Last week, you'll remember I wrote about Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Druze Militia, my imaginary sandwich bar and how ITV bosses would never be welcome there because of the way they'd messed me around a few years ago. (If you've been following this column you'll have noted that each has been linked to the one before. I'm hoping that by the time Tracey Emin returns it will have become an interwoven, poetic and eclectic narrative evoking the zeitgeist in the same manner as T S Eliot's The Wasteland.)
However, on Sunday afternoon, filing to my economy seat on the plane taking me back from the Edinburgh Book Festival I was acutely embarrassed to see more or less the entire ITV top brass sitting in business class ahead of me -to see all the people I'd slagged off made me suddenly feel terribly shifty and embarrassed.
This was the second most disturbing experience I've ever had flying back from Scotland. Themost disturbing was four years ago. My publishers had paid for a business class ticket, but when I boarded the plane just before departure I found that the only other passengers in the front cabin were Paul Daniels, Lionel Blair and Nasty Nick from the first series of Big Brother.
It felt like I was in an episode of The Outer Limits. I could just hear Rod Serling's voice intoning: "A man boards a plane, he thinks he has carved out a new career for himself as a respected author who's been compared to Maupassant and Houellebecq, but what he doesn't know is that because of his previous behaviour as a status-obsessed, judgemental comedian he's been condemned to ride forever in a ghost plane with other irritating minor celebrities existing on a diet of tiny bottles of champagne and honey-roasted peanuts while being forced to burn his fingers on a minuscule, boiling-hot towel every 30 minutes".
It turned out they'd all been taking part in some crappy BBC Scotland quiz show but it gave me a shock at the time.
Of course, it was ridiculous of me to think that any of the ITV bosses on that plane cared about anything I'd written. But you see I have this unshakeable belief in the power of newspaper columns; that those who write them really know what's going on, that what they write actually has a huge influence on events and that a column could become an interwoven, poetic and eclectic narrative that will evoke the zeitgeist in the same manner as T S Eliot's The Wasteland.
Whenever I read what a newspaper columnist has to say, I immediately find myself believing them totally. "Oh, blimey!" I think to myself, "Gordon Brown is never going to be PM because allies of Tony Blair are manoeuvring to make sure the singer Lulu will replace him when he leaves power in 16-and-a-half months' time." And then when I read another columnist, with a completely different view, who says Gordon Brown will be in power by next Tuesday afternoon, I instantly believe them too.
The thing is, they all sound so authoritative, so absolutely sure of themselves, that I forget that all the things which they predicted would happen never did happen. I even find myself believing those ranting right wing ideologues who seem only one column away from their brains exploding with a fuming hatred of humanity "Yes," I think "...they're right, those celebrities like that Alexei Sayle who sign petitions saying Israel might have gone a teeny bit too far by killing all those thousands of civilians are no better than al-Qa'ida operatives or SS gauleiters."
In order to try to wean myself off this excessive credulousness I've searched for somebody who writes a column in a newspaper whose views are so ridiculous that even I can't agree with them. That's why I was always a fan of George Best's column in the Mail on Sunday. I couldn't wait to find out every week what George's rambling, drunken opinions were on the war in Chechnya, the state of football today or what his son Calum was up to, but since he's gone I haven't found anybody to replace him. Until now, that is.
A few months ago, while on holiday in Spain I had to drive to a radio station in Marbella to record some alterations to a TV advertising voice-over. While I was there, I happened to pick up one of the many English-language newspapers that serve the Costa del Sol - The Euro Weekly News - in which I found a column that made my heart skip. It was written by a man called Leapy Lee, who had a hit in 1968 with a song called "Little Arrows," and who was later sent to prison following a fight in a pub which also involved an actor called Alan Lake (husband of the Fifties' starlet Diana Dors).
Yes, that's my idea of the perfect columnist, some minor expat singer with a criminal record and views tailor-made for his audience of drink-sozzled, golf-playing Costa Brits. Sure enough, Leapy didn't let me down. His column employs a folksy, jaunty style, laced with references to his "dear old mum" and his idyllic Essex childhood to express his ludicrously reactionary views on Iran's possession of nuclear weapons, asylum seekers to the UK, Jihadist terrorists who are "nothing more than dog's droppings in the swimming pool of decent humanity" and the general state of the world. As my dear old mum would say, you can keep your Aaronovitches, your Melanie Phillipses and your Rees Moggs - it's Leapy Lee for me.
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