Nothing is as it seems on screen
The camp is a lot smaller than you expect. It’s the size of a village school playground. But the treks to get the celebrity chest are uphill for anything up to an hour and a half. That’s what made me lose weight. It was Tenko stuff. You think, I really want to get out of the camp, but then you’re walking for 45 minutes uphill, you feel sick and your lungs are in your mouth – you’d rather go back and lie down. Others find the ordeal, the physicality of it, completely unscathing but I found it gobsmacking. I lost a stone.
Even the bridge isn’t safe
The bridge is much scarier than it looks. You’re suddenly aware that this show is nine years old and it’s not just the Brits who use it. It’s been used and abused by lots of other countries who do the same programme in the same camp. Suddenly you think: this bridge is quite rusty, the springs have seen better days, it’s got metal fatigue. It’s creaking like it might break.
The cuisine is limited
Everyone expects there to be a Mr Kipling van out the back, but the rations are rations. It’s very simple stuff. Gillian McKeith smuggled in seasonings in her knickers – when they were confiscated, it was bland. There are no stimulants, no tea or coffee. You realise a cup of boiled water in the mornings is quite nice, especially if you keep some peelings back and make tea out of them. I’d get really upset if somebody threw a bit of peel on the fire. For a while when I got back I thought gosh, one teabag can be reused several times. But I’m northern and I’m quite used to being mean anyway.
Beware the facilities
Its just one dunny and its got to be changed every day. The boys were very gentlemanly about that and it is a brute-strength job, carrying the jobbies. But there’s a lot of constipation, because people aren’t eating what they’re used to eating, and because people bung themselves up psychologically. It’s very difficult to relax behind what’s essentially a piece of sackcloth curtain, and you’re never sure what’s lurking in there. It’s what they call a long drop toilet, it’s a long way down. Is there a satisfying splat at that height? Ha! There can be, once you start winning your meat rations…
You won’t look your best
You’re not allowed make-up unless you smuggle something in. A lot of people do grooming things before they go, but I only found out I was going the day before. I did have a spray tan, and I asked them to do four coats, hoping it would last, but I cracked like an old gate. It started to peel off. Apart from that I only had time to run a disposable razor over my shins and that was it.
Prepare for wet weather
Last year was particularly tough because it just rained and rained. They might as well have done it in Wales. Or Salford. By the end, the mud started to smell. I bent down to tie my shoelaces, caught this whiff from the mud and thought, this is toxic now.
You’re on your own in there
Obviously you see cameramen, and rangers came in with sticks when we had poisonous toads, but they’re all under instruction not to speak to you, no eye contact, and their watches are covered up so you can’t see what time it is. You get used to chatting away to them and not being responded to, but that’s life for a middle-aged woman.
Someone will replace you next year
Have I checked out the new line-up? Oh yes. You think, that’s the new sporty one, that’s the new pretty one. I think they’re one girl missing. The new me? Crissy Rock. But you say here’s your mother hen, here’s your panicker etc and then people confound those expectations. Stacey Solomon was a revelation. She’s naturally incredibly clever, just not brilliantly educated, which she’d be the first to admit because she left school to have a baby. I don’t agree with a lot of her thinking but she can hold an argument. She doesn’t believe in reading books, for instance – can’t see the difference between a book and OK! Magazine – but she could really argue that point.
… but get through it, and it’ll help your career
Come on. We all go in there because our careers are on shaky ground. If you were the team captain of this year’s fashionable panel game, you wouldn’t go on I’m A F***ing Celebrity! It’s for people who have lost their footing on the career ladder. Did it make more people buy my books and see my shows? Yes. It’s been a huge relief – it was starting to look upsetting a year ago. There are a lot of acts on the road, gigging – people have to choose one gig a month now there’s no money, rather than three, and people on telly get bums on seats. Unless you come across as an absolute a***hole, which is always a risk, it just might make the powers that be see you in a different light. I’ve got panto now!
Interview: Jack Seale