This tenuous grip on reality is quickly slipping away

BRITAIN'S BEST-LOVED REPLACEMENT COLUMNIST PHILIP SOLIP

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Is this fate, or what? Two weeks ago I had this incredible dream in which I was standing as Mayor of London. Then when I woke up, I heard on the radio that Frank Dobson might stand. You can see my predicament: which was the dream, and which was real?

Also, I'd just seen The Matrix with Keanu Reeves the night before, so my grasp on reality was more tenuous than usual. How could I ever be sure that my mayoral campaign was not just an elaborate computer construct designed to occupy my mind while I, a lifeless, hairless drone, lay motionless in a bio-pod?

Actually it was pretty easy to sort out, because in the dream there was also a 50ft horse where my kitchen used to be, and that was gone. But I'm telling you, this dream was so real. I even met the cast of Miss Saigon.

Anyway, it's all worked out for the best, because here I am again. I guess I should just jump right in, and catch you up on what I've been doing since Christmas.

Many of you will remember how upset I was when Grampy Biggs died on Christmas Eve. For weeks afterwards I could do nothing. It's such an indescribable feeling, a gnawing sense that things are all out of place, in a way you can't quite put your finger on. It's a bit like when you miss out a belt loop in the morning, but much worse.

In February I finally finished my 20,000-word Diana poem (better late than never!), which was published immediately on the Net. That lasted until March, when the server pulled my website due to profanity on the comments page.

Then in June my girlfriend Julie (not her real name) had a baby boy, called Philip (not his real name), with her new husband. That was when I decided to check into the Priory.

Let me just say that the Roehampton Priory is not the glitzy resort spa that many people think it is. The squid was usually rubbery, and there's no Sky Sports. Perhaps most surprisingly, there is no bar, even for people like me, who are just depressed. Some days, after probing into my relationship with Julie in the company of some of Britain's biggest stars, I felt like I could really use a drink. I tried to convince them that some sort of badge system would be easy to enforce, but they were having none of it.

Frankly I wasn't sure I'd respond to their methods, and to be fair to them, neither were they. But in the end I became really enthusiastic about the whole Priory concept, not so much the spiritual element as the marketing.

They really liked my idea of having a booth in every Boots, next to the photo counter, and I think I might pursue the project during my "recovery". Remember: you heard it here first.

For the most part, my time at the "Pri", as we called it, was a very private and personal experience, which I'm in the process of writing a big piece about. For obvious reasons I can't publish the names of any of the celebrities I hung out with there, but it will feature a completely fictional character who is loosely based on Lenny Henry.

In a way I'm sorry to have to expose John's (ie Lenny's) deepest secrets to the world, but if I don't write about it the cost of the treatment isn't tax-deductible, and I haven't got 6,000 quid to throw away like some successful-but-unhappy comedians I know.

I wonder if the fact that I'm writing about it now counts. I'll have to ask my accountant when I see him at my birthday party next week. Harry (not his real name), if you're reading this, can you please RSVP? The paint-gun people want an idea of numbers.

So that's where I'm at. Right now I'm off to another AA meeting. I know I'm not really an alcoholic, but I'm going to keep attending the meetings every day until I find the one that Caroline Aherne goes to. She still has my Met Bar card.

In conclusion, I would like to say to Julie (not her real name) that now I've finally got the help I was so desperately crying out for, I realise that nothing is impossible. That's all.

I wish I could say see you next week, but right now I'm taking things one day at a time.

This column is dedicated to Grampy Biggs.

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