A London law firm advertised a new position this week for a dog walker on a salary of £30,000. Anyone looking to apply must be pet-friendly and have experience of walking a dog, and yet however tempting a “predominantly non-desk role” sounds, I will not be applying.
Until last weekend, I might have considered it but then I spent two days dog-sitting for my sister. She was off to Corfu for half-term with her daughters and husband and asked if I could look after the cocker spaniel puppy for a spell. All right, I said; having spent six months of this year living rent-free in their house, it seemed like the very least I could do.
Noodle arrived with a bed in a cage, a bucket of biscuits and a large Sainsbury’s bag for life filled with two sorts of lead, two types of towel, a brush, some rabbit-flavoured chews, a Donald Trump soft toy (slightly mauled), a whistle and some scented poo bags. Liz Taylor travelled lighter than Noodle, I believe. I made the instant mistake of putting the scented poo bags into the same coat pocket as my face mask, so for several days my mask smelled of the saccharine nastiness.
Our first walk was bad and it all went downhill from there really. Strolling around Crystal Palace Park, Noodle went so hard after a squirrel that the retractable lead broke. Near the railway station, she squatted and clearly wasn’t feeling very well (the least said about that the better), but while I crouched to try and scrape everything up from the Tarmac, she slipped the collar and darted towards the traffic.
If you were in the area last Saturday and happened to spy a woman bellowing “NOODLE!” at the top of her voice, trailing a lead and a collar from one hand, and clutching what looked like a hand puppet in the other but which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a poo bag with several leaves stuck to it, I can only apologise. I grabbed her just before a bus thundered past, looped the collar back over her head, found a bin for the bag and we walked home in silence.
On Sunday morning I took her out at six o’clock, before the other dog-walkers flocked to the park, so I could let her off the lead without worry of her darting after them. The pigeons, presumably expecting a lie-in since the clocks had gone back, had a rotten morning; every huddle scattered into the air like cartridge shot as Noodle spotted them on the grass and decided she wanted to play.
She retrieved some old hyacinths from my compost heap and thoughtfully decorated the lawn with them. When my sister texted from the Greek sunbed asking if everything was all right, I replied that I thought Noodle might have gone into heat for the first time. Again, no details necessary, but I had an inkling.
It was a long two days.
The irony is I consider myself a doggy person. I grew up with various dogs and I don’t think my mother will mind when I say that, while Beano the parson terrier is the thickest of all her five children, he’s certainly one of the family. I was previously debating getting one myself since I live alone, but now I’m less convinced. Are babies this much work?
The more interesting alternative to watching television is right there on your doorstep
Have you got one of those doorbells with a camera? My friend Tash keeps sending me videos from hers. Last week, a man wearing a hood and balaclava arrived on her doorstep and terrified her small sons, only to announce he’d got the wrong house and was meant to be “swinging” next door. I promise this is true, I’ve got the footage from the doorbell camera and have forwarded it to everyone I know.
“Have fun!” shouts Tom, Tash’s husband, as the swinger trots off to their neighbours’. Since then, Tash has changed her bell to a Hallowe’en-themed tone so it roars menacingly back at delivery men, who leap in alarm. Honestly, the footage is better than (some) television. This is what 2020 has reduced us too: entertained by our own doorbells.
Far more than just some old newspaper columns, this is the Jilly Cooper guide to life
Top Christmas present idea (not that we’re buying them yet): a copy of Between The Covers, a new paperback of Jilly Cooper’s columns from the 1960s and 70s. The topics hop from sex to dinner parties to dogs to fatness and back to sex again with a gleeful sense of humour that’s refreshing in an age where certain columnists (not on this page, obviously) write more self-consciously because they’re afraid of offending some idiot on Twitter.
Jilly also sprinkles wonderfully old-fashioned tips throughout. For example, if you throw a dinner party and there’s a woman coming who your husband fancies, serve asparagus or sweetcorn since “no one looks sexy with butter running down her chin”. Heaven.