Like parents lingering on the edge of the 5-aside pitch, so celebrityagents gather, phones clacking like testicles, in the This Morning green room. “I really shouldn’t,” they all say when offered a croissant. “Fast day. But go on then.” The conversations begin with a nod. A little nod and an observation about the weather, and then, smoothly, on to the clients. “Your David’s looking well,” one says, eyebrows raised. And then lowered, extravagantly. “It’s going to be hard, isn’t it, waving him off.” “Always is, Ross, always is,” the other sighs.

The jungle buzz began months ago, rumours bouncing off breakout-area walls, Gchat windows flickering like blind spots. Hints about the shapes of reality holes that needed filling – busty love interest, cheeky geezer, straight-talking Tory, American. Catchment areas for I’m A Celebrity are not postcode based, but bodily. Admission to the jungle is determined by the presence of certain structures. There must be breasts that burst from bikini tops as if giving birth, a six-pack in which small snakes can hide, a woman who has “let herself go”. “Would it help if she’d had a cancer scare?” one agent booms into his phone. “No, the lump turned out to be a Starburst, but it made her think, you know?” Another BlackBerry heats up between a blue shoulder and a red cheek. “I’ve got just the chap, Piers – aaaand, this stays between you and me, OK, but there might a buzz around him come November. I’ll just say: rhymes with Schmootree…”

The circuit revolves around Elstree, Soho and the John Lewis at Brent Cross, where, before their clients move into their seasonal temporary accommodation, agents fill wire baskets with pants and socks. Their celebrities mope in soft furnishings. “Hello Teresa!” coos one across an aisle. “How’s Katie? She was tweeting Ricky about his OK! spread on Monday!” “She’s boy crazy, Stephanie,” replies Teresa, gesturing for her celebrity to join her by the tights.”Boy crazy!” There is an argument bubbling near the till, where one celebrity has told another that she’s classy, “just not ITV2 classy” – the agents scurry to separate them. There will be words in the car.

And so the day comes. The Addison Lee piled high with bags, the fast slow drive to the airport, where a little area has been roped off with sweating pastries and cava even though it’s quarter to six in the morning and everyone’s on a juice diet.

Agents take their clients by the hand and lead them to their new love interests, whispering numbers of Twitter followers and names of exes on the way. “Adam: three-time Heat torso of the week,” one hisses as she weaves through the room. “Possible racist, 32, hello Adam, I love your beanie! Can I introduce you to ex-model Clare? You might recognise her from Eurovision 2006, a bubbly single mother of three who loves sunbathing and recycling, but not at the same time! Don’t be fooled by her blonde curls – she’s as sharp as a whip; in fact, she’s a spokesperson for Girlz Only Dry Shampoo!” She sprays a burst of it, with jazzy flourish, and the air thickens with the smell of melted plastic.

A celebrity in his 60s is strategising by the ladies’ loos. He has a fountain pen. He intends to lose 3st before being voted out, with a weight-loss DVD deal “all but inked”. He intends to appeal to the public by laying all his neuroses on the table within 24 hours. He intends to finally “set the world straight”, about what nobody is certain. Was he the other one out of the Chuckle Brothers? No, the other one? His agent strokes the top of his arm with patronising affection. “Shh sh sh,” she rustles.

The producer clears his throat, and everybody rises as one. Agents lick their thumbs and rub coffee foam from their celebrities’ top lips and press laminated packs containing their passports and wet wipes into their clammy hands. It’s time. The agents grip each other’s arms as their celebrities board the plane. They’re trying not to cry. “They just…” one sniffs. “They just look so small.”


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