Occasionally, I appear on Sky to do a press preview. In the couple of hours before midnight, two people selected to disagree with each other choose the cream of the next day’s headlines, and talk about them. More often than not, five or six papers will go with the same story; in extreme cases – such as when some actual news has occurred – all the papers lead with the same thing. Then, just to mix it up, you have to talk for five minutes about whether or not the Loch Ness monster really was just the penis of a whale, as the Daily Star recently revealed.
Before you go on air, you discuss which stories you want to do, expecting this to be a rufty-tufty sort of exchange, since the whole point of the two guests is that they will never agree about anything.
So anyway, there I am, discussing the papers with a producer and a foe, and I have chosen a story from our own front page, and the foe says: “Can we not do that? It’s just so dismal. Nobody’s interested.” And I say: “Well, I’m quite interested …”
“I’m going to die of boredom!” she exclaims. “The Guardian is just so boring.”
It was incredibly rude and completely thrilling. I’m not talking about rage, that’s horrible, but I can’t believe how much I’ve missed this insouciant, studs-first, deliberate offence-giving, like a flash storm after months of claggy humidity. Between one thing and another – never seeing anyone, the grinding seriousness of the world – casual spikiness just fell out of fashion. Nobody’s so much as critiqued my eyeliner or said “You’re welcome” in a sarcastic voice since 2019. That bracing feeling, where half of you wants to retaliate and the other half is laughing at how slow and clunky your retaliating half is, and the laughing half always wins because your rapier is just not sharp enough, and never will be – it’s the best. Wild water swimming can do one.