William Donaldson's Week:' Should I take Holiday or not?

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The Independent Online
MRS MATTHEWS is in denial. She denies this if you accuse her of it, but she would, wouldn't she? I was tipped off to the fact that she's in denial by Simon Holiday, who is being treated abominably by Amy Jenkins, his beloved, and is therefore, and very sensibly, taking one step at a time - most of them up my stairs and into my drawing-room, where he spreads his latest photographs on my coffee table and asks me to choose the best.

In my day, only actors and models asked you to squint for hours at contact sheets featuring themselves. Indeed, when I was a theatrical agent there wasn't a laugh to be had other than those provided by Peter Bowles arriving unexpectedly in the office and asking you to judge which snap would, if glossily enlarged and sent off to Mr Cubby Broccoli, be most likely to persuade the latter that he, Peter Bowles, was England's answer to Alain Delon.

Now, it seems, young men will, if rebuffed in love, change their hairstyles and have themselves professionally photographed, thereafter submitting a composite sheet (one profile, one in casual wear on skis, one body shot) to other people's wives and women on a 12-step programme like themselves.

Not that I knew at first that Holiday was on a 12-step programme. I assumed, since the symptoms are indistinguishable, that he was as mad as a March hare. Nor did I know that Mrs Matthews was in denial. I only discovered this when I began casting around for a new partner after I was shafted by Zamit & The Postman - who, I may say, can't find a hat to fit them. Marcus Plantin, ITV's brilliant central controller, has, if you please, given them the Tuesday evening watchdog slot previously occupied by Plonk and De Sylva, and it was this thunderbolt which finally got me up and running.

The question was, should I team up with Holiday - which would be convenient since he was already living with me, more or less - or with Mrs Matthews, 95, who I saw almost as often on the stairs? Holiday certainly had the more contemporary appearance (though I'd not seen Mrs Matthews's latest photographs), but against this was the fact that he'd lost his marbles. I decided to put the matter to him face to face.

'Having been shafted by Zamit & The Postman,' I said, 'I'm in two minds as to whether to set up as an independent watchdog with you or Mrs Matthews.'

'Certainly not Mrs Matthews,' he said. 'She's in

denial.'

'Nonsense,' I said. 'She's only doing a bit of dope - and on the advice, I may say, of an article she read in the

Independent.'

'You would say that,' he said. 'You're in denial, too.'

Here was a blow. You box on, do your best, smile bravely even though you have an ice- pick through your heart (a consequence in my case of Alison, my beloved, being in Mauritius with her fat American) and suddenly a young man with a hairstyle and his latest photographs spread out on your coffee table tells you that you're in denial.

'And you're as mad as a hatter,' I said.

'No I'm not,' he said. 'I'm in recovery.'

'Same thing,' I said.

'It's easy to sneer,' he said.

In fact, I wasn't sneering. Received opinion has it that there's only one thing worse than a drinker and that's a recovering drinker, but I think it's the other way round. If I had my way, I'd see to it that every pub raconteur and cork sniffer in the land was parcelled in a straitjacket and posted to a clinic - preferably one that practises the dreaded Minnesota Method.

That said, you're thinking I'm missing a trick. You think that, as between Holiday and Mrs Matthews, it's no contest as to which should be my partner; that if I teamed up with Holiday I'd be privy to confidential information 'shared' at AA meetings; further, that I could attend these myself with an incognito camera crew, thereafter confounding Zamit & The Postman by putting a roomful of losers back to square one in a prime- time slot.

You're right, but you're forgetting something. Confidential info is a two-way thing. When it was his turn to 'share', Holiday would be obliged to give away company secrets - the upshot being that I'd be tracked on my next peak-time bust by a dozen recovering docu-drama types in gumshoes, thereafter being well and truly scooped, if not on Crimewatch UK myself.

In the circumstances, I've put my decision on hold and have, in the meantime, been asked by Holiday not to mention him here or make use of anything he's told me.

'AA has one important rule,' he said. ' 'Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our 12 traditions.' '

'That's as may be,' I said. 'Here's one, however. Journalism has, as one of its 12 traditions, that one shares all confidential info with one's readers. As to your photographs, I think the one in casual wear on skis is much the best.'

That made him happy for the moment.

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