Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

Modern life has turned me into Liz Hurley
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The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...

Starting a business like this, you come across an England you had failed to spot coming into existence. Noting the research group's reaction to the one celebrity I've got on board, it's clear I need four or five more to lever my brilliant idea into a worldwide million-unit sale. Why wouldn't they want to be involved? For an hour in a studio he or she will probably net £50,000. That's pretty good.

But there is this problem. I don't know celebrities. And they only talk to each other. They recoil from us pale, withered, ordinary folk. Even if we've forgotten to ring our little bell they know we are lepers. We have the common disease and they fear it may be catching. That was the surprise, how stratified our meritocracy is. How socially immobile we still are.

It can't be good for national enterprise, this oligarchy that's evolved out of the old class system. But it certainly exists. Try this thought experiment. Tony Blair is working on papers at 4pm; an aide says: "I've got Liz Hurley on line one?" Does the Prime Minister take the call? Are you mad? Of course he does. Would Mrs Thatcher have taken the call? Are you mad? Of course she wouldn't. That's how much Britain has changed in those short years.

But in this brave new world, the PM certainly wouldn't take a call from Liz's agent. And from that we can deduce the fact that Liz's agent wouldn't take my call. The brutal fact of modern life is that you have to have an agent to talk to agents.

Yes, I found out from the internet who my target celebs are represented by. This knowledge is freely available from a movie database. It doesn't help. The best exchange went like this: "Can I speak to the person who looks after..." and I named my celeb. "I need to send them an e-mail." The switchboard said, "Hang on, I'll find out who that is." And, after 138 seconds (during which time I didn't get angry because I am a supplicant), she came back with: "It's £20,000. When do you want to book him?"

"But you don't even know what I'm asking for yet," I protested. "You better e-mail," she said. "But that's why I'm ringing," I said, "for the e-mail address of the person who looks after" so-and-so.

"Hang on, I'll find out." She came back in quiet triumph. "Send it to enquiries@" and she gave her company's name. I sent the e-mail in; I don't know why. I could feel it hitting their system like a fly hitting that high-voltage insect-zapper.

I can't get snooty about it. I was trawling the committee corridor the other day looking for Labour rebels or lobbyists and asked a man who he was with. "No one," he said, "I'm just a member of the public." Reader, I turned away. I'm turning into Liz Hurley, and without any of her assets. At my level of the oligarchy, that's inexcusable.