The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - PUZZLE TIME -

My favourite summer party of the year is the ITV bash held at the home of the net­work’s boss, Peter Fin­cham. Any­one who can loosely be cat­e­gorised un­der the wide-rang­ing um­brella of ITV ‘Tal­ent’ con­gre­gates in a gar­den to drink cham­pagne and fine canapés un­til mid­night.

At which point it is ex­tremely ad­vis­able ca­reer-wise to exit stage-left be­fore al­co­holic con­sump­tion leads to the in­evitable slurred, in­dig­nant ‘ Why are you not giv­ing me Ant and Dec’s air time and salary?’ con­ver­sa­tion with Mr Fin­cham. One that is more likely to re­sult in Keith Cheg­win’s air time and salary.

I went with Amanda Holden, who flew into a panic as our car ap­proached. ‘Oh my God, you’re sweat­ing like a fevered warthog!’ she ex­claimed, ‘I can’t ar­rive with you like this, it’s brand- dam­ag­ing!’ Amanda or­dered her driver to go round the block as she fran­ti­cally pow­dered my face.

The prepa­ra­tion was su­per­flu­ous though, as the pa­parazzi wait­ing out­side took one photo of us to­gether, then po­litely sug­gested one of Amanda on her own. I’ve seen grey­hounds move slower as her el­bow flew into my rib cage to barge me out of the pic­ture. Her ego was thank­fully re­stored to its right­ful place when we went in­side and bumped into Jeremy Piven.

‘Hey man!’ he cried, giv­ing me a bear- hug, ‘ you were great in the movie!’ Amanda froze in hor­ror. ‘WHAT movie?’

‘Oh, I’m co- star­ring with Jeremy in the En­tourage film,’ I replied, non­cha­lantly. ‘And he’s re­ally good!’ Mr Piven added. ‘A nat­u­ral?’ I sug­gested. Jeremy laughed, re­al­is­ing how ag­o­nis­ing this con­ver­sa­tion was for Amanda, and nod­ded: ‘A nat­u­ral.’

My own ego now suit­ably in­flated to an even more gi­gan­tic state than usual, who bet­ter to de­flate it than the terrifyingly bossy Mrs Pat­more from Down­ton Abbey?

Ac­tress Les­ley Ni­col, who plays the bat­tle-axe cook, stood nearby, lurk­ing among the be­go­nias. ‘I love you in the show!’ I cooed syco­phan­ti­cally. ‘You play a blind woman with such power!’ She flashed me her most with­er­ing Mrs Pat­more face. ‘If you love me in the show so much,’ she roared, ‘you’d know I’m not blind any more!’

I re­treated in shame and sought refuge with a group in­clud­ing An­drew Lloyd Web­ber and wife Madeleine, who were in a heated de­bate about as­sisted dy­ing. Bri­tain’s House of Lords is about to vote on this, and An­drew – him­self a lord of course – was torn about which way to go. ‘My fear is that it would be abused if it be­came per­mis­si­ble un­der the law.’

I agreed. There have been enough cor­rupt doc­tors ex­posed over the years to have gen­uine con­cerns that where a large in­her­i­tance lies in wait­ing, so might a du­bi­ous ‘as­sisted death’.

‘Madeleine and I have lo­cated two very friendly physi­cians in your neigh­bour­hood pre­pared to sign off on your im­mi­nent demise at a very cheap price, An­drew,’ I quipped. But then TV doc­tor Hi­lary Jones in­ter­vened with a heart­felt and emo­tional de­fence of help­ing ter­mi­nally ill peo­ple die.

‘ I f you have two in­de­pen­dent doc­tors who don’t know each other, and they both agree a pa­tient has less than six months to live, then I think it’s the right and hu­mane thing to al­low them to ac­cede to that pa­tient’s wish to end his or her life.’ He was very pas­sion­ate and very con­vinc­ing. I was per­suaded. An­drew Lloyd Web­ber to­day re­vealed he will be vot­ing in favour of the As­sisted Dy­ing Bill. He also re­vealed some­thing he hadn’t men­tioned on Thurs­day night: he was in such pain from op­er­a­tions fol­low­ing treat­ment for prostate can­cer last year I went to the Test match in Southamp­ton and Eng­land crick­eter Moeen Ali, a Mus­lim, sparked con­tro­versy by wear­ing two wrist­bands say­ing ‘Save Gaza’ and ‘Free Pales­tine’.

I sup­port his right to free speech, just as I would sup­por t any­one who wanted to ex­press sup­por t for Is­rael. But in­evitably, he was at­tacked by the ex­trem­ists who dog both sides of the cri­sis.

The Is­rael-Pales­tine con­flict is a con­stant run­ning sore at the heart of global un­rest; used and abused by ter­ror or­gan­i­sa­tions as an ex­cuse for their bar­barism.

It’s out­ra­geous that Ha­mas fires end­less rock­ets at Is­rael. Is­rael’s of­ten mas­sively dis­pro­por­tion­ate re­sponse, as we have seen in the last fort­night, can be just as out­ra­geous. And what is inar­guable is that the on­go­ing suf­fer­ing of the Pales­tinian peo­ple shames the world. Yes, it’s a com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tion. But so was North­ern Ire­land, where a re­li­giously di­vided peo­ple waged sim­i­larly im­pla­ca­ble bat­tles. Peace was even­tu­ally won through diplomacy and bold, coura­geous lead­er­ship.

At some stage, Is­rael will have to sit down and ne­go­ti­ate with Ha­mas and do a deal that brings last­ing peace to the re­gion. It will stick in the craw of both sides, but it’s the only so­lu­tion.

As Win­ston Churchill once said: ‘ To jaw-jaw is al­ways bet­ter than to war-war.’

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