Unless I’m gigging, I avoid going out at night-time, especially if people are going to get funny about me turning up in a dressing gown with mash potato on the sleeve.
However, earlier in the week, I was invited onto the brand new Celebrity Big Brother’s spin-off show Bit on the Side (aka BOTS) and they promised me a Nando’s, so how could I refuse?
Anyway, I was intrigued: for the first time ever, the Big Brother house was going to start as an entirely Y-chromosome-free zone. Humming old Spice Girls tunes, I hosed all the Christmas gravy out of my creases and set off to Elstree studios.
Ah, Elstree, where Hitchcock made Britain’s first talkie, Blackmail. Sadly, in real life the place looks like an industrial estate/lorry park/dogging site.
My fellow all-female panellists included a previous Big Brother winner, a Strictly runner-up and a stunning reality TV star, who despite eating Maccy D’s off her lap was so beautiful, I wasn’t sure whether she might be computer-generated.
Oh, and there was also meant to be another big-name girl singer/ex-CBBer, but she was late, then she was really late and then she wasn’t coming. Cue feverish unsubstantiated gossip – marvellous.
BOTS is presented by the impossibly handsome Rylan Clark. In a past incarnation, Rylan himself is a Celebrity Big Brother champ, having previously finished fifth on The X Factor – keep up, kids, there is a Venn diagram somewhere featuring the name of the person who has done the most reality and/or talent shows; this person will probably be 99 per cent fake tan, possibly with a tiny bit of kangaroo anus stuck between their teeth.
Sadly I’m nowhere near this victory zone, having only done I’m A Celebrity! Get Me Out Of Here (third) and Masterchef(disqualified).
One by one the ladies entered the house – although of course it’s not really a “house”, it’s a big corrugated unit, currently fitted out by what looks like a load of knock-off Ikea.
The décor was certainly not to our first inmate’s taste. “I’m very Sanderson,” she sneered, but then that’s Ann Widdecombe for you.
Sorry, but being older than mashed avocado, I don’t buy the all-new cuddly version of this hard-faced cow. Somehow, post-Strictly, we seem to have forgotten that she defended the Government’s decision to keep female prisoners shackled during labour.
Personally, I think she should be shackled while the younger inmates use her as some kind of lipgloss guinea pig.
Not that there are many younger inmates. Surprisingly this is not a household of lithesome lovelies lolling around like a St Trinian’s sixth form. I’d say only three out of the eight wear thongs and I’d put money on seeing a glimpse of Spanx or a bra you could carry cauliflowers in – good.
In the over-50s camp, we have the transgender newsreader India Willoughby, ex-Rochdale cop Maggie Oliver (the only house member with a clean telly slate), plus writer Rachel Johnson, in a Rosie the Riveter boiler suit and blessed with much better hair than her real-life celebrity big brother.
Meanwhile, doing it for the pensioners are 70-year-old Widdecombe and 82-year-old theatrical treasure Amanda Barrie.
Seeing Amanda Barrie kissing her long-term partner Hilary Bonner goodbye before entering the house was the first genuinely interesting moment of the show; suddenly this seemed like a real celebration of 100 years since (some) women got the vote. Cut to two women in the studio audience dressed up as Suffragettes.
“What’s a Suffragette?” asked one of my fellow panellists. I’m still not sure if she was joking.
Representing the youth in the house came a glamour model, icy Snow Queen/Hoxton radio DJ, and Khloe Kardashian’s best friend, who cried – either because she was homesick and jetlagged, or because her shoes were hurting. If the youngies were hoping for a Prosecco-fuelled hen party they were in for a disappointment; the oldies looked like they were off to a dressy book club.
Lest we get overexcited, this “girls only” household was a mere two-night experiment. Whether we see any serious in-depth debate among this incredibly disparate bunch of women remains to be seen.
Personally I’d like to see Amanda Barrie square up to “Widders” over Section 28, but who knows – this is a reality game show and Channel Five might have them carving sex toys out of vegetables together.
Either way, the first male enters the house on Friday. Doubtless more will follow so ultimately the winner could be a man – certainly the sponsors of the show seem to think so, considering the accompanying ad from the girlie gambling site “Pink Bingo” featuring two young women sitting on a sofa excitedly watching the ongoing house shenanigans – cue the blonde: “I really want him to win.” Progress? Aaaaaaaagh.