Just Michael and me in the radio car

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The Independent Online
I WAS once asked to be a guest presenter on The Big Breakfast for a week while Chris Evans was away, but I said no as I knew I'd be hopeless. If they asked me to guest present the Today programme on Radio 4, however, I'd jump at the chance. To do that job a few years ago you had to be pretty clued up on politics, but these days this is unnecessary. You simply have to be able to bombard half-awake politicians with mindless speculation about things that are very unlikely to happen. And I'd just love to get Michael Portillo in the radio car.

Me: Mr Portillo, you say that you're firmly behind the Prime Minister and that you're not after his job. What if he dies tomorrow?

Portillo: Well, I don't think that's very likely to happen.

Me: He might do, though. What then?

Portillo: Er, Mr Major's still a young man, he's in the peak of health, I think he's got a good few years left in him yet, and I'll continue to support him one hundred per cent.

Me: He might be killed in a car crash. Indeed the whole Cabinet might be killed, if you were all on a coach and it overturned on the M4 - that'd put the Government in a pickle, wouldn't it?

Portillo: Well obviously if we were all killed . . .

Me: Could lead to an early general election!

Portillo: If the Cabinet died, of course it would be bad for the country but I don't think . . .

Me: Thanks for joining us! Michael Portillo there, confirming that Mr Major and his Government are hanging on for dear life. Later on, Gordon Brown: will he be the next Chancellor? Or might he be eaten by the Loch Ness monster?

MY YOUNGEST sister rang me last night and asked if the computer I gave her last Christmas would be suitable for use on a job she is about to start. Her bosses had told her it would be OK if it had at least eight megabytes of RAM and an 80-megabyte internal memory. No, I told her, her computer was not OK as it has only four megabytes of RAM and a 60- megabyte internal memory.

I put down the phone and realised that to know this stuff about her computer, to be so confident in my knowledge of her RAM capacity and megabytage, means I have officially become a computer expert, or megabyte megabore. It wasn't as if I even told her reluctantly, I realised, I actually had a strange tingle of excitement as I imparted the information.

THIS HAS all come about because of the theft of my computer last week. Up until then I knew nothing; it just seemed to work. It was an Apple 180c and, being 11 months old, this model has of course been discontinued, and the serial megabores trying to flog me a new one tell me that the replacement model with comparable RAMage and megabytage is twice the price.

My insurance company won't pay the difference because they say it is up to me to keep them posted about developments in the industry, and upgrade my policy accordingly. So I'm faced with the prospect of having to read comuputer magazines every so often to get this information. This is particularly worrying because I fear I will enjoy the process.

COMPUTERS are dangerous. A frightening example of how far their megaboringness can go is the case of Stephen Fry. Several years ago I visited him at his home, and he showed me his great big impressive Apple computer with a huge screen and lots of wires, which was so advanced he could not only write pages of dialogue on it but also draw little circles and pop words into the middle of them.

He could also do family trees. This took him about three minutes to show me, after which he was bored and we went upstairs to have a cup of tea. Last week there was an interview with him in this paper. Stephen was in his dressing-room before doing a play, and like the true addict he has obviously become, had his laptop with him. The poor interviewer wasn't allowed to ask him any questions until he had temporarily satiated his computing appetite by buzzing through on his modem to the Internet system which whizzed and beeped all the way over to America, whirred into an information system and after some minutes burped on to Stephen Fry's computer screen a picture of . . . Stephen Fry.

Now I have worked in theatres and I know that dressing-rooms are pretty spartan. They tend to have a chair, a table-height shelf along one wall with a mirror above it for make-up, and a shower. My guess is that Stephen would have been sitting on his chair, with his computer on the shelf, right behind which was a dirty great mirror. A normal person, if they wanted to see themselves, would lift their eyes 10 degrees and look in the mirror. Only a seriously advanced addict would have to tap into the Internet in America to achieve the same result.

Someone should form AppleMac Anonymous, and poor Stephen Fry should be its patron.