David Parkin on Brexit with Biggins and disappointing divas

IT seemed bizarrely appropriate that I was discussing Brexit with Christopher Biggins this week.

The former I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here winner is appearing in Billy Pearce’s annual show at the Bradford Alhambra this Christmas.

And given the pantomime that Brexit has become, talking to one of Britain’s most celebrated panto dames about it didn’t seem odd at all.

Biggins has spent the last 40-odd Christmases playing the dame in pantomimes across the UK.

He told me his first performance was in Darlington when seats for the show were priced at one shilling and sixpence.

We agreed that whatever your politics you can’t help admire the fortitude of Theresa May in the face of flak from all sides.

But that doesn’t provide any sticking plaster to the Brexit wound that has seemingly sliced Britain down the middle.

Christopher Biggins has been a Tory supporter for years and told me he’s lived in Hackney for three decades thanks to a tip from Margaret Thatcher.

Given Harry Redknapp had been proclaimed the King of the Jungle the previous evening, I asked Biggins if, as a previous winner, he had been in demand by the media to comment.

“Yes I was due to appear on the TV news but they bumped me because of Brexit,” he said.

I know which I would have preferred to watch.

Both of us agreed that British politics is a mess so we went back to talking about pantomime.

Biggins and I were guests of Andrew Creese and Debbie Dobson from the Dakota Deluxe Hotel in Leeds in their box watching Mariah Carey’s Christmas show at Leeds Arena.

I don’t need to tell you that the American warbler’s All I Want For Christmas Is You has become a festive classic.

But perhaps what you didn’t know is that Mariah has recorded loads of festive songs and at least two albums, which she mentioned regularly.

I have to say I didn’t recognise any until she belted out a lively version of Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) and then did her trademark vocal gymnastics on Hark The Herald Angels Sing.

She was joined on stage at various points during her show by a gospel choir and dancers – men, women, children, a polar bear and a snowman, and of course, Santa.

So far so schmaltzy but then her seven-year-old twins skipped out to join her.

Depending on your outlook, they were either cute poppets or precocious brats.

This was Christmas the Mariah way.

Sprinkled with icing sugar like a light dusting of snow.

And then with buckets of syrup and treacle chucked on top.

Mariah and her family love “the Holidays” and she wished her British audience “Happy Holidays” with the same sincerity displayed by American shop assistants when they tell you to “have a nice day”.

Before the concert began I looked into the neighbouring box, which, when I was last at the arena watching Kylie, was filled with a load of lawyers from Walker Morris.

I didn’t recognise any of the occupants of the box and soon discovered why.

It was filled with the staff and their partners from the Beauty Essence salon in Wortley in Leeds.

I chatted to a couple of comely young ladies from the salon and they told me their boss had hired the box for their Christmas party.

I commented that it was a generous gesture to take them to see Mariah Carey’s show and it certainly beat a meal at Nando’s.

“I like Nando’s,” replied one of them, biting down hard on an ample slice of stuffed crust pizza.


LAST weekend was spent in the welcoming town of Stavanger in Norway.

It was a short notice trip by a couple of us to see an old friend whose wife passed away last month four years after being diagnosed with cancer.

There was time for reflection and emotion but most of all laughter.

We must all be getting older as we even went for lunch to an organic vegetarian restaurant called SÖL run by a group of twenty somethings who celebrate the provenance of the dishes they create and serve.

My friend Ian who lives in Stavanger made a point of introducing me to them as a well known British blogger whose finger is on the pulse of everything that matters.

Well it seemed churlish to dispute that claim, particularly as I had told him how my restaurant critiques have made me so welcome at The Ivy.

I posed for this photograph with one of the co-owners of the restaurant who didn’t seem as impressed as I did with my suggestion that he looked like an extra from Witness.

The weekend underlined how all of us know friends and family with cancer and how important the opening of the new Maggie’s Yorkshire centre is next year.

The centre will provide a welcoming, warm safe and caring place where those with cancer and their families can find help, advice and support or just a quiet place to reflect and relax.

I’m fortunate to be on the board of Maggie’s Yorkshire, chaired by Martin Jenkins, the former head of Deloitte who is now a director at vehicle leasing group Zenith.

A large chunk of the money to build the centre has been raised, but more is needed to make sure it is kitted out and staffed and open ready to welcome as many of the 30,000 people with cancer in Yorkshire and their families who want to visit.

I think I already know my New Year Resolution.


BACK at the Leeds Arena concert I thanked Andrew Creese of Dakota Deluxe Hotel for the invitation and said it was down to him for enabling me see two iconic divas in concert this year – Kylie Minogue and Mariah Carey.

I’m now after the hat-trick.

But I’ll have to wait.

Well I wasn’t quick enough to get tickets for Jane McDonald’s appearance at the arena this Saturday.

Have a great weekend darlings.

3 thoughts on “David Parkin on Brexit with Biggins and disappointing divas”

  1. Most perturbed to learn of your incident with Phil Taylor recently. The first time I met him at his offices I was intrigued as to why he had a baseball bat behind his office door and could not resist enquiring as to why . He replied that that was his credit control department. You are correct in saying the last Firecracker Ball was not the best.Time perhaps for Mr.Taylor to move out of the spotlight he so enjoys and let someone else have a go.I am sure his talents could be better employed elsewhere. I hear they are looking for bouncers at Kinsley Greyhound Track ?

  2. Ah David, some may say it’s disappinting that you didn’t slip and counter, particularly those of us spending endless hours at Leeds Cage with you. However, not knowing this ‘Phil’ chap, maybe you weren’t equally weight matched. Invite him down though , no hard feelings…he can do a couple of rounds with Nathan….or me.

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