Eight years ago today…

I’m not sure whether I like or loathe the Facebook feature that suddenly displays photos from your past, whether you’ve asked for them or not? Although it is occasionally nice to see a photo that you’d forgotten about, more often than not it simply serves to mark the inexorable quick march of time.

Yesterday I got a photograph of me on the set of the UK TV show I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Eight years ago today, whispered Facebook. EIGHT YEARS! How did that happen. It seems like only yesterday that I was flown to Australia (on Emirates as it happens), thrown into a helicopter and deposited in the middle of a Queensland rain-forest with a bunch of other famous faces. It was the most random group – the actor Nigel Havers, ex-Bond-Girl Britt Ekland, music bad-boy Shaun Ryder, Comedienne Jenni Eclair, to name but a few.

Twenty-two days I stayed in there, surviving on rice and beans and bug-infested water. It was supposed to be a testing time, but I loved every second of it. I lost two stone, had a complete technology detox and made a couple of great friends to boot. I even got paid for the experience – normally, for this kind of shock therapy bootcamp you’re the one paying through the nose. Nice work if you can get it.

Not everybody enjoyed it all as much as I did. Reality TV shows love it when either somebody doesn’t understand the concept or doesn’t understand themselves. We certainly had plenty of the latter primarily in the shape of a woman called Gillian McKeith, a TV “doctor” mainly famous for analysing celebrity faeces. She rapidly became the show “baddy” and the public duly sentenced her to some of the worst experiences.

My favourite person however, was Nigel Havers. He had never seen the show and quickly realised that he had made a terrible mistake. The presenters would announce that someone would face ‘The Tunnel of Doom’ the following day and he would turn to me in panic and say: “What do you think it is, old boy?” I would tell him that I assumed somebody would soon be underground being covered in insects (the show producers are not massively unpredictable). Havers would look at me with a thousand-yard stare and mutter, “This is madness” to himself.

He finally cracked when we were all put in a jungle courtroom scenario with “electrodes” attached to us. I surreptitiously detached one of mine immediately and then just pretended to feel pain. Havers however, went crazy. He stormed off set and we all stood in the dock giggling and listening to him screaming at a producer that this was “inhuman, I will not stand for it.” He didn’t last very much longer on the show. The curious world of reality TV is not for everyone.

I made up for lost carbs on the Emirates flight back home. I must have eaten everything on the plane and this is probably an appropriate moment to apologise, but I was rather hungry…

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