The week the story ate itself


“How much make-up do you usually wear?” the make-up woman asks. I tell her I usually don’t wear any. “The natural look, then?”

Ten minutes and a variety of different powder puffs and shades later, I look up and see that she’s drawn a big black line on one of my eyes, like a kid with a marker pen. I squeak in anguish. She looks at me. “Too much?” I nod. She does the other eye and then does a bit of half-hearted rubbing out. “Mascara?” she asks, with a tone that is beginning to descend from indifference to contempt. No, I say. “Lipstick?” No. “Lip gloss?” No. “HAIR?” She’s panicking now. I run my hands through it a few times and declare it to be fine.

There is a pause as she looks at me in horror. Finally she declares: “You’re done, then.” (And what she’s really saying is: “If you want to go on TV looking like that then go ahead, it’s your funeral.”)

I wander out into the corridor and in the direction of the ‘green room’, which is where I’ve been told to go next. I think back to my tearful conversation with my partner last night when he asked me what I was going to wear and I told him I wanted to wear something that would make me invisible.

Luckily, it turns out I am invisible.

Well, I’m visible for a second, as the other inmates of the green room size me up and come to a quick decision: I’m not anyone remotely important (and I also have something really weird going on with my eyeliner). There are two sitting on one sofa – a man and a woman – and one man, spread out on the other sofa. I look towards the other sofa, hopefully. Nothing happens. I only get a seat by dint of an “Excuse me”, followed by a grudging budge-up by this man who must be an actual, proper celebrity (but who later turns out to be another fake – some kind of employee of an actual proper celebrity).

Why am I here?

Because I wrote an opera about celebrity, and the celebrity who formed the basis of it happened to be Jade Goody, and Jade Goody was a celebrity, and so suddenly I’m in the middle of some kind of celebrity news story about Jade Goody.


Me too.

But nonetheless, here I am, and the man and the woman on the sofa opposite me are getting very excited because the employee-on-my-sofa’s employer, returning from his spot on the telly, has turned out to be a really big and proper celebrity. And he said hello to them, before collecting his employee from my sofa and standing outside the room having a chat with one of the TV people about Important Celebrity Things.

The man and the woman opposite have a whispered debate about whether or not to ask him for a photograph. Eventually, the man gets brave, the proper celebrity is delighted to oblige and so the woman gets brave and asks as well. The proper celebrity eventually extricates himself, takes his employee, and starts heading out. The sofa man shouts after him, “I follow you!” It takes me a moment to realize he means on Twitter.

Ten minutes later and the sofa people have had their spot on the telly and come back to collect their stuff and one of them has checked his phone and found that the proper celebrity has followed him back and made a fist pump like his team has won a football match, and I’m thinking: Where the fuck is the composer of this opera, Erick? Because he’s meant to be coming on TV with me. I’d insisted because I’d worked out that if anyone looked less like a celebrity than this man, I didn’t know who. And also because I was terrified.

I start wandering the corridors. People look at me strangely. I head back to the make-up room and explain the situation: I can’t find my composer. The people in the make-up room look at me - strangely - and suggest I try and find a producer. I wander back down the corridor and, to my relief, there he is. Late, flustered, and the total anti-celebrity.


He goes into make-up.

Two minutes later, he’s out of make-up. He still looks normal. It’s not fucking fair.

And ten minutes after that, we’re sitting on a sofa opposite Eamonn Holmes – yes, the man off Tomorrow’s World who told me about magnetic trains in Japan when I was a kid and thus fuelled my obsession with train travel – and he’s asking me if there’s anything in particular I want to get across.

Yes, I say. This isn’t really an opera about Jade Goody.

Also, says Erick, I didn’t know who she was. I’d never heard of her.

Eamonn Holmes looks slightly concerned. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, says somebody.


It goes okay. It only lasts a couple of minutes. We get asked how we had the idea and then they pull out the big guns. A friend of Jade says it’s in bad taste. He says you should give the money to charity instead.

What money? we say. We’re going to make a loss.

Also, Erick, I understand that you didn’t even know who Jade Goody was. Don’t you think you shouldn’t have written it in that case?

Erick says something about that being an advantage, that it enabled him to see the whole thing from a totally different angle, but basically he’s such a non-celebrity that it’s almost like he’s on mute.

Her name isn’t even in the opera, I say. Nowhere in it. We deliberately did that, because we didn’t want it to be all about her.

Eamonn Holmes looks at me in despair.

Then he reads out some messages off Twitter – people don’t seem to be too keen on the idea of the ‘Jade Goody opera’.

They cut to the ad break.

On the sofa, while we’re waiting to have our mics taken off, his co-presenter asks me what the difference between an opera and a musical is.

I tell her operas are less hummable.

We’re dismissed.


The lovely cab driver (from Bermondsey, where Jade grew up) is waiting for me outside his cab to take me home.

I thought you did great, he says. They didn’t let you speak, though. It was unfair. You were about to say something and then they cut you off.

Yeah, I say. I was about to point out that no-one’s seen this thing.

I check my phone. Twitter tells me I’m #awful. Don’t let them get you down, the driver says. I won’t, I say. I’m taking everything with a pinch of salt. Make that a bucket, he advises.


We make The Mail.

We make The Sun.

We make The Daily Star.

We make the goddamn Times of India.

It just gets crazier and crazier.

And then the opera happens.

We get a few reviews – some pretty nice reviews in some pretty big papers – and they mostly say yeah, it’s all right, it’s not in horrendously bad taste, bit of work and you’ll have something great on your hands.

And suddenly I’m a nobody again.