A stretch limo came to pick me up. How over the top, I thought. Where’s my Nissan Cherry with the dents in the back?
I’m looking out of my hotel room window and all I can see is rows of palm trees and the American flag protruding from the corner of every building. It is very hot and it feels like summertime when I was seven years old. I’m in Silicon Valley, California. Silicon Valley does not manufacture the world’s greatest breast implants, but it does manufacture loads and loads of money. Not only does this town smell of money, but every conversation I’ve had with anyone since I’ve been here has been about money – and not just any old money, but billions and trillions of dollars.
These people sent a car to San Francisco Airport to pick me up. It was a stretch limo with the windows blacked out. How over the top, I thought – it’s only me. Where’s my Nissan Cherry with the windows smashed up, dents in the back, foam coming out of the seats and big furry dice in the window? That’s what I’m used to, and it would suit my Matalan suitcase a whole lot better. What’s the point of me being in a limo? No one I know is here to see it, and it’s no thrill for me if no one’s going to be jealous.
I’d been invited to perform at a university reunion for a class of engineers – the class of 1966, who now all work in Silicon Valley. Just imagine the scene: a load of middle-aged engineers who clearly hadn’t seen each other for many years because they’d all been avoiding each other, and then some bored person with no sex life goes and arranges a reunion, so they all have to turn up and listen to everyone else talk about how well they’re doing, and so everyone gets inappropriately drunk . . . and around the same time everyone realises why they’ve never kept in touch.
I hate reunions. Why do people have them? There’s a reunion for everything nowadays – school, work, even holiday reunions. Why would you want to reunite with a bunch of strangers you met on holiday for a week? You’re on holiday; you want to get away from your friends, not reunite with some stranger you met in a Jacuzzi at midnight. Next time there’s an earthquake, no doubt you’ll hear a whole load of Americans shouting: “There’s an earthquake in California – let’s have a reunion!”
Next stop was Berkeley and then Marin County. Marin County is so rich, it’s the only place I’ve been where the homeless have homes. You walk down the street and instead of waving a cup at you they wave a chip-and-pin reader. This morning, I went to buy a paper from the local store and they had Whitney Houston playing in the background, pictures of Bob Marley in the window and the man behind the till, who was wearing a pink and black bow tie, said: “Sorry, ma’am, no papers, but would you like to try a super protein blueberry B Monster?” All of a sudden I had cravings for Brixton. I said, “No, thank you, but do you have a cookie?” “I don’t have one small cookie. I only sell them in the large size.” He whipped one out from behind the counter. It was the size of a pancake.
The sound of Yorkshire is always comforting, and tonight two women in the front row of my show in Berkeley brought me a box of Tetley’s tea bags. I wondered if they did that just for me or if they would do it for Tom Jones as well. If Mick Jagger had come would they have brought him some Crème de la Mer?
The two women, who very quickly divulged to me that they were lesbians from Yorkshire “on the run” (they didn’t tell me what they were running from, but I suspect it’s Emmerdale), advised me not to spend too long in the United States: “Because you start missing the simple life – like sheep, and people who say, ‘All right, luv’ at 8am at a bus stop.” I know what they mean. I’m beginning to miss small cookies and food with no vitamins in it. I’ll be coming home soon: I miss The X-Factor. And no, no one’s heard of Simon Cowell over here – it’s all a big lie.