.

Arrival of the emus, sent in as "pets" with a long list of instructions about their care and exercise. Food to be ground in a pestle and mortar, a slow and tedious job. Treehouse to be built from bamboo - at last something to keep Sophie busy. She is hyperactive, babbling about herself and her boyfriend non-stop.

I feel cold and tired, so carry wood to get warm. Sheila and Brian bring back the daily chest which, when opened, reveals marshmallows from the Sugababes. I throw a major strop and smash my cup. What we need is herbs and spices, not bloody stupid marshmallows.

Tuesday 23 November. Day 4

Sound man comes to change the battery on my mike at 5am so I scream at him. Swim 30 laps of pool. Swimming gives you a bit of exercise and some space. Yesterday I tried to walk and the route was barred by security men just 100 yards from camp - I chucked a rock at the crew. I've got to get over the feeling of claustrophobia and settle down. I am chosen for the BT trial - great! I get to walk out over two high suspended bridges and then through some woodland before emerging in a clearing where Ant and Dec are standing by a perspex box full of snakes. I have to remove 10 stars, in order in 10 minutes. On the ninth, the snake bites me - just a sharp stab, but in recoiling I bruise my arm badly. It bites me three times before I give up and then get the 10th. Nine in all - terrific. I wasn't scared in the slightest, but intensely focused on the task.

Injuries in camp: Huggy has burnt his leg badly on the water pot and a pole from the treehouse has fallen on Sheila. On the way back from seeing the medic about my bruises I fall in the dark and graze both knees, which he bandages.

Wednesday 24 November. Day 5

Brian is leader. It is two days since he gave up the antidepressants and he's a bit calmer, but still a pretty troubled young man, talking about being bankrupt and threatening to "end it all", although this may be his odd idea of a joke. Paul moaning to me about lack of TV work. He's clearly resentful of people like Julian Fellowes (writer of Gosford Park). He claims to be an expert on life Upstairs and Downstairs but doesn't know what to do next. Seems totally rooted in the past. He's spent a lot of time body building and is clearly proud of his physique - seems very camp to me and never stops singing snatches from musicals. He seems very naive. It's easy to see how he got in too deep with Diana; he was obviously totally besotted by her and is using this show to relaunch himself - but as what?

Use walls of treehouse as parallel bars to try to stretch my back out. Now setting small targets, focusing on each hour, coping much better with fellow inmates and confinement. Brian returns coated with gunk and starts ranting about the flies. Struts about demanding Evian water, claiming the water we are boiling to drink is "horrible". The basket drops and Vic Reeves is in it along with a couple of lobsters and a pumpkin. Vic and I are old friends. I stay quiet because I don't want the others to think that they are at a disadvantage. Atmosphere flat, everyone a bit shell-shocked.

Thursday 25 November. Day 6

Vic and Nancy cooking. Paul endlessly droning on about musicals and it's raining. Joe makes good rallying speech as leader. Paul does BT trial in his vest. Vic makes bamboo pencils; the girls use soot for eye make-up. I look like an ancient Siouxie Sioux. No conversation possible, so I meditate sitting on a rock in the river. Paul returns triumphant covered with maggots and slime having scored six stars. (Apparently he did a lot of squealing.) Heavy rain, my bed soaked. Natalie and Sophie return from Celebrity Chest hunt not speaking, have had screaming row. It continues and Nat calls Sophie a self-centred bitch, then loads of tears. Honestly, this is like a mental hospital ward. Later they make up: loads of cigarettes and more tears.

Friday 26 November. Day 7

Feel very positive, slept well. Paul is leader today and taking the job very seriously. He's like Thought for the Day, full of platitudes about life in general. Natalie chosen again by the pubic for a trial, leaves looking terrified, returns shaking and soaking wet. Only scored two stars, feels she's let us down. How ridiculous. I give her a hug and Sheila cleans her up. Brian's whinging about flies. He keeps walking around the fire farting where I am cooking and I tell him not to. He explodes, says he is "sick of rules", tears his microphone off and says he is leaving. This later turns out to be the day his girlfriend has arrived in Australia.

Saturday 27 November. Day 8

Clear blue sky - hurrah! Very stiff. Feel like Quasimodo, the camp bed is doing my back in. Paul tells me his nightmare: he's in Buckingham Palace and drops a £20,000 porcelain dish in front of the Queen. She tells him he's got to pay it back out of his wages! He's got a lot of unfinished business, I tell him. Natalie and Sophie set to do a trial together; they get one star and four. Sophie repeats the story of her triumph no fewer than 50 times during the rest of the day, driving us all crazy. Natalie is now almost skeletal. We make tie-dyed clothes, with Vic boiling our red trousers to produce dye. My dress is quite a triumph and after dinner we have a fashion show. Paul's pink "blouse" is totally over the top.

Sunday 28 November. Day 9

Feel pretty drained. Fran now has Brian's bed so he got a decent sleep. Natalie once again chosen for trial by sadistic viewers. Returns very late, with only one star. We're all sick of beans and rice. It's a glorious day and we play lacrosse with bats made from leaves and big blueberries found near the wood pile. I'm sent to catch eels with Sheila and Huggy. The eels don't go for the bait so abandon rods and wait until they try to swim over waterfall at end of pool. Catch one. Sheila whacks it on the head with a rock. I'm left alone and catch another using my M&S knickers as a cloth to grab it. Drag it from under a rock and clobber it with a stone. Huge sense of triumph. Up in camp there is zero interest in my booty. Nobody wants to help clean or cook eels. Only Huggy, Sheila and I will eat them.

Monday 29 November. Day 10

Huggy's snoring is terrible. Feel pretty good today. Constipated - hate the long-drop toilet, although cleaning it isn't a problem. Only a piece of sack for a door, no privacy whatsoever. Ant and Dec arrive. Further shock as no eviction today because of Brian's departure and once again Natalie is chosen for a trial. She bursts into tears, runs over and jumps into my lap for a hug. I go off to wash a tea towel.

On my return she has decided to quit - not at all surprising. Sheila does her trial instead, dons amazing black and yellow swimsuit stitched with mirrors. She looks like a bee. Sophie still in her bikini top after dinner, slathering herself in the small bottle of citronella oil meant for all of us. She's less than three months out of rehab and can't cope with the sight of any of us drinking, even though we only get one glass of wine in a tiny bottle each, so we can hardly get drunk.

Tuesday 30 November. Day 11

Hottest night yet, with a frenzied attack of itching. Yesterday it was around 40C at midday. Joe tells me he prepared for the jungle by eating one meal a day for two weeks and went to the gym daily. I ended up doing nothing, out every night, eating vast amounts, drinking vats of wine. But I have eaten sparingly since I've been here and no hunger pangs. The eight-day walk I took outside Alice Springs in late September has really acclimatised me to the heat and the bugs.

First eviction: it's Nancy! Vic's arrival ruined her chances. Stunned silence; she has to leave within two minutes. Joe is away for an age doing the trial. He is suspended on a rope ladder from a helicopter. Sounds like a Bond film. He's done well to get eight stars!

Use pineapple skins to make a delicious tea. Dinner is mystery bits of meat. (Looks like oxtail, but I realise it's osso bucco, veal shins.) We fry the yam and sweet potato peelings to make delicious chips as a starter. I cook the meat as a casserole with potatoes and onions. Goes down well. Horrible moment after dinner when letters from "loved ones" are read out by others. I cringe with shame and feel very uncomfortable. Most people burst into tears. For God's sake, we've only been away for 12 days or so. We're not fighting a war - just sitting on our bums in the jungle! I hate parading my private life in public. End the day feeling very energetic; the others are emotionally drained.

Wednesday 1 December. Day 12

Appalling night: hot, and back pain. See my first rat walking past the end of my bed, followed by another just behind it. Today Vic is evicted. He was desperate to go, simply couldn't stand the lack of conversation. Sophie miffed she hasn't been selected and shouts "FUCK" live on telly! Fran shouting at flies. He's going mad with boredom. Play word game, listing scents in alphabetical order. Paul is knowledgeable, and when he contributes Vera Wang, I am deeply impressed; he's definitely in touch with his feminine side. I make a very nice tomato, cucumber and onion salad at lunchtime, but Fran fries his portion! Fran fries all salads and chops everything into little pieces, mixing it into a multi-coloured slurry and eats making growling noises. Very odd. Sophie generally announces she's going for a swim 15 minutes in advance to allow the cameras to get into position, and is now claiming "I'm the only one who has been a drug addict in here" as if it's a badge of honour.

Supper is a disaster. I have to cook mutton bird (yolla). It tastes of fish and is extremely oily. In New Zealand only the Maoris cook it, and even hardened hunters wouldn't eat it twice. Fran tells me he has already bought Prada trainers for his two-year-old son. Huggy, who has made his son drive a second-hand car even though he is a professional footballer, is shocked.

Thursday 2 December. Day 13

Wake early, hip hurting badly. We have to pack up our stuff each day after breakfast ready for eviction, the ultimate in humiliation. I've got it down to a fine art. Today Sheila is evicted. Paul as leader says his objective is we should all hug each other, but I plan to ignore that. Fran comes back from trial with only three stars, very angry with himself. This man is so macho it is ridiculous.

Joe has seriously bonded with the emus and is down by the stream talking to them. He and I play a word game - what do you call a man who looks like a pile of leaves? Russell! But he takes it to new levels of difficulty invoking Max Bygraves and Thora Hird. Paul is desperate that we all come up with a serious subject to discuss after our meal, and in an attempt to get "conversation" started he asks me my favourite season. I just laugh insanely. Paul has zero leadership skills. He ends the day very miffed.

Friday 3 December. Day 14

Wake early again with pains in my hip. Make pineapple tea and boiled rice. Huggy is evicted today - now I'm the oldest one left. Sophie and I talk to Paul about his need to lay the past to rest. Why not see a therapist? I tell him they would probably ask the following question (Sophie agrees): 'If you could wrap a piece of fabric tightly around you that sums up your inner self, what would it be?' He replies "velvet" and she screams with laughter and retorts, "Are you sure you're not gay?" Later I discover this is cut from the transmitted show.

Sophie and I have to do a BT trial in which seven very large, aggressive camels have to be relocated to different pens and then made to sit. I get two in position then discover Sophie has fled in fear and left me to it. Sampson tries to bite me and then Nugget sits down and then stands up at the last minute. Drat! It is extremely good fun and I laugh a lot. Five stars. Weather cooler, a fine drizzle and a lot less flies. I almost faint with the joy of smelling something freshly washed: the sound man's T-shirt. He's not supposed to talk to me, but admits I smell of the fire. I'm exhausted and my knees are very bruised and sore.

Saturday 4 December. Day 15

Lie in bed listening to the birds and looking at the beautiful canopy of trees overhead. Now there are fewer of us it's easier to enjoy the sounds around us. Rats now running around camp fire. Swim in black M&S cotton undies, don't care what I look like on camera, keeping changing down to a minimum. Paul, who cooks breakfast rice, clearly wants to nurture and care for me. I hate it! Nurturing men make me feel uncomfortable, having fended for myself most of my life.

Sophie evicted (she's overjoyed) leaving me and the three men. Now conversation is going to be difficult as Fran and Paul have nothing in common and Joe says very little. I get on fine with all three. Fran can't cope with inactivity and boredom, sleeps when not getting logs or water. Joe and I go off to get a Celebrity Chest and have a wonderful time mucking about with a swing. I inadvertently knock him to the ground as I fly through the air, a bit like a Mack Sennett movie - the crew is in convulsions.

Tonight we get a turkey and all the trimmings to make a Christmas dinner. Paul makes a huge show of showing Joe how to make gravy and parades his mashed potato till I want to throw it at him. He keeps lifting the lid on my steaming turkey till I scream. How can Paul have spent 10 years of his life picking up corgi poo? He reveals the Queen sleeps with her nine dogs ("she's quite normal really") and keeps a stack of blotting paper and a soda syphon in every room in the royal apartments to blot up little "accidents". I've never been in a house where a dog owner did this - that's how "normal" I think it all is!!

Sunday 5 December. Day 16

No eviction, because of Natalie's departure. Fran inspects his bandanna every time he passes the shaving mirror. He's more vain than Sophie and won't wear a jacket in the rain. It's the battle of the biceps between him and Paul.

Torrential rain, we slither and slide over to the trial site and are kept waiting for 20 minutes. Don wet suits and told to clamber up 45-degree mud slope and hold on to stars while they pelt us with a water cannon, large and small balls and feathers. I slide back down into pool of mud but crawl back up again. Paul ditto but manages to reach me and I grab his star so we score three out of four!

He's furious but would never have reached his spot higher up the slope in the 10 seconds left. Later, he claims I snatched it - surely he didn't want to get only two stars? He's so desperate to succeed and deeply upset about this perceived "failure". I feel totally exhilarated. The whole thing was such a hilarious escapade.

My grazed knee is now infected and the doctor has to cut into the wound to get the poison out. He puts me on antibiotics. Paul and Fran go off on a Celebrity Chest hunt and return not speaking. Fran refused to be lashed behind Paul to climb a web together. Not the kind of photo opportunity that Mr Macho is comfortable with. Another tiff about the interview afterwards. Paul gets the question in the chest wrong, but we still get portions of jelly and ice cream, quite appropriate for the couple of babies present.

I am secretly asked by the producers (in the BT hut) to get Paul to talk about Diana as they feel the programme is boring with Fran moody or asleep and Joe monosyllabic. Soon Paul is spouting on about Mother Teresa and how Diana lived her life "very frugally and simply" towards the end. So simply she was swanning about on a luxury yacht in St Tropez and staying at the Ritz! Paul now definitely playing the Diana card in a shameless effort to win votes, but who really cares? I've enjoyed my time here in a perverse way. I tell Paul and Joe that I think the winning threesome will probably be all men, because I've spent my working life in telly and know that the producers will always try to come up with something that's never been done before! I think secretly that Joe or I will win - but I really don't care having got this far. Fran and Paul are DESPERATE to win. Joe is the quiet horse.

Monday 7 December. Day 17

Evicted! The men are gobsmacked. I feel very calm and happy as I walk across the bridge and into the outdoor studio for a chat with Ant and Dec. I'm Queen of the Jungle anyway, and those three poor fellows can fight it out between them. I couldn't really care less who wins, but would like it to be Joe as he is undoubtedly one of the nicest people I've met. Mood-free and really hard working, no hidden agendas and he certainly doesn't need therapy. As I leave the set, many of the production staff come up to me and thank me for all my hilarious contributions. Some of the women are on the edge of tears.

I hadn't realised that so many people really wanted me to win. But at the end of the day, I did it my way. I left with dignity, had a huge laugh, and thoroughly enjoyed participating in the whole thing. I'm sorry we didn't discuss the war in Iraq, the plight of pensioners, or the state of the National Health Service, but this is a prime-time entertainment series and I was always mindful that my role was to provoke my fellow campers and provide you lot at home with some fun. I hope you enjoyed watching it!

'Baggage: My Childhood' by Janet Street-Porter has just been published in paperback by Headline at £7.99