The Winter Olympics. February 2014.

Dear Rowley,

The Winter Olympics 2014 in Sochi haven’t been without controversy have they? Burning issues of the day include President Putin’s anti-gay laws and the big question as to why countries didn’t boycott the games never mind the odd Sapphic television presenter. As it happens I think Clare Balding was correct to attend Sochi and agitate rather than dodge the bullet and record another series of that execrable gameshow for BBC1: a far better service to television journalism in my ‘umble opinion.

In the spirit of protest I decided to boycott as much of the blanket BBC television coverage of the Winter Olympics as was humanly possible. Most of the fun and games on show seem more suitable for those extreme sports programmes that Channel 4 like to show on a Sunday morning just to make us all feel like s**** for having a lie-in. I do approve of anything involving skis but am a little more sceptical about snowboards, curling and the luge: the equivalent of a child hurling itself down a hill come winter time on a tea tray.

The luge always gives me a laugh watching grown men and women tearing down an icy log flume wearing lycra body suits that would have made Freddie Mercury think twice. My favourite luge moment came at the last Winter Olympics when some poor Svetlana lost her footing and ended-up hurtling full pelt down the ice tunnel legs akimbo before crashing into the dyke of foam rubber chunks that are supposed to stop one breaking a leg or ending up in the Crimea.

My lovely Suzi Perry on the telly and I both saw this particular luge incident live at which point Suzi went into commentator mode saying ‘Fortunately, Svetlana didn’t sustain any injuries…but she did lose her virginity’. I don’t know why but the Winter Olympics always make me smile because most of the sports are so insanely camp. When it comes to figure skating I have to quote the Divine Miss M: ‘Could it get any gayer?’ The costumes alone are reminiscent of a Friday night at the Two Brewers. I know the lifts are death defying but can’t help hoping that when it comes time for the scores on the doors we’d get the judging panel from Dancing On Ice rather than Sue Barker.

A word on the 2014 commentators for the Winter Olympics. Could they possibly sound any more like overexcited teenagers? The men in particular are guilty of thinking the way forward is to banter like Kevin and Perry and give Private Eve a year’s worth of Colemanballs. I’m also amused by the desperate attempt to ‘Bend it like Balding’ apropos knowing random facts about the athletes’ families and personal biographies. ‘Of course Lars von Lars’s uncle Heinrick won Gold in the snow plough 100 metres at the 1981 Winter Olympics in Java…’. Word to the wise. This is Clare’s schtick and only she can pull it off with any authority or humour.

I did happen to watch the highlights of the Winter Olympics tonight and discovered La Balding presenting in what appeared to be a car park standing next to a heavily ladened trolley not dissimilar to our local tramp in H0lborn who is wont to wheel around a trolley filched from Tesco piled high with smelly old clothes, thermos flasks and electrical appliances. If Clare mentioned that effing trolley with a wry smile once she did it a million times. It all became a little Victoria Wood: ‘Is it on the trolley? Can you point at it? Do you like my trolley? Just mind my trolley for me’.

At least the whole camp show will be over very soon and the BBC can get back to business as usual: only eight months to Strictly. I am doing much the same thing. If you want an idea of my last two weeks then rent A Streetcar Named Desire and Rosemary’s Baby and watch them back to back one dark night with a case of Chablis at arm’s reach. It was to be frank a close one but thank goodness I am now back in Bloomsbury Towers in my burrow recovering from what can only be described as a nightmare. But enough about me. How about you?

The one thing you learn when you go through a health crisis – again! – is who your friends are. Stand up all of my family, Better Half, Miss Carruthers, Mrs T, La Farmer and Mr Bowering. The Twitterati also helped as did thinking of you Rowley. So apologies for the radio silence. If I could have written I would have done. One day I might put it all in the memoirs but for now I think it kinder on me and on you not to elaborate.

So it’s back to work after another fortnight of R&R. I’m filming another 200 Steps for Canali at Spring Studios on the 24th and will knock off a couple of stories for The Rake just to get my eye and my brain in again. What I’m not doing is haring round the world on press trips so I cancelled Naples and Milan and feel much better for it. As for the future, I am going to give London another year of my attention then think again if the hideous air, pollen, smog and pollution continue to torture my sinuses. Where I’ll go depends entirely on the nature of my next books.

The most gratifying project when I was ‘under the doctor’ was to write a short story for the Jane Austen Competition. I think it is rather good and if it is successful then maybe fiction is a way forward. Let’s face it, fact has driven me close to the edge so indulging imagination might be a gentler way to get back to the future. Until next time…