New Statesman 2009
16 April 2009I was walking into a 24-hour grocer's in Crouch End on Saturday night, when I heard agang of teenage girls running behind me. Obviously, I thought they were going to kill me, so I ran fast into the shop. I took my time in there, buying a few more cauliflowers than I actually needed. When I eventually left I saw they were waiting for me outside. They followed me for a bit, then one of them shouted: "Excuse me, are you famous?" Next another one shouted: "She is, I've seen her."
I turned round and right in my face were seven teenage girls shouting, "Well, are you?"
"I am a comedian," I said timidly. At which they all started jumping up and down shouting, "See, I told ya! I told ya she woz famous!" Then they all ran off.
If you have to follow someone, then go up to them and ask them, "Are you famous?" clearly they're not famous enough. Second, if I was really famous I wouldn't be buying cauliflowers from a 24-hour shop on a Saturday night - I didn't see Madonna in there.
It is indicative of our time that these young girls should come up to me and ask, "Are you famous?", not knowing what I might be famous for. That bit didn't seem to matter. "Are you famous?" - not "Are you an accountant?" or "Are you a vet?" To these girls, fame is an occupation in itself.
I was bemused. It's not like I've just taken my clothes off or had an affair with a married footballer to get my face in the papers. I actually have a job.
Three days later I was going up the escalator at Holborn Tube, when a gang of teenage boys was going down theopposite escalator. They stared at me, then one of them pointed at me and shouted: "There's that woman off the telly." Another added: "Yeh, she's that newsreader!"
They must have thought, it's an Asian woman off the TV - she can only possibly be a newsreader.
I was offended. I could have been Shilpa Shetty.
Kids are obsessed with fame itself. When I was growing up we were obsessed with rubbers and pencil sharpeners. Now kids are obsessed with adulation, money, being recognised, being worshipped . . . for doing nothing. Yet invariably they're prepared to do anything to get famous.
And everyone, absolutely everyone - no matter how shy or self-conscious - a part of everyone wants to be famous. Take the blogosphere, where people feel the need to share every thought and feeling with the world.
The blog is fame for shy people. "Julie has mowed the lawn, dug the flower beds, moved 200 bricks, cooked lunch, washed up, done four loads of washing and the ironing and is now going to bed."
Who cares? Why do you feel the need to tell this to the world?
Do they express what they imagine to be their fascinating lives through the internet in the hope that someone might recognise their name, they might get a book deal, or someone might make a film of their mundane life?
When I was a child, I had a diary with a lock and key, which I kept covered in clothes and locked in a drawer under my bed. I spent my whole life shit scared that my mum might find it. Nowadays people are shit scared in case their blog doesn't get read. Bring back the diary - where people keep their thoughts to themselves! It is the ultimate form of narcissism: people who blog think the world is interested in the fact that "John is making a cup of tea, and loves his wife more today than he did 25 years ago".
How boring. I don't want to hear that. I want to hear the miserable truth. I want to hear how your ex-wife locked you in the garage for 23 hours a day, slept with your brother and your father, put a Kalashnikov to your head, demanded all your life savings, and then attempted to blow your head off and bury you under the patio. That's the blog I want to read.