Bugs, Michael Jackson, meteorites
We’re on our way to Japan. I wasn’t expecting this — according to the diary, Shipi and I are supposed to be riding the trans-Siberian Railway this month, on a dot-to-dot journey between remote Russian theatres that winds up at Vladivostock.
The first thing the reporters wanted to know was, “Will Mr Jackson be
staying with you?” And the second was, “What time would you like to
appear on our channel to discuss the case, and shall we send a car to
pick you up right now?”
After the fourth or fifth call, my patience was wearing thin. “Michael,
staying here? Use your head,” I snapped. “This is my home, not a
high-security desert island. I don’t want paparazzi swarming over the
walls and your helicopters hovering outside my bedroom windows. And I
have nothing to say about the case, so go away.”
The truth, of course, is that I followed the legal proceedings with
interest, and naturally I have an opinion about the Sheikh’s claim
(since settled out of court) that he loaned Michael $7m on the
understanding that the Prince of Pop would record songs written by the
Prince of Araby.
But my views are just guesswork. I haven’t spoken with Michael since
his trial in California three years ago. We’ve never had a harsh word
between us, and I am still deeply fond of him, but I appreciate that he
needs to put his past troubles behind him in his struggle to regain
If that means severing many old friendships, I can understand how he
feels. I’m very lucky — my closest friends are people I have known for
decades, and I could never turn my back on them. But then, I’ve never
suffered a trauma on the scale that engulfed Michael in 2005, and I
suspect that his survival has depended on starting afresh.
In all my conversations with him I have been struck by his guileless,
trusting nature and his childlike naivety. He accepts the most
improbable situations as perfectly normal — and because he has been a
superstar since he was five years old, the improbable is normal to him.
I’m certain that he would not have understood the terms of any business
deal made during his year of crisis, and I imagine he wouldn’t even
have known what was going on.
He might get over his legal ordeal, but the media never will. By the
tenth call, I was ready to switch off my phone… except that some of
the journalists also wanted to talk about I’m A Celebrity. And I’ve got
lots I want to say about that.
That show bugs me. It bugs me that millions of bugs are getting
squished, splatted and chomped. Most of all it bugs me that I’m largely
The overall format is brilliant — that’s why it’s been a hit every year
since it first aired, with me, Tony Blackburn and Christine Hamilton
pioneering the jungle lifestyle and the bushtucker trials.
I’ve learned a lot about the importance of formats over the past two
years, and I know that producers tinker with them at their peril. If it
gets good ratings, keep doing it.
Good ratings, though, are not the same as good principles.
When I was faced with the choice of sticking to my veggie ideals or
munching live wichetty grubs to help raise money for children with
AIDS, I thought I had made the right decision, the principled decision.
Kids matter more than cockroaches.
But I didn’t see the bigger picture. I didn’t think that my actions
would have repercussions for years, and that I was establishing a
consensus which said it was OK to treat insects as though they were not
I’m well-known for my vegetarian views, after all, so if I acted as
though bugs had no right to live, why should anyone else be worried?
I’ve changed my mind. Kids still matter a billion times more than
cockroaches — but there are other ways to have fun and help charity. It
isn’t necessary, or right, to kill things for entertainment. Not even
Caption story: The response to my interview with Erich von Daniken on
German TV was fascinating. Thousands of people emailed to say they too
believed that humankind was seeded from outer space.
But we didn’t have to arrive with ancient astronauts. There’s another
way that life could have begun beyond the planets, and that is as
bacteria, brought to Earth on meteorites.
Scientists are divided, but there is no doubt in my mind that some
microbes could survive the stone-melting heat and absolute cold a
meteorite would encounter on its journey for millennia across the
And when shooting stars fell to Earth two billion years ago, perhaps
they brought the beginnings of evolution with them.
I will never forget being nine years old, living on a Kibbutz and
watching a spectacular display of meteors on a moonless like. It was as
though a celestial bonfire was sending up showers of sparks.
Next day, I looked from the top of a slope to see a burnt patch in the
middle of a corn field. When I went to investigate, I found this
meteorite, still warm. It has been one of my lifelong treasures.
A more recent discovery is this dinosaur’s egg, from China. The egg is
fossilised, but somewhere at its centre there must be dino-DNA.
And like the microbes on the meteorites, perhaps some microscopic pulse
of life survives at its centre… waiting out the aeons for a new ageof dinosaurs.
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