If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might know about my long standing feud with Jeremy Paxman. It all began when a friend of mine who works in the BBC happened to call at Paxman’s house to pick up some scripts for a new show they were planning about the disappearance of British eels. He claims to have seen Jeremy putting his toe nail clippings on a box he keeps above the fireplace. He also said that the box was almost full of the damn things. Of course, my friend told me this in the strictest confidence, which led to my naturally mentioning on air that Jeremy Paxman collects his old toe nail clippings in a box. I couldn’t see much wrong with it at the time. Lots of famous people have had similar collections. Byron used to collect pubic hair and the late Duke of Wellington had the largest ball of earwax in the British Empire.
Only now it turns out that I might have been mistaken. My friend has finally admitted that it was a hoax. I’m sorely disappointed. I like to think I’m a man who enjoys a good joke but hoaxing is beneath me. I’m sorry but I can’t see the humour in leading gullible people on.
This morning, I nipped around to Paxman’s house to offer him my apologies. It was about nine o’clock and Paxo arrived at the door looking a bit the worse for wear.
‘What the hell do you want?’ he grumbled as he picked up his milk bottles from the step.
‘I’ve come to apologise about your toenails,’ I said.
‘Have you now?’ he looked at me as he gave his testicles their first scratch of the day. ‘Well, I suppose you better come in.’
I followed him into Paxman Towers and found myself entering a different day and age. Modern Gothic doesn’t do the place justice. It was like as thought the Norman Conquest was being run by Homebase.
‘You want some coffee?’ asked my host.
‘Not if it’s any bother,’ I said.
‘Bother? Your existence on this planet is bother but I’m making myself one.’
‘Fair enough,’ I said.
Ten minutes later I’m watching Paxman munching his cornflakes.
‘Well?’ he asked, staring into his bowl.
‘Oh, yes, my apology. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry about mentioning your toenails on TV. I now accept that you don’t collect them in a box above the fireplace.’
He looked up, his long face sagging in all the well known places. ‘How do you know I don’t?’ he asked.
He spooned some more cornflakes and looked rather pleased with himself. ‘I said: how do you know I don’t keep my toenails in a box above the fireplace?’
‘Well, that would be crazy, wouldn’t it?’
He shrugged and gave me one of those smiled he normally reserves for Home Secretaries.
‘Listen sonny,’ he said, dropping his spoon. ‘Unlike you, I’m a trained journalist, so I’d check my sources before I run an exclusive. The next time you want to besmirch my name in public, I’d be grateful if you’d check with me beforehand. Now sling your hook, chum, before I give you some of what I gave Michael Howard.’
I was chagrined. I left the kitchen feeling a smaller man. The smaller man was pleased. He’d only dropped in to pick up some scripts. But as I headed to the front door, I gazed into Paxman’s living room and saw a wooden box above the fireplace. I would have checked its contents but I could sense the great man following me and the little man as we headed for the front door.
And that, my dear friends, is why I have only one Paxman fact for you today. Did you know that he collects his toenail clippings and keeps them on a box above his fireplace. It’s the Gospel truth.