If you ask me... look! I’m still here!
I’ve seen off Ms Pippa Middleton, even though it was a close run thing, and news that she was about to replace me actually made headlines in America – “UK newspaper rolls over for royalty”. I’m thrilled, of course, although I accept it’s not so great for Pippa, as she was looking forward to it, and had already given some tips on column writing to the Press Gazette: “The trick,” she said, “is to start at the beginning with words, and then do more words until you get to the end.” And when she was quizzed on replacing Howard Jacobson, and being wryly Jewish every Saturday, she said she had, in fact, thought a fair amount about Jewish issues over the years, particularly Israel. “If Arabs and Jews focused on what unites them, rather than what divides them, I think they’d find the answer,” she said, “which is falafel.” She then added: “Falafel can be served at parties, although you will need to make them in advance, if they’re to be ready on time.” Also: “Serve with a steady hand, or they may roll off the plate.”
So she was all set to go, and was working on “wry” – it can, she had already decided, make a nice change from brown, white or granary – and I can’t tell you for sure what made the editor of this newspaper change his mind.
Was it my calling him every hour on the hour and sobbing down the phone: “I can start at the top and finish at the end, Christopher!” and “I know where you live!” which finally swung it for me? I don’t know. I can only say that I understand some of you will be bitterly disappointed, having expected Pippa to be here, and discovering it’s still me, with my fat arse which the nation has, understandably, never collectively perved over, and my hair which just won’t do that foxy, glossy, flicky-flicky thing. (Someone once said it looks like I do it with an electric toothbrush which, alas, has the ring of truth about it.)
How can I make it up to you? I can’t offer a guide to Wimbledon, as Pippa has already covered this for Vanity Fair, and done so definitively. “Leave enough time to get to the tennis,” she advises, otherwise you might “feel in a rush!” However, I can offer you one tip and it is this: unless you are a natural-born half-wit, or have suffered a brain injury, a hallucinogenic drug will prove of assistance should you ever wish to get from the beginning of Pippa’s words to where she finishes, at the end. But remember: take it before you want it to kick in. Yes, do that. It so helps.