Stob I leave the A12 a few miles after Chelmsford and am instantly deep in rain-soaked countryside. Half an hour of nervous driving on slushy narrow lanes I come upon a vast, newly built mock-Tudor mansion, grandly set up in many acres of sodden lawn. A nameplate screwed to elaborate wrought-iron gates declares: "DunRo@ming". This is the place.
I park the car on the verge, but then linger inside listening to the radio instead of getting out, dawdling like a can-I-pay-by-cheque merchant at the front of the Five Items Or Fewer queue. I am not looking forward to meeting my interviewee.
You’ve seen his work of course. We all have. Not for nothing has he rocketed up to #4 in The Sunday Newspaper’s ‘Top 100 Most Hated People in Britain’ list, leaving quiz show cheaters and corrupt Tory ex-MPs for dust.
I am off to record for The Reg the first exclusive interview with Mr Samuel Osborne, the notorious purveyor of penile pills, a semi-recluse who lives, it is said, in fantastic luxury with his wife and common law dogs.
I am off to meet England’s first spamillionaire.
I get out into the rain, hoist my jolly orange brolly and look for a bell pull. Just inside the gates, an overalled gardener with a gentle face is poking insincerely at the dripping rhododendrons with a pair of secateurs. There is a small ironstone statue on a brick plinth by the gate. Eros, inevitably.
Remembering Philip Marlowe in The High Window, I pat its damp little head for luck.
"Can I help?"
The ‘gardener’ has stopped pruning and come up to the gate. He says, in an educated voice: "You must be Verity Stob."
I admit it.
"Good morning, Ms Stob. My name is Sam Osborne. Come inside out of the rain. I have such a lot to tell you."
[To be continued] ®