These are extracts from my diary in November 2002.
The Second Gulf War started in March 2003…
I went to Up the Creek comedy club in Greenwich.
A very experienced foreign comic went down very badly.
“What do you guys do here in the summer?” he tried.
“We go abroad!” someone shouted out.
Later, starting a joke, he tried: “Anyone here in love?’
“My girlfriend!” another voice shouted out.
A friend sent me an e-mail circular about the situation in Iraq:
Subject: Do we want war?
War is NOT the Answer. Today we are at a point of imbalance in the world and are moving toward what may be the beginning of a THIRD WORLD WAR. If you are against this possibility, the UN is gathering signatures in an effort to avoid a tragic world event. War is NOT the Answer.
My reply was:
Sadly, I think it is.
I went to see Malcolm Hardee at his Wibbley Wobbley pub in Rotherhithe. He told me the fruit machines are rigged and hired from a man called Xxxxx. Each week, there are small payouts to players but Malcolm gets around £100 and Xxxxx takes around £100. Xxxxx has got some 80 machines in South London, each paying him about £100 per week. Xxxxx is a friend of gangster Charlie Richardson.
Xxxxx told Malcolm that Charlie Richardson recently lent him his own car for a few hours. Xxxxx looked in the boot and found a dead body. He returned it a few hours later without mentioning that he had looked in the boot. He said Charlie must have momentarily forgotten the body was in there.
I had lunch with a friend in Covent Garden. She showed me the gas mask and small goggles she had bought in case of terrorist gas attack in the tube or elsewhere. She said the gas mask should protect her for about 20 minutes.
I had lunch with comedian Nick Wilty at Kettner’s in Soho. In the 20 minutes before he arrived, I sat in the almost empty bar.
The only other people there were a well-known criminal I recognised and three men apparently talking about an armed robbery which had gone wrong and whether or not ‘the South African’ had double-crossed them. It seemed strange they were talking about it so openly.
When Nick Wilty arrived, he told me he had left the British Army after the Falklands War because it had become boring – doing the same thing day in and day out. He served around 1978-1982 but avoided Northern Ireland by (truthfully) saying he had lots of Irish mates and his sympathies tended towards Republicanism.
Nick told me that going onstage was like the first time he parachuted or bunji-jumped – fear in the pit of your stomach, then a sudden change to exhilaration when you were actually doing it.
In the evening, I was in the Uxbridge Road in Shepherd’s Bush. For no visible reason, nearby were 15 police vans and countless policemen with visors and round plastic shields. I went into a strange internet cafe to check my e-mails.
There was a Cockney-type cafe selling food at the front; a pool room in middle populated by very dubious-looking Turks; and, at the back, a computer room with Russian porn. You had to click off all the myriad porn pop-up windows before you could penetrate (if that’s the word) the Internet Explorer browser layer.
When I came out, the Cockney cafe was full of Eastern Europeans and, going outside, I stumbled into a rugby riot on the Uxbridge Road with police and horses half-heartedly charging the drunken sports fans. I had only been inside the cafe for about ten minutes.
I had lunch with a well-known comedian, who seemed shy or perhaps just warily reserved.
“I met Madonna and smelled Natalie Imbruglio’s bum,” he told me.
He had crashed a Green Room party and eventually looked Madonna in the eye for about three seconds.
“Hello,” he had said.
“Hello,” she replied. “Do I know you?”
And that was it.
He had just come back from Canada where he had performed for a month in a 500-seater theatre in Toronto. One night the audience comprised three people.