23 MAY 1998, Page 52


I'm amazing - so are you!

James Delingpole

So I didn't get eaten by the sharks in the end. Which was nice. Except the annoying thing is, my ordeal by great white sharks wasn't quite the purgative, life-changing experience I hoped it would be. Even though I've now proved how big and brave I am, my friends haven't started looking up to me as the new Achilles; nor has my novel got any easier to write; nor have I become richer, happier or less worried about failure and death. Bummer, eh?

But the good new is, I'm having a baby and, according to my wife, this is the best possible cure for existential gloom because you don't have time to worry about your own problems any more. As yet, I remain unconvinced by this theory. The way I see it, I'm about to step up to the middle of the child-father-grandfather ladder which leads to oblivion. Still, I do see much useful jour- nalistic material in all this. So if you're a features editor and fancy giving me a highly paid, ex-groovy-young-dude-becomes-a- father column in your newspaper, I'm probably up for it.

Yes, yes, I'll get to television in a.minute. But not yet because I bumped into an old friend at a jolly thirty-something garden party the other day and he told me that the bits everyone liked best about this column were the ones where I rambled on about myself.

Maybe I could set myself up as the new James Boswell. Not in his incarnation as slavering admirer of Dr Johnson but in his guise as morbid, self-obsessed author of those fabulously readable journals. His life and work were celebrated in a deeply poignant Bookmark (BBC 2, Saturday), in which the journalist Andrew O'Hagan did a fine job of correcting the ancient miscon- ception that Boswell was just a feckless debauchee whose sole talent was sucking up to celebs.

Then, again, maybe I'm not the new Boswell, so I'd better get on with reviewing The Human Body (BBC 1, Wednesday) which, as luck would have it, relates to all the things I've just been talking about: death, babies, egoism, everything.

Here is a programme which everyone will enjoy, if for no other reason than that its message is so flattering. 'Do you realise how totally, incredibly amazing you are?' it screams. 'You are, you know! You're a total bloody genius! You're much bigger and cleverer and better evolved than all those other rubbishy animals out there. Your brain's a zillion times more powerful than any computer! And do you know what else? Your brain's even doing a thousand and one clever, complicated things while you're slobbing around watching this programme.'

Of course, if you stopped to think about it, you'd realise that it was a bit of a con. I mean what's the point of being so damned special and amazing if, by this programme's lights, every moron, serial killer and sad, loser, couch potato in the world is just as special and amazing as you? Luckily, the programme is so dazzlingly shot, so racily presented and so full of impressive statis- tics that your brain, brilliant 'though it is, doesn't have space to dwell on such incon- sistencies.

It's presented by an amiable, mousta- chioed fellow called Professor Robert Win- ston who, though currently a 'doctor and scientist', would clearly much rather be Jeremy Clarkson. One minute he's holding forth from inside a bubble suit in the shark tank at London Aquarium; the next he's racing round a treacherous rally circuit to illustrate, quite gratuitously, that the mind can perform lots of functions simultaneous- ly; the next, filling buckets with water near the Thames barrier to show how many litres of tears (65) we are likely to cry dur- ing our lives. At this point I felt a bit like weeping myself. Had the programme-mak- ers really learned nothing about the perils of such absurd gimmickry from the news- on-a-motorbike sketch on Not The Nine O'Clock News or the 'brilliant' sketch on The Fast Show.

No doubt it's symptomatic of our times — redolent of those hideous, hands-on, kiddie-friendly atrocities they now stage at the Science Museum — that no major tele- vision series will dare to present grown-up scientific information without dressing it up as fun and silly games. But I'd be lying if I said I minded all that much in this case. The Human Body really is as wondrously fascinating as it keeps telling us it is.

How useful it was to learn, for example, that in a lifetime we will grow more than two metres of nostril hair, that we will pro- duce 40,000 litres of urine and spend more than six months on the loo. I was a bit wor- ried about the statistic that we'll only have sex 2,580 times, though. But maybe it won't apply to me because it went on to say we'll do it only with five people. And — though I'm sure I'll never be a match for; James `Shagger' Boswell — I've already beaten that. Fnaar! Fnaar!