Leave me out of this Bowiemania

 

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In June 1978, I was presenting a television show for young people when I got a call from David Bowie's PR to say the living legend had decided I should interview him. He'd watched one of my music documentaries, and was impressed by my lurid dyed burgundy hair – a style he'd sported in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

I was told to present myself backstage at Earls Court, an hour before his show. He stipulated our chat was filmed walking from the dressing room to the stage, with a capacity crowd screaming their heads off. (See it on YouTube.) Later, I discovered that my sister managed his make-up artist, and hadn't bothered to tell me. Typical!

Bowie was charming, softly spoken and completely captivating, although he said absolutely nothing of note. "Heroes" became my anthem for over a decade. By the time we met backstage again, when he hosted Meltdown at the Royal Festival Hall in 2002, his face had radically changed. The pointy characterful teeth replaced by regular gleaming white tombstones. I had remained loyal in spite of clunkers like the Glass Spider tour in 1987 and the awful Tin Machine a year later.

Last week, at 66 (the same age as me), he astonished everyone by announcing he'd completed a new album. Why are people so surprised? A massive exhibition about him opens at the V&A next month – a brilliant opportunity to sell product, when everyone thought you'd retired. He's nothing if not a showman. As for the song that's a taster for what's to come, it's pleasant enough, but Bowie's main achievement at 66 has been to flush out millions of embarrassing middle-aged sycophants. And considering the great man is said to have been living a healthy, quiet life, I look better than the legend who Fell to Earth.

We need Delia

The dumping of Delia by Waitrose is the proof our relationship with food is toxic. In spite of watching hours of TV cookery shows, spending thousands of pounds on celebrity chef manuals, most of us know fewer than a half a dozen recipes by heart and can't prepare meals from scratch. Heston Blumenthal is a jolly nice fellow (even if he ditched his wife of 22 years in 2011 for a younger American food writer shortly before publishing a book called Home Cooking), but his "molecular gastronomy" is not about providing nutritious food for the family on a daily basis. His creations are edible cabaret, show-off food for dinner parties, designed to impress.

Delia is firmly rooted in the humdrum world of economy suppers and leftovers. I was impressed with an article she wrote just before Christmas, showing how to cook a festive supper for just £5 a head. I have made Heston's famous egg and bacon ice cream and his snail porridge and they were foul, but you can see why Waitrose thinks he is a brilliant brand, a boffin who dreams up wacky inventions. I can live without salmon cooked in liquorice, whereas Delia deals in no-nonsense simplicity. We all laughed when she told the nation how to boil an egg in her telly series Delia's How to Cook back in 1998, but her basic skills are needed more than ever. Michael Gove should ask Delia to write a compulsory course for schoolkids.

Damp squib

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is just an excuse for technology geeks to rave about huge television screens and nerdy gadgetry most can't afford and don't need. Every day, reporters filed stories about products that were shamelessly broadcast on the BBC as if they were news from a war zone, not blatant plugs. What a great trip, hanging out in Sin City, wined and dined by companies desperate for non-critical coverage.

Most useless by far was a mobile that works underwater for up to 90 minutes, so you can make calls from the pool or shower. A breathless Sony executive enthused "the Xperia Z can be used while blogging in the bathtub or downloading in a downpour", and experts raved about its 5in high-definition screen and video recording capability. Next summer, will surfers be posting blogs using this must-have accessory? I doubt it.

Also ran

As a broadcaster of a certain age, I ought to applaud John McCririck for taking Channel 4 to court because he has been dropped from its racing coverage. But I can't bring myself to side with the sexist old buffer in his not-funny tweedy outfits.

He claims age discrimination (he's 72), and seeks millions of pounds in damages for "public humiliation" and loss of earnings. McCririck has prehistoric views about women (referring to his wife as Booby and a co-presenter as "Female", for starters), and I once had the misfortune to appear on a show with him. Never again. I felt contaminated being within 10 yards of this sad flightless bird, facing extinction.

McCririck makes a lot of noise to distract from the fact he's past his sell-by date. Channel 4 dumped him because it wants to attract new viewers to racing, a sport which has become more popular than ever over the past few years with huge numbers of women going to the big events. That's why the big Mac had to be shown the door.

Garden envy

Planning Minister Nick Boles is a combative fellow, picking a fight on Newsnight with Simon Jenkins, head of the National Trust, claiming that people who own more than one home should not begrudge those who live in top-floor flats the right to have a house with a garden.

Boles bashed Jenkins for owning "at least two" houses – irrelevant, as he lives in two houses himself, one of which taxpayers help to fund. Boles is set on building 1.3 million new homes over the next five years, even if it means concreting over field. When did it become a human right to have a house with a garden?

In the 1950s and 60s, estates were built in our major cities, with communal green spaces between tower blocks. The best of these estates, like Roehampton in Putney, still look good. Some didn't work, and have been torn down or renovated with better security for residents, but there was never any edict issued to architects and town planners that each household was entitled to a garden.

As for expanding outwards, all our inner cities and high streets are full of underused buildings like bankrupt shops and warehouses, redundant churches and offices that all need to be demolished or converted. The elderly, and low-income families with small children and no car, need to be housed near public transport, services and shops, not stuck out in suburbia in little boxes away from human contact. Boles is shamelessly trying to bribe local councils to build on pristine land, offering them cash to build community centres or restore local facilities like pubs and churches. He is misguided.

In my Yorkshire village a few years ago, the council built several houses for local people on low incomes. No one wanted them, because there's no public transport for seven miles. Nick Boles should stop turning housing into a class issue.

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