I think maybe I was destined to get the train and not the plane because in the taxi, I realised that the red skirt I was wearing is in fact a very old one in which the elastic has perished. I have been wearing it for publicity purposes because even if I am talking about death, tragedy, isolation and depression, if I wear a red skirt and say the book is funny, people seem to believe me. Sitting in the front seat of the taxi though as we swung round the hairpin bends en route for the train station, I looked down and the skirt was around my thighs. I had this sudden vision of me walking onto a live studio set with my skirt hobbling my knees and my magic knickers on display for the nation. Fortunately, nothing seemed to phase my cab driver. Arriving at the station, she dug around in her first aid box and came up with two of the biggest safety pins I had ever seen, thereby saving me from YouTube "wardrobe malfunction" posterity.
The train made it in time and there was even a car to meet me at the station and take me to the studio. It turns out you get your own dressing room when you are on TV. I would have been quite happy at this point just to stand outside the dressing room door reading my name over and over again, but an army of attractive, no-nonsense girls wearing headsets with microphones, and carrying clipboards keep coming to tell you things. While I was in make-up (sitting next to the undercover journalist Donal Macintyre - I just about resisted saying "You're that bloke from the telly arent you? You are, aren't you?" over and over), the assistant producer came in to get me to sign a piece of paper. This could have been a legal disclaimer, or it could have been a mortgage application form for a property in the Algarve Richard and Judy have their eye on. Who knows? By this time, I was too petrified with fear to focus on the words long enough to read them - I just signed it. She said: "Please don't swear. Really. Please don't swear." I had already been told by another girl with a clipboard and headset not to swear. My mind immediately filled up with every obscenity I had heard since the age of five. I said: "Oh God.I swear a lot." Her pretty face tightened. She looked away and said: "Well, please don't." The make-up lady finished and then the hair lady took over transforming my hair into something vaguely reminiscent of a Charlie's Angel (the first series). Then far too soon it was time to tiptoe into the studio and await my turn on the couch. What I wonder is so scary about appearing on TV? Is it the thought millions of people might meet you for the first time and decide you are an idiot? Would that matter in the scheme of things? I looked so striken with nerves, I think even the girls with clipboards were beginning to worry for me. I watched the tail-end of the appearance of the guest infront of me - a silver-haired, urbane and charming Italian historian. He gave Richard grappa and Judy chocolates; in the darkness, I felt like I was nine years old again, arriving at a friend's birthday party without a birthday present because I forgot to bring it to school that morning. As Richard and Judy moved from one sofa set to another, I concentrated on trying to regain the use of my tongue. I thought: "At least my skirt can't fall down." And then I was on.
Judy asks about the book and I look into her eyes which are a piercing sapphire blue, and two words come into my head "Wise woman." I attempt to answer her while thinking: "Oh my God, Judy Finnigan is the reincarnation of a wise woman from the 17th century. And I don't even believe in reincarnation." I cannot shake this thought out of my head for the rest of the interview. At one point Richard fires the question: "Would you describe yourself as a housewife?" If you say "No", it implies you chose not to align yourself with women who do not earn a wage but work themselves to the bone 24/7 as wives and mothers. If you say "Yes", it is disingenuous because I am earning money writing a book and as a journalist. I mutter something about being a working mother and working at home. He won't let it go. He is determined to see me as a housewife. He says: "Do you think you are a very modern edition of a housewife?" I am thinking: "You really are Richard Madeley aren't you?" Their previous guest had undertaken "an epic journey" sailing from Venice to Istanbul over a three month period in a 19th century schooner. According to publicity, his journey "is a fabulous fusion of history, culture and travel as he takes us around the Mediterranean Sea – in the wake of his ancestor, the explorer Alvise da Mosto – to discover the cities and islands where Western civilisation was born." Richard liked him. He is less impressed when I tell him I moved to the country and ran out of petrol five or is it six times? He said: "That's stupid." My behaviour has officially been declared "stupid" by Richard Madeley on national TV - if only he knew I was wearing safety pins to keep my skirt up. He wouldn't think I was stupid then. Judy defends me when he asks why I do not carry a jerry-can in the boot - she even tells him to "shut up". I explain I did learn to fill the car with petrol and he laughs and says "You are funny." I say that in London I used the Tube and the Tube never ran out of petrol. That's the joke. The Tube never ran out of petrol. He says: "No it won't - because it runs on electricity." I think: "I know that." Pretty soon it is over; I go home with a goody bag of Molton Brown toilettries and a thank you card with a lovely picture of Richard and Judy on the front. And you forget the terror - you just think: "They're very nice. I could do that all over again" and "I wonder if Richard Madeley knows he is married to a wise woman?"