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J ulie Burchill famously left her column at the Times to do a theology degree. Except that’s not quite the whole story. They still paid me the money to go. I was totally taking the piss. I didn’t spend much time on them and they were such arrant crap. I also burvhill left any forwarding numbers or anything and just went off for the weekend.

It was then that I realised I had lost my mojo. At the time, she said she was giving up journalism altogether.

‘I have no ambition left’

But, although Burchill is living in a state of “semi-retirement” in Brighton, having said most of what she wants to say, and getting sick of “repeating myself day in day out”, she has not exactly stopped airing her opinions. But these ethics are troubling her slightly. Burchill remarks she is finding it hard to accept journalistic commissions now that she has a book about hypocrisy coming out.

The book, Not in My Name: But my only green instinct is to recycle a load of my material. People know I am going to do it anyway.

Ambition by Julie Burchill

The book was meant to come out in April but “13, words were libellous” and had to be taken out and replaced. She also seems intent on annoying her first husband, the novelist and critic Tony Parsons: He can’t see that he is a ambitlon person. When I think of being married to him I wonder what I was playing at. I know I was on drugs but nobody is on that many drugs,” she says. Other people want to hide from themselves: I bkrchill just look at myself in the mirror and just make myself laugh so much.

But the world of failed marriages and Queen of the Groucho belongs to another Julie Burchill. Today’s version is a moral, sometimes prudish soul who seems genuinely concerned that this book is being serialised in the Daily Mail. It’s hardly enough for martinis for a frigging weekend so it doesn’t feel so bad.

She says she “isn’t really interested in papers any more” and that reading them “feels too much like a chore these days”. Also a chore, she adds, was working for the Sunday Times, where she was the film critic between and – but admits that she often “skived” the screenings and just made up her reviews.


She is honest about her career – her book on Diana earned aambition “k”, she says, but it didn’t sell, written as it was in the spirit of a “pissed Barbara Cartland”. Burchill has, however, enjoyed some recent success in television – notably Channel 4’s adaptation of her teenage lesbian novel Sugar Rush.

She has also finished writing a one-off television drama called The Real Thing with journalist Garry Mulholland, and says they were talked into expanding it into a six-parter. A love story set in a Center Parcs-style holiday destination, it was “thwarted”, and now lies “unloved” in a drawer.

Bruchill BBC originally commissioned 30 writers to write plays covering 30 years, but the project appears to be on the backburner. I don’t like sitting around and waiting for things to happen. Now, she admits, she “doesn’t have an juloe in television writing any more I can’t be arsed”. She wouldn’t mind being a TV critic, though. Earlier this year she was being lined up as a potential replacement for the Sun’s Ally Ross who had hinted that he wanted to quit.

All seemed to be going ahead – until he changed his mind. Would she have enjoyed watching all the soaps? And would she have filed her copy on time? I am a lazy person these days and I measure things in terms of how much of a skive they are and that would have been one fuck of a skive.

I love the Sun and I watch all those programmes they review anyway. But it’s Ally Ross’s job so I can’t very well say ‘well get out’, can I?

I would have been annoyed if somebody else had got it. She is also cheerful about other career setbacks, most notably her low point in the mid s “when I was sacked by Punch”. She says she was “rescued” in by the Guardian, where she was given a column in Weekend magazine. But Burchill, who insists that she is happy that the “debacles” have happened later in life, does not want to be rescued now. Most people don’t start until they xmbition 21 or 22 and I suppose I have been living my life backwards.

When I was a teenager I was working hard, now I am lolling around and having fun.

However she says that two ghosts from her past will appear later this year. Enemies after the Modern Review folded, they have made up and she will be Young’s guest at the premiere. Burchill feuds in public because she speaks her mind, she says – she has been “warned by the police quite a few times” following comments critical of Islam and Roman Catholicism. It’s not that I’m brave, it’s that I lack certain sensible genes. A coward dies a thousand deaths, they say – and I have to die once, I suppose.


I don’t feel regret or shame, and people may say it’s foolhardy but I’m not dead yet and I thought I would be. But I am going to be 50 soon. It’s not that the old battles have died down. She seemed particularly fascinated by the subject of Max Mosley when we met up. So she hasn’t lost her appetite for life and wryly reminds me of her hangover when I ask if she has left her hard drinking lifestyle behind her.

She may be doing voluntary work – such as reading to blind people two afternoons a week – but as she puts it: Her Christian faith, strong for four years, also has a certain childlike quality. She hasn’t gone to her local Anglican church for a while now because they wouldn’t let her sing Onward Christian Soldiers, her favourite hymn. Even the Salvation Army wouldn’t keep her “and they have army in their title – I told them not to get all meek on me”.

She also recently appeared as a character witness at the tax-evasion trial of a friend of hers, being introduced to the jury as Mrs Raven she married Daniel Raven inand an upstanding Christian and pillar of the community.

Ambition by Julie Burchill. Still v.rude and raunchy with a power to shock 24 years on.

I don’t want to keep saying things until I drop down dead. I want to have 10 years where I keep my own counsel, perhaps. I have always been Burchil, Rentagob since I was a kid and I don’t want to be that person any more.

Curriculum vitae Age 49 Education Brislington comprehensive, Bristol Career journalist, NME writer, the Face film critic, Wmbition Times political columnist, Mail on Sunday author, Ambition co-founder, the Modern Review author, Diana columnist, Guardian Weekend magazine columnist, the Times student, theology degree.

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