There are probably several things that, as a regular imbiber of this column, you never thought you’d read here. Among them:
1. Robert Peston and I are to marry. (This will never happen, though goodness knows he has asked.)
2. An account of my tireless charity work. (As you know, I never talk about that.)
3. I’m about to become a published author. (I’m slightly embarrassed to tell you this one is true. Stop laughing.)
In my defence, it wasn’t my idea. My agent called me one day, and in that gruff voice, grazed by years of smoking Woodbines and fat cigars (simultaneously) and necking whisky, she said: “’Ere, Eamonn. Ever thought of turning those columns in the TV Times into a book?”
Well, I said, I have a lot of idle fantasies, many involving dunking members of BBC management in vats of baked beans, but I’d never act on them. Not with all that CCTV around.
She swore blind she could excite the interest of some of the UK’s finest publishers. As an agent, she can’t really help it: phoning clients to discuss outlandish schemes is what they do. I learnt a long time ago not to take any of it seriously.
Over the years she’s promised me a place on Strictly and starring roles in Downton Abbey and Line of Duty. I got over my disappointments because Dame Maggie was so much better in the role than I could ever have been, ditto Ann Widdecombe. The closest I got to my agent’s wild ideas becoming reality was in season four of Line of Duty, but after an uneven audition it transpires I’m allergic to balaclavas.
On this occasion, however, my agent delivered. A few weeks later, in a succession of breakfast meetings, I got to meet a handful of publishers. They were all jolly nice, and I learnt a bit about publishing.
There was some juicy namedropping about celebrities who were lovelies or monsters. Some who wrote every word of their bestsellers, others who didn’t even come up with the title. Apparently Corrie Corfield’s life story The Naughtiest Thing I Ever Did Was Run through a Cornfield was written by three children on the minimum wage in China. It’s still one helluva page-turner.
My agent set a deadline for these fine publishers to fight over the rights for my book. I have heard a recording of what went on:
“You have him.”
“No, I don’t want him. You have him.”
The losing publisher is now saddled with the task of murdering some trees to line the remainder bins with a collection of the “very best” of these columns from the past seven years.
We’ve decided to call it Eddie Mair: a Good Face for Radio. It will be out in November, in time for Christmas. Apparently there might have to be an audiobook, too, for when your eyes inevitably droop. There’s talk of piping my audiobook into prisons to subdue restless inmates.
Don’t feel you have to buy any of this tat. Perhaps if there’s a lifelong foe in your office, or a relative you despise, my tome could be the ideal Christmas gift. Or you could use it to frighten errant children.
Having seen the mugshot they plan to put on the cover, I asked them, “Couldn’t you have photoshopped this?” They said they had, and then the machine broke. So at least the title is true.
Eddie Mair presents PM and iPM on Radio 4, 5pm weekdays