Blessed to be a witness

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Wednesday, June 15th

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

[I apologise for the recent lack of updates: the laptop finally bit the dust - keyboard and screen failed within a day of each other - and since then I have either been too busy, or unable to afford the amount of time it would take in an internet café to update properly. However, I have a few minutes spare today.]

The other day someone pointed out to me that Phi Phi Leh looks like Homer Simpson lying down on his back. Just thought I'd share:

As the six month anniversary of the tsunami approaches, the island is deluged with film crews, all making the predictable "six months on" documentaries.

The other day I was sitting in the Hi Phi Phi canteen, which provides free food for the Thai workers, volunteers (for a donation), and for local people who would otherwise starve. A ridiculously familiar face, perched on top of a normal body, walked past, accompanied by a camera crew.

"Who's that?" we asked ourselves. "It's John Thingy", someone said. "John... John... off the telly." We racked our brains for several minutes but failed to work out which John-off-the-telly it was. Someone suggested GMTV.

Later, M, walking down the street behind John Thingy and his crew, had the temerity to ask him "I know your face, but I can't remember your name."

"Burt Lancaster," he replied, then laughed and said it was actually John Stapleton. You know, him off the telly. He saw that M and her companion, Trudy, were volunteers, so buttonholed them for an interview, which is supposed to have gone out on GMTV this morning. I meanwhile have been taking BBC researchers on the tour, and dozens of other press agencies have been here, including the Japanese national station NHK, which has been here for a week making a documentary.

A few days later, M and I and a few others were sitting on the beach in the dark at Carlito's after the volunteer meeting. I walked a little down the road, and on my way back I passed another familiar face, this time on a not-normal body. When I returned, M and others were commenting that some silly girl was walking round the island in four-inch silver stilettoes (the roads being a trifle tsunami-ed, this is not the best footwear, and I doubt anyone else would even possess a pair). "That was the Northern Irish girl out of Girls Aloud," I said. Girls Aloud are a manufactured pop act that grew from a TV program called 'Popstars, The Rivals'.

"Shut up, you're lying." "You're making stuff up." "Yeah right." was the general chorus of approval to the information I had imparted.

That night however, after we were long a-bed, our mate Anna, a garrulous 19-year-old, was at the same bar as them and recognised her: Nadine Coyle, from Girls Aloud. She brazenly walked up to Nadine's mate, a male dancer, and started talking to him for a couple of hours. Meanwhile one of our other drunken acquaintances spent the evening telling her that her music was rubbish.

The next day Anna confirmed to me that Nadine was on the island, so I texted M with words to the effect of "Nya nya nya told you so". Later, Anna was walking past JJ's Pub, and they were in there. The dancer called her in, and she sat down with dancer and said pop star for breakfast. Meanwhile M went to JJ's for breakfast too, and was beckoned by Anna to join them, not knowing who they were (Nadine was wearing huge sunglasses). Just at this point, M read my text, and was just about to say "you know that stupid bimbo in the four-inch silver stillettoes? It was Nadine from Girls Aloud", when at the last minute she recognised her, and bit her lip.

Nadine said she wanted to volunteer, and was going to take the tour, but every morning she ended up sleeping in. She did leave the island and come back the next day because she liked it that much, but she has gone now. I suspect she left without really understanding quite what happened, and quite what is going on here. However, M did persuade her to put on a Hi Phi Phi t-shirt for a publicity picture. Shame she left without paying for it.

I never met her the whole time she was here, but M had lunch with her several times. I even missed her when she was downstairs from the office parading round in just her shorts and bra changing into the Hi Phi Phi t-shirt. I never met John Stapleton either. Yet again morning TV fame and gawping at pop starlets' boobs elude me.

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