17 DECEMBER 2005, Page 69

Christmas appeal

James Delingpole

My TV column the other week was really quite good, I thought. So good in fact that for a brief moment I imagined there might be some point to my miserable existence. I watched a friend of mine read it and laugh in all the right places; I read it through again and admired how unforced it all was, and how wise and true some of my aperçus were, and what an impressive amount of telly I had watched that week. ‘See, James,’ I said to myself. ‘You know how you’re always beating yourself up for not having taken your uncle’s advice and gone to law school, and for not earning as much money as all your friends in the City? Well, let me tell you most of them would give their eye teeth for the talent you’ve got. You’re funny. You write like an angel. You add to the gaiety of the nation. Lots of people know who you are. You have an interesting life. You’re not prematurely middle-aged. So stop being so miserable. Things really aren’t as bad as you think.’ But I think I must have been on drugs or something because the sentiment didn’t last. Today, as I expect to remain throughout Christmas, into New Year, and probably even unto the next Christmas and the one after that, I am back to my default mode which is: despair, self-hatred, resentment, paranoia and fear.

Why? Well, why do you sodding well think? Because each year that goes by, all my friends seem to get stratospherically richer while I just get poorer and poorer. If they were more brilliant than me or if they had desperately miserable working lives I wouldn’t mind. But neither is the case. Half of them didn’t even go to Oxbridge, I’m way more fun and informed and brave and better in quizzes than any of them, and not one of them seems to hate their jobs nearly as much as I’d like.

So this week, instead of scrabbling through the Radio Times to find a Christmas programme that’s not only worth reviewing but also available on preview tape, I thought I’d do something far more useful with the space. I would launch the James Delingpole Christmas Benefit Appeal. Obviously, only contribute if you can afford it. But if you’re the Sultan of Brunei or J.K. Rowling or you work at Goldman Sachs and you’re wondering what to do with your Christmas bonus and how best to say thanks to someone who, for over ten years now, has been setting new standards in humorous, war-centric, me-journalism, well, you know what to do.

£5 buys me — well, bugger all, actually. Is there anything you can still buy for a fiver these days? Not after all Gordon Brown’s stealth taxes, I don’t think. £8 buys me a reasonable bottle of wine. Something single estate from Chile, say. This used to be true for a fiver, but no more — see above.

£70 to £150 buys me a hireling for a day’s hunting. Hunting, I’ve belatedly discovered, is the most exciting, noble, important sport man has ever devised, and even though I am a crap rider, and even though I get so fearful of death or injury that I have to chug about eight gallons of cherry brandy/whisky mac/port, etc., before I set off, and though I definitely can’t afford it, I still want to do it as often as possible while I am physically capable.

£120 buys me half an ounce of herbal entertainment from Jamaica. High Grade, it’s called. None of that Skunk filth for me. Poor I may be but I have my pride.

£200 upwards buys me a black hunt coat. I think my wife’s secretly trying to get me one for Christmas off eBay, but I’m not sure how easy it will be. I’m a small 38, roughly. So if you’ve one you need to be rid of, let me know at Jamesdel@dircon.co.uk.

£1,000 buys me a flat-screen TV (in case the Christmas Appeal fails and I still have to do this column and we get some new editor who doesn’t understand the rule about it being OK for me not to write about TV in my TV column).

£1,500 buys me some handmade top boots (see above).

£7,000 approx. buys me a second-hand family car. Our old one has just blown up and died. My fault: I didn’t change the timing belt (whatever that is) and it flew off and wrapped itself round the engine. After much deliberation, we think we’re probably going to go for a Mondeo. Terribly naff, I know. But there’s loads of them around and you get a lot of car for your money.

£15,000 pays off my next tax bill, for which, so far, I have saved no more than a grand and it’s due at the end of January. I’m not making this up and I find it terrifying and very wrong. If, as everyone tells me, I’m doing so well, how come I can’t afford to live?

£25,000 pays for Ivo to go to Eton for a year, where, I hope, he will learn to be ashamed of me and leave determined not to do anything so stupid as to become an impoverished writer/novelist.

£50,000 (I’m guessing) pays for an assassin to kill Ken Livingstone. Apart from Dave Cameron winning the next election, I really can’t think of any political event which would give me more satisfaction. The death of the Routemaster must be avenged.

£325,000 pays off my mortgage.

£5,000,000 (approx.) enables me to retire to the country, ride to hounds, potter about in the garden, dabble with novels and never ever again have to peddle my sorry arse round Fleet Street grovelling to and begging ruthless, uncaring, philistine editors for meagre scraps of work.