A diet that is truly over the top

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The Independent Online

I had to visit London yesterday (I was invited to the Libyan Embassy for a party celebrating their millionth unpaid parking ticket) and as I was walking there, who should I spot but my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street, the king of British PR. He was standing in the middle of the road, holding his hand up.

I had to visit London yesterday (I was invited to the Libyan Embassy for a party celebrating their millionth unpaid parking ticket) and as I was walking there, who should I spot but my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street, the king of British PR. He was standing in the middle of the road, holding his hand up.

"Adrian!" I cried.

He looked down at me.

"That's funny," he said. "You don't look like a taxi."

"I'm not a taxi!" I cried. "I'm your old friend from Wiltshire!"

"Yes," he said. "I can see now that you are not a taxi. It's just that we've been brainwashed in the London media world that if you've nothing else to do, you hail a taxi. Because if you don't get it, someone else will... Taxi!"

He staggered slightly. I caught him as he swayed.

"Adrian! You look terrible! Have you had anything to eat recently?"

"Of course I have. I had some canapés at a book launch last Friday."

"That was five days ago! What on earth...?"

"It was a party for Boris Johnson's memoirs. No, that's ridiculous. It couldn't have been. Boris Johnson hasn't done anything. How could he have published his memoirs? On the other hand..."

The poor man was obviously dizzy from hunger, so I pulled him into a nearby trattoria and pushed pasta into him until he perked up.

"Thank you," he said. "I needed that. It's the diet I'm on, you see."

"You're on a diet?"

"The Atkins Diet."

"The Atkins Diet?"

"The Tommy Atkins Diet."

"The Tommy Atkins Diet?"

"I wish you wouldn't keep repeating what I say," he said. "I got involved in the publicity for a new nostalgia cookbook. It's called The Tommy Atkins Diet because the recipes replicate what our soldiers ate in the First World War, and I've been sticking to it for the last week."

"And what's it like?"

"It's hell," said Adrian. "Day after day, the same flatulent beans and pulses. No wonder they hated life in the trenches. It wasn't the constant shelling - it was the constant farting!"

I hadn't thought of that before. I didn't want to think about it again.

"Anyway, I probably wouldn't have undergone the Tommy Atkins Diet," said Adrian reflectively, "if it hadn't been for the example of Morgan Spurlock."

"Who he?"

"He's the brave man who ate only at McDonald's for a month, to prove that fast food made you fat, unhealthy and near to death. How could live for a month in McDonald's? The decor alone would kill me. Mark you, he had the sense to film himself doing it, and his movie, Supersize Me , has become a hit. Well, I thought, if he can do it, so can I! Don't forget, those guys in the First World War trenches put up with that diet for four years!"

"No, they didn't. Few of them lasted four years. Most charged over the top to their death. Maybe they were trying to get away from the food. Maybe it was the Tommy Atkins Diet that killed them."

But Adrian wasn't listening. He had gone into a trance. I knew that look. It meant he had an idea.

"Why couldn't you do a Morgan Spurlock on coffee?" he said suddenly. "Survive for a month on Starbucks' products alone. Just coffee. And croissants."

"Yes, but have Starbucks ever claimed that coffee and croissants are life-sustaining...?"

"You'd get a caffeine rush to begin with, but then it would wear off," mused Adrian, "and then after a while you'd get caffeine poisoning, complicated by the butter in the croissants clogging up your arteries..."

"Then don't try it," I said.

"Oh, not me," said Adrian. " You're the one who's going to do it. You're the journalist. You're the reporter whose photo is going to get more and more emaciated each day."

"Adrian - I am not going to do it!"

"Please yourself," said Adrian, getting up to go. "That's the last time I give you an idea for an article." And he wandered out into the road, idly shouting "Taxi!" as he went.

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