Christmas In The Clink?
Monday, 23 December 2013
According to today’s Daily Mail, in another double-page piece about Nigella Lawson (this time about whether she might be prosecuted for drug use): “Police may also want to question Victoria Coren, who wrote in a national newspaper that she had taken cocaine with Mr Diamond before his death in 2001”. (I’ve been told the same thing was said in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, though I only saw it in the Mail).
Well done them. No word of a lie: I did write that. But it’s cleverly worded to disguise the tone of what I wrote, or the detail. In this article, I said that 12 years ago the great John Diamond had, in his last terminal days, urged me to try cocaine because I never had - at which point I put a bit of it on my gums to no discernible effect - and that I’ve never even seen cocaine before or since. Am I going to be arrested over this? Do the Mail seriously think I might be? If so, it’s hard to be sure that everyone has everything completely in perspective here. It’s very weird that the police, having said they would not be investigating any evidence from the witness box, have now responded to press excitement by saying “Meh, actually, what the hell, maybe we will”, but should I really be expecting the gloved knock on my own door? Do the police trawl newspaper columns, as well as news pages, to see if anything criminal might have happened? I’m sure it used to be the other way round.
Maybe. But what makes me sad is the thought of what a million Daily Mail/ Sunday Telegraph readers, who never saw my original Observer article, will imagine from the phrase “taken cocaine”. They won’t (of course, why would they?) think of a square girl with an asthma inhaler in her pocket, nervously trying a bit of this mysterious thing on finger and gum, for love of a dying friend. They’ll picture me ramming it up my nose all over town, merrily snorting charlie with my media friends and dancing til dawn at Boujis. (Is that a club? Or just a bar? I put “Annabel’s” first, but thought that might make me sound like I’m 90).
I feel like I want to contact every individual who’s read that piece - particularly those who watch Only Connect with their families and might feel disappointed in me - to explain that I’m not and never have been a coke-user and I don’t lead a glittery, druggy, media life. I listen to Radio 4 in my kitchen while making cakes. Sometimes I play poker all night and drink a lot of tea to stay awake. But I’m not Pete Doherty.
This isn’t an attack on the Daily Mail or the Telegraph: they haven’t printed anything untrue. It’s just the absence of context and nuance that will leave some readers with a false picture, which makes me sad. It’s all silly, a storm in a teacup, and God knows I’ve done plenty of terrible things that just don’t happen to include snorting coke. But if people are going to be disappointed in me, I’d at least like that to be for the right reasons.
If I feel this frustration, knowing that thousands of people could forever have an image of me as something I’m not, what on earth must it be like for Nigella Lawson? For avoidance of doubt: she’s a loving mother, a diligent writer, a quiet intellectual, a loyal friend and the unluckiest wife I’ve ever known. She’s not “spaced out”, “weird” or “like a zombie”. Like the Grillo sisters, I have never seen her take drugs.
I hope she has a peaceful Christmas with her family. And if we both end up in prison, I hope we have adjoining cells.