Magazine article The Spectator

Group Therapy

Magazine article The Spectator

Group Therapy

Article excerpt

I feel sorry for Gorgeous George. It was a terrific idea to go on Big Brother and turn himself into a popular icon and get his political ideas across to a young audience.

Full marks for that. And it might have worked if our close scrutiny of his interaction with a random group of strangers had shown him to be the cool guy he imagines he is. Unfortunately, the horrible truth unfolding daily before our very eyes, made more vivid, perhaps, by cruel editing, is that Galloway is a vain, arrogant, prickly, two-faced, conniving, paranoid snob. I still like him, though. I admire his balls, which were on show the other night when he was made to prance in front of the other house-mates wearing only a skintight rosepink leotard.

I'd challenge anyone to join a group of complete strangers and be subjected to privations and indignities and come out of it with self-esteem intact, however. I went on an overland expedition once -- 23 punters in a converted Bedford truck, Nairobi to London -- and the situation was in many respects very similar to the Big Brother house.

I'd presented myself to the group initially as a strong, silent Clint Eastwood-type character and hoped to maintain it for the entire trip. My persona was exposed as a charade almost immediately, though, when I contracted violent amoebic dysentery, resulting in a peri-anal abscess as big as a damson, of which several expedition members took photographs to show their mates back home what an unhealthy place Africa can be. After that I had to sit by the campfire every evening with my buttocks in a washing-up bowl filled with warm water and Dettol. On Mount Kilimanjaro I collapsed with altitude sickness and was the only member of the group not to make it to the top. In Rwanda I dropped a pan of hot fat on my leg, the wound suppurated and I couldn't walk for a week. In Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo the entire village turned out to throw stones at us, one of which gashed the back of my head. In Niger I was struck by a painful kind of conjunctivitis and went virtually blind. After paddling in the River Niger I had to have a jigger cut out of my big toe.

After that lot I had to modify my persona to something more along the lines of George Formby. …

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