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Colons and covers in Claridge's

    Alert readers will have noticed that my column recently celebrated its third anniversary. This didn't escape the eagle eye of our editor - and you can imagine my delight when the big man himself had breakfast with me in a leading hotel (OK, Claridge's).

    "I've lost two stone," he announced.

    "Where did it all go?" I know how to talk to the man in whose hands rests my journalistic future.

    "The truth is I've put a stone back on - but it's only temporary," he said as he buttered the toast.

    "So… what have you been doing?" he asked.

    "I had a colonoscopy last Tuesday," I finally said. "The doctor sent me the photos… in colour. I might use them as my Chanucah card."

    "Had one before?" he asked.

    "Oh yes," I said. "Whenever I've got a spare moment… I just pop in and have one. Fills the time."

    Well, I've got some more good news," he said. He put down his cutlery.

    "This must really be serious," I thought.

    "You are now a regular JC columnist!"

    "Let's see, 36 monthly columns… I'd call that pretty regular, wouldn't you?" I said. "You have a point, but you are now 'officially' one," he said, sitting back.

    " Marvellous. What extra benefits does it give me?"

    He thought for a second. "Your picture will be up on the website," he said. "You mean I'll be up there next to luminaries like Aaronovitch, Freedland… Phillips!?… even the legendary Alderman!?"

    "Yes, in fact you already are," he said. l didn't like to remind him that a year ago when I'd asked why I wasn't on the site after two years, he'd told me it was because the bloke who did the website had gone off and nobody knew the code to change things.

    "I've got some good news, too," I said, as he forked another helping of scrambled egg into his mouth.

    "I've got my first book coming out in March. It's a 'How to /How not to' memoir called Talking to Strangers: the adventures of a Life Insurance salesman."

    "Congratulations," he said. "Am I in it?"

    "Not exactly". I said "But you can be 'on it'. The cover is going to be a week taken from my diary… meetings with 30 people… and you can be one of them. What do think? On the cover… alongside people like Spielberg… Kissinger… Lech Walesa… Deepak."

    "Deepak?" he asked. "My plumber." I explained.

    "All you have to do to get on the cover is buy 50 copies. Wholesale, naturally. It will make a great Chanucah present… a book with your name on. And I'll sell some books. It's a win-win situation."

    "Thanks, but I think I'll wait for the sequel."

    As soon as I got home that evening, I clicked on the JC website. I wasn't up on the Comment web page.

    "Clearly the website man must be on holiday again," I said to myself. "Anyway, I can handle it." After all, I once held a party and invited 2,000 of my closest friends. Only three people turned up, and one was a drunk who had wandered in off the street. Not seeing my name up there alongside David, Jonathan Melanie and Geoffrey is just a walk in the park.

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