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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Priced Out in the RainThe thing about militant activists who stop at nothing to get their point across, is that they're easily put off by a bit of rain. According to the Priced Out website, the plan for Sunday's protest was "to create a large gathering in a prominent place, which will make a good media photo opportunity for our campaign, as well as something that will look good on the TV". So they must have been a bit annoyed when only ten people turned up.

Bring OmarTo be honest, they weren't even the most vocal group there. That prize went to the 'Bring Omar Home' campaign, who'd lost the 'HOME' part of their banner, presumably having been priced out of it by Gordon Brown. But what they lacked in placards, they more than made up for in volume, courtesy of a woman with the voice of a foghorn, who led the chant of "Bring Omar Home, Close Guantanamo Bay".

Frankly if Omar had seen the weather, he wouldn't have wanted to come home. The closer we got to showtime, the more it poured with rain, and the less I felt like getting on TV. I wandered down the road and watched a display by the Cuckoo's Nest Women's Morris Dancers, who not only outnumbered the protesters, but were more determined to perform, but after ten minutes it became pretty obvious that Gordon wasn't coming to the party. Things got so desperate that some adults from Save the Children handed me a card asking Are You Gordon Brown?. So having exchanged shrugs with a TV crew who were sheltering under the same archway as me, I trudged home.

The evening, however, was far more successful. As Lisa and I jogged down Eastern Road at 7:20pm, panicking that we were late and wouldn't be let in, I felt strangely confident of meeting celebrities. Partly because we'd paid (well I'd paid) good money to do so, partly because I'd since discovered that Heather Mills-McCartney was at the Streets of Brighton event on Friday, but mainly because Lisa assured me that Zoe Ball was a close personal friend of Patsy Palmer, and was bound to turn up.

Lisa, it goes without saying, was wrong. But having failed to win our own personal Spot the Ball competition, we settled down for a journey through the world of hellish addiction. It's interesting how many people are quite happy to sit through an hour's lecture on alcoholism whilst sipping a glass of wine from the bar. I think I was the only bloke there without a pint of beer in my hand. But that aside, it was an interesting evening.

The event was hosted by Peter Guttridge, the Observer's crime fiction critic (and let's face it, some of Patsy's writing is verging on the criminal), and having invited the two authors to read aloud from their books, he proceeded to ask them a few questions, before throwing them open to the audience. A decision he probably regretted the moment the bloke sitting in the row in front of us, who'd clearly taken something that evening, put his hand up and declared that excess is good, and we should all drink as much as we like. He clearly had.

William Leith was quite entertaining, and should probably be given his own show, while Patsy failed to plug her tanning products and didn't say "Ricky!" once, which was a bit of a disappointment. She did, however, talk about her love of Primark, and how she started smoking cannabis at the age of 11, before revealing that her eldest son is struggling to read her book at the moment. Him and me both.

To Lisa, With Love, Patsy PalmerBut if there's one thing I'm addicted to, it's getting close to celebrities in the wild, so with Lisa skulking in the corner with an embarrassed expression on her face, I jumped straight in afterwards for a chat with Patsy, and got her to sign my book. Well, it's actually my Mum's book. But I'm sure she won't mind that it's now dedicated to Lisa.

William Leith did his best to ignore me (he was probably thinking about food), but Patsy was quite accommodating, so like a true paparazzo I whipped out my camera and took this high-quality shot...

Patsy Palmer & William Leith
It's hard to believe I'm not a trained photographer.