My 24 hours on ‘I’m a Celebrity…’
‘Freddie Starr is…sick! We…need…you..!’ wheezed an ITV producer down the phone to me. I paused a moment, solely for dramatic emphasis, and nodded my acceptance of his terms before sliding back and relaxing my head under the soapy foam of the bath. Upon emerging from the suddy depths I noticed that besides having a beard of Da Vinchian proportions, I also still had a question to answer, mainly because I hadn’t given an audible response, instead opting for a nod as quiet as a demon’s whisper.
‘Yes’ I shouted exuberantly down the phone.
‘About bloody time, how long did you expect me to hold for?!’ replied the producer, masking his excitement with feigned anger.
And that’s how it all began – my tenure in the jungle that is, not my frosty relationship with the ITV production staff (on a serious aside, I’d just like to say that I highly doubt any of the so-called staff on ‘I’m a Celeb…’ could even cut it on CITV, so what they’re doing in the jungle is beyond me). Anyway, Several hours later I was at the airport.
And several hours after that I was on the plane.
And several blocks of several hours later I was touching down on the soil…well, dust, of Australia – Britain’s problem child, and sadly proud of it (Ed. Is this racist?)
The reason for my sudden appearance of the jungle was nothing more than fate, sure, ITV clarified several times that Freddie Starr was deadly ill, but I knew better. Producers claimed that Starr’s (in my opinion over) reaction
‘Could be due to a spider bite, he might have reacted badly to a leech or a tic, or even a snake he hadn’t noticed. He might have reacted badly to the bark of a tree he leant on, or a leaf he touched in passing.’
The bold font is my own choice, but I think you get the picture. ITV were desperate to get rid of Starr at any cost and their haphazard press release just goes to prove that; I mean, spiders, leeches, and tics? He was under the care of Britain’s seventh most loved television channel (after BBC1, BBC2, Channel 4, Sky One, UK Gold, MTV, Cartoon Network) in the Australian jungle for god’s sake, it’s not like he was being babysat by Noel Edmonds at the Deadliest Insect exhibit at London Zoo – a sure hotpot of disaster. What it boiled down to in the end was that Starr was never the ratings winner I was, and I had the VHS of that episode of ‘Big Break’ I was on, to prove it.
With a minder carrying my luggage I made way into the jungle, looking around in awe as the early morning sun shimmered off of the leafy dew. I saw that the jungle was the real deal – there were trees, there was dirt, there were insects, and high above, somewhere, in the canopy were Ant and Dec, most likely making sarcastic comments at my expense – the Geordie bastards! That first day was wonderful. I met the other contestants, lovingly referred to as ‘guinea pigs’ by the production staff, took a tour of the campsite, settled myself in, and spent three hours on the phone with ITV lawyers convincing the Australian immigration service that yes, I did bring something to their economy; namely my raw charisma, my wry sense of humour and my animal magnetism (non-metaphor).
Unfortunately it was my animal magnetism (metaphor) that caused my first discomfort in the jungle as I awoke that first night to find myself covered in all sorts of creepy-crawlies. I screamed loudly, prompting TOWIE star Mark Wright to ask Lorraine Chase if she was ok. Lorraine was still sleeping softly so Mark turned his attention to me and asked if I was ok. I nodded quietly, confused as to how such a masculine yell had been mistaken as Lorraine’s. I’d seen Mark before on that god awful ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ program, but I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt but casting him spuriously aside
‘Awwite guvnor,’ I said, cleverly disguising my Bristolian / Surrey accent behind a thick fog of what I presumed ‘essex-ness’.
‘Ay?’ he responded quizzically.
‘Year, just finking bowt da bunse I’m a get from dis gig innit, it’s reem!’ I cursed myself inwardly for using the showbiz term ‘gig’, but I think I covered myself by using the now nationwide detested ‘reem’.
‘What are you talking about mate?’
‘Don’t you know? Just reemness innit. ‘ere get that grin off ya boat and get dis down ya reem greg,’ I said as I offered him one of the insects crawling over me to eat.
‘Nah thanks geezer, I’m alright, I was just checking youz was alright, I’m going back to bed now, need me beauty sleep!’ He laughed as he said it.
‘Dench reem innit’ I shouted back.
Mark looked at me and then went back to sleep. We wouldn’t speak again for the rest of my time in the jungle.
The next morning I awoke coughing as the smoke from the campfire wafted lazily over me. I thought this curious, as I had deliberately laid out my sleeping bag down wind only yesterday. It seemed as though 3 years of cub scouting had been a waste. Eff you Baden-Powell. Anyhow, I noticed Mark sat next to the woman from Real Hustle and waved at them. She waved, he didn’t. I had watched ‘The Real Hustle’ before and I decided that Jessica-Jane Clement’s wave had been just a little too keen for my liking. After hiding all my valuables (Iphone, DS, Herbs – rules were a LOT more relaxed this year…or I just hidden that stuff damn well!) behind a nearby tree, I wandered down to the campfire to get to hang out with my fellow ‘guinea pigs’.
Breakfast was a quiet affair, as Mark regaled one and all how he confused my frightened yelp with that of Lorraine Chase the previous night. As he made the others laugh, I made a mental note never to get stuck in a burning building with Mark as he would most likely laugh at my screams for help, rather than do anything useful. The morning fire was cheering me up, as was knowing that my valuables were safe from any ad-hoc heists, and seeing how Mark was boring everyone else I seized my opportunity and launched into a morning sing along with the camp.
Now, the word raucous is used a lot these days, but let me assure you that it wasn’t used once in this event, as my sing along quickly crashed and burned. No one, not one single person joined in, including Dougie from McFly, and he’s in a band!
‘But you’re in a band!’ I would tell him later on.
‘I know, but I was embarrassed,’ he would confess (also later on), ‘with McFly it’s different. Screaming girls don’t demand anything other than a catchy chorus and a pretty face. But sing-alongs? Sing-alongs need harmonies and a strong voiced leader to start them off’
‘I carried that harmony well,’ I would insist.
Dougie, without needing to nod in agreement, would stay silent in agreement. I understood him loud and clear.
It was my first full day in the jungle (and it was to be my last :-( ) and there had been no trials, no fun, and no sing-alongs (and not for lack of trying on my part, let me tell you!), and as the evening sun began to set, the wrinkles on ‘Benidorm’ actress Crissy Rock’s face began to deepen as the shadows caressed her leathery skin – at the time I thought she probably should have used a stronger factor sun-cream when on the set of ‘Benidorm’ – but this manifested itself as a whisper to former Jockey Willie Carson in the vein of ‘leathery old bag has probably got skin cancer!’. This coaxed a giggle form the excitable little leprechaun (Ed. Offensive?).
Well, anyway, an hour later I was escorted out of the jungle and put back on a plane to Britain post haste. Now, I’m not going to sit here behind a computer screen and sling faceless accusations around, but Willie Carson is the only person I made that comment to and he laughed. He LAUGHED, ok? Now, if Willie Carson then repeated that comment to a certain someone else, perhaps Coronation Street actor Ant Cotton, and a certain Coronation street actor didn’t get the obvious satire…then shoot the messenger! Do not shoot the source! Absolutely ludicrous I tell you. In fact I made all of the above comments – word for word – in the internal tribunal that ITV held for me. I may also have implied that I didn’t care for Cotton’s acting ability, but I’m an Eastenders man – it’s a given