PIERS MORGAN: A seven mile walk with Simon Cowell, our best chat ever… but oh, my blistered feet!

Monday, March 1

‘Simon would love to meet for a walk,’ emailed Simon Cowell’s partner Lauren Silverman.

A WHAT?

I’ve done a lot of things with Mr Cowell during our 30-year friendship, but we’ve never gone for a walk.

In fact, other than watching him stroll slowly through Britain’s Got Talent audiences like a smug regal sloth gleefully inhaling idolatrous fame fumes, I can’t recall ever seeing him move more than 100 metres on his feet.

And after his horrific accident last August in which he broke his back falling off a high-powered electric bike in Malibu, I didn’t know if he was even able to walk at all.

‘Love to!’ I replied.

Tuesday, March 2

Good Morning Britain’s ratings yesterday were the highest in our show’s seven-year history.

The news was perfectly timed for my power walk with Simon Cowell, who just postponed BGT for a year due to the pandemic so has a lot of free time on his hands.

I sent it to Lauren, who handles his messages since he got rid of his mobile phone four years ago. ‘Tell Simon this will be our main talking point…’

‘He laughed out loud,’ she replied, possibly misreading an anguished grimace.

The first shock when I arrived outside his house was that he was ready.

Good Morning Britain’s ratings yesterday were the highest in our show’s seven-year history. The news was perfectly timed for my power walk with Simon Cowell (above)

Good Morning Britain’s ratings yesterday were the highest in our show’s seven-year history. The news was perfectly timed for my power walk with Simon Cowell (above)

Good Morning Britain’s ratings yesterday were the highest in our show’s seven-year history. The news was perfectly timed for my power walk with Simon Cowell (above)

I’ve done a lot of things with Mr Cowell during our 30-year friendship, but we’ve never gone for a walk

I’ve done a lot of things with Mr Cowell during our 30-year friendship, but we’ve never gone for a walk

I’ve done a lot of things with Mr Cowell during our 30-year friendship, but we’ve never gone for a walk

Cowell’s timekeeping is so notoriously bad it’s even driven Ant and Dec to want him dissolved in sulphuric acid.

The second shock was how skinny he looks; he’s lost four stone after ditching his ‘Vampire’ lifestyle.

‘Got your Zimmer frame?’ I queried.

‘Let’s go, Morgan!’ Simon bellowed, like an Army PE instructor. And off he marched, at a surprisingly brisk rate of clicks, followed at a distance by his bodyguard.

A photographer soon sprang up and banged off some pictures. Simon, like me, is always very accommodating to the paparazzi, accepting they’re just making a living from the same celebrity circus we perform in.

I assumed we’d be going for a short stroll round the block due to his bashed-up vertebrae, but I was labouring under a massive misapprehension.

I assumed we’d be going for a short stroll round the block due to his bashed-up vertebrae, but I was labouring under a massive misapprehension

I assumed we’d be going for a short stroll round the block due to his bashed-up vertebrae, but I was labouring under a massive misapprehension

I assumed we’d be going for a short stroll round the block due to his bashed-up vertebrae, but I was labouring under a massive misapprehension

‘I go for two-hour walks most days,’ he suddenly announced.

‘Two HOURS?’ I exclaimed.

I broke my ankle last summer, and it’s still not fully recovered, so this would be quite an arduous physical test for me. Not that I dared admit this, obviously.

‘Yes. They’ve been genuinely life-changing. I walk with friends, or work colleagues, and get to chat one-on-one with them in a way we would never normally do. I’ve loved it, and I’ve also got fitter than I’ve ever been in my life.’

Every few minutes, people approached us for a socially-distanced selfie, or a quick chat.

Some were funny.

Other than watching him stroll slowly through Britain’s Got Talent (pictured with co-judge Amanda Holden) audiences like a smug regal sloth gleefully inhaling idolatrous fame fumes, I can’t recall ever seeing him move more than 100 metres on his feet

Other than watching him stroll slowly through Britain’s Got Talent (pictured with co-judge Amanda Holden) audiences like a smug regal sloth gleefully inhaling idolatrous fame fumes, I can’t recall ever seeing him move more than 100 metres on his feet

Other than watching him stroll slowly through Britain’s Got Talent (pictured with co-judge Amanda Holden) audiences like a smug regal sloth gleefully inhaling idolatrous fame fumes, I can’t recall ever seeing him move more than 100 metres on his feet 

‘You annoyed me so much with what you said about Meghan this morning!’ an elderly lady scolded me.

‘You’re laughing as you say that, though,’ observed Simon.

‘Yes!’ she chuckled. ‘Piers is naughty, but I like him… apart from this morning!’

Others were a bit weird.

‘Oh my God, oh my God, OH MY GOD!’ cried another woman when she saw us, genuflecting in jubilant exultation. ‘Both my favourite men together! This is a sign from God!’

And a few Guardian reader types cocked their horrified noses at us, mumbling ‘Oh God…’ in a less celebratory way, as if they’d just stumbled across Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin making out in the begonias.

But generally, everyone we encountered was very nice. ‘This is why I don’t use Twitter any more,’ said Simon. ‘Most people in the real world are friendly. But on social media, you just get endless abuse. I don’t need all that toxicity in my head.’

I’ve done a lot of things with Mr Cowell during our 30-year friendship, but we’ve never gone for a walk

I’ve done a lot of things with Mr Cowell during our 30-year friendship, but we’ve never gone for a walk

I’ve done a lot of things with Mr Cowell during our 30-year friendship, but we’ve never gone for a walk

We spoke about his accident.

‘I knew immediately I was in serious trouble,’ he said. ‘Never felt pain like it.’

Doctors told him he was half an inch away from his spinal cord being fractured and leaving him paralysed. ‘It was terrible, but at least I quickly knew exactly what I was dealing with and would need to do in terms of rehab etc. I’d rather have gone through this than had Covid, which seems so unpredictable. A great friend of mine was in a coma for several weeks with the virus and we thought we’d lose him. That was incredibly scary. I knew I wasn’t going to die, though I did worry I may never walk again.’

Today, we walked and walked, pounding through the streets of West Kensington, into Holland Park, on to Kensington Gardens, repeatedly circling the beautiful swan-filled Round Pond ornamental lake, then up to Notting Hill.

At one stage, we passed the Belvedere restaurant where Simon took me to lunch in 2005 and mapped out on a napkin plans for a new talent show he had in mind that we might work on together. 

It was Got Talent – and it changed my life. ‘I still feel like Dr Frankenstein,’ he sighed.

Our chat was surprisingly profound. We talked about friendship, family, work, loyalty… and disloyalty; about people we’ve eliminated from our lives, for a variety of reasons, and people we now value even more. 

‘The pandemic hasn’t made me realise who my real friends are,’ I said, ‘so much as who I really don’t want to be friends with any longer…’

‘Some people just can’t handle it,’ agreed Simon, ‘and have shown their true colours.’

‘How’s your psychological trauma?’ I asked.

‘From the accident?’

‘No… from not having large audiences screaming your name.’

‘HAHAHA. Not great!’

As we finally arrived back, three hours after we’d set off, a young woman walked past us, did a double take, then shouted: ‘I absolutely LOVE you Piers!’ Simon’s face fell as much as it’s capable of doing with all the Botox. 

‘Hearing that was more painful than breaking my back,’ he groaned.

Then he turned to his bodyguard. ‘Stats?’

‘7.5 miles.’

‘A new record!’ cried Simon ecstatically.

‘I could have done twice as long,’ I lied.

By the time I got home, my battered feet were erupting with blood blisters.

‘That was a long walk,’ said Celia. ‘What on earth did you talk about?’

‘Everything,’ I replied. ‘That was the best conversation we’ve ever had.’

I’ve never seen Simon Cowell happier, fitter or more relaxed. As Hippocrates said: ‘Walking is man’s best medicine.’ 

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