William Donaldson's Week: The Princess has an idea

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The Independent Online
HERE's a thing. Classy Cressida, pretending to be Debbie Mason (whom I think I want to marry) has sold a six-part series on 'Sin' to Samantha at Channel 4 - or it could be vice versa.

Less seriously, she has told Seamus Cassidy, Channel 4's startlingly gifted Head of Entertainment, that he can't have a second series of the hugely successful Rory Bremner - Who Else? Further, she has told David Liddiment, the BBC's scarcely less gifted Head of Entertainment, that my satirical soap opera, El Independo, has been scrapped at the insistence of the south London interior decorator, who, as I mentioned last week, now vets this column.

I blame the Princess of Wales. After a hard day up west on Monday rewriting the new Root series (the chap in charge of mise-en-scene can't understand all of Steve Attridge's brilliant new jokes - indeed, he can't understand any of them) I arrived home to find her pacing my drawing-room in a terrific state of excitement.

'Our troubles are over, Button,' she said. 'Who's that common little Greek?'

'Taki,' I said.

'That's the one,' she said. 'I've been reading a hilarious piece in the Spectator by your friend Wallace Arnold and he . . .'

'Wait on,' I said. 'Wallace Arnold doesn't still write in the Spectator. The readers couldn't distinguish between his stuff and the rest of the magazine.'

The Princess glanced at the Spectator and then admitted her mistake. 'You're right,' she said. 'The article seems to have been written by Charles Moore. It's a load of impertinent drivel - which I took to be a joke, it seems - in which Mr Moore says: 'The Cult of Diana is part of the religion of sentimental egotism which is replacing religion itself. All that fighting back tears so that people will know how interesting and vulnerable you are.' Not bad, eh, from someone who, when he edited the Spectator, was happy to employ the gruesomely lachrymose 'Jeff' Bernard. That's not my point, however.'

'What is your point?'

'Just this,' the Princess said. 'Mr Moore goes on to quote Taki, the jumped-up little Greek. 'You do not cry about yourself,' said the Spectator's High Life correspondent on Desert Island Discs last week, 'but about things like soldiers marching.' '

I fought back a desire to vomit on the spot, and, instead, told the Princess that I was ahead of her already.

'You think we can pick up an easy fiver,' I said, 'by submitting Taki's quote to 'Pseuds Corner' in Private Eye?'

'Precisely]' she said.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that the giggling pin-heads who compile that item wouldn't consider Taki's quote a suitable candidate for inclusion; that they were on the look-out only for writing

of undoubted excellence, too dense for them to unpack but which an averagely intelligent prep-school boy would understand. Instead, I told her that, since the idea was hers, she should claim the fiver.

'You send it in,' I said. 'In any case, I'm too busy. I've got to pick up my pearl-grey Christian Dior classic from Bollom's, the cleaners. I'm off to a party later, given by a TV production company.'

'Rather you than me,' the Princess said. 'I can see it all. Name-lickers in denim shirts, drinking beer straight from the bottle and talking about creativity while looking over your shoulder to see whether Stephen Fry has made an entrance yet; it later transpiring that they're currently engaged shooting a building society commercial.'

'I'm taking Debbie Mason,' I said.

'No, you're not,' the Princess said. 'She rang earlier to say that she's been detained at a conference in Cambridge.'

Here was a bummer. It so happened that I'd been boasting to the party's host that I'd be attending

it with Debbie Mason. To pitch up without her would be just too humiliating.

'You'll have to take a ringer,' the Princess said. 'Do you know anyone as intelligent and beautiful as you say she is?'

'Classy Cressida,' I said. 'But she's not speaking to me. I said last week that she'd gone to live in Cornwall with A L Rowse, whom, at the insistence of the south London decorator who now vets my copy, I'm no longer allowed to mention.

'And if I invite her, she'll move back in, later insisting that I spend the holiday with her in Norfolk - which, if you remember, involves having lunch with you and your frightful in-laws on Christmas Day.'

'A nightmare, I grant you,' the Princess said. 'But not as bad as admitting that Debbie Mason has stood you up.'

That made sense. Classy Cressida was summoned and instructed on how to behave like Debbie Mason at a media party.

'Don't worry that you'll be out of your depth,' the Princess said. 'You probably couldn't make a television programme, but that will give you an edge over the professionals present.'

'How come?' said Classy Cressida.

'They definitely can't make television programmes,' the Princess said. 'Did you see Stark this week? And I'd advise you not to take your handcuffs.'

In the event, Classy Cressida played Debbie Mason brilliantly, apart from offending various submitters (I take it you've read The Conscience of Words: 'The submitter sprang to life ready-made from his briefcase'); telling Samantha of Channel 4 that she was the stupidest woman she had ever met; taking Rory Bremner - Who Else? away from Seamus Cassidy and causing David Liddiment to turn as white as herring roe by telling him that El Independo had been scrapped.

Never mind. The south London interior decorator in pressed jeans and a silly little beard will probably spike all this - so, none of it may have happened.

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