The new puppy

Rosie (left) and Beano on our way down from Manchester.
Trumpet and Beano make friends (after three days)
Take them off, you psychopaths.

Mum, my sister Rosie and I had an eventful trip to Manchester which I detailed in last weekend’s Sun Tel column, BELOW. And in other column-related news, from Monday I am also *temporarily* taking over Charlotte Edwardes’ column in the Evening Standard. She is exceptionally brilliant and political and always makes highly intelligent points and I, er, well, you’ll see from Monday…

***

Oh god, I thought, I’m going to be the next stabbing victim. My car was flagged down on a scruffy residential street in Manchester this week and a woman with a hard mouth, smoking a fag, leaned through the window to demand money.

To be fair, I owed her. My mother, sister and I had driven north to collect a terrier puppy from this address and although I’d transferred the dosh to her husband’s account, she claimed it hadn’t landed. There followed an exciting few moments while the Manc loitered in front of the car and I called my bank to check it had gone through (it had).

‘It’s a scam,’ I muttered.

‘We should have brought cash,’ Mum said faintly from the back, clutching her new puppy.

With the rise of dog theft and puppy farming, the business of buying a mutt these days is fraught. Mum already has a Parson terrier, Trumpet, a lucky rescue find. But he’s now 13 and increasingly wobbly on his back legs (I’m hoping he isn’t reading this), so my sister and I decided to track down a younger model to console Mum when the hideous time comes.

Rosie found the Manchester litter on a pet website and we instantly fell for the puppy with a white body and patchy face. He was supposedly microchipped, wormed and had his first jabs. But how did we know this to be true? ‘I’ll Facetime him and check he’s with his mother,’ Rosie said solemnly.

This she did, and all seemed fine. Karen, the breeder, certainly wasn’t a Kennel Club sort but perhaps we had to relax and stop being so uptight and paranoid? We weren’t sending this puppy to Eton. He was simply a new companion for Mum.

‘Could we transfer a £100 deposit to secure our pup?’ asked Karen. We did that too and set a collection date. Meanwhile, the family WhatsApp group pinged with name suggestions – Cricket? Sprout? Douglas? What about Norris, Mum wondered, since Manchester was Coronation Street territory.

We motored up the M1 nervously. What if the situation looked dodgy when we got there? What if, despite the pictures and Facetime, it was a con and we were picking up a small, malnourished Minotaur? ‘I’ll take him anyway,’ my sister insisted, the most Debo Mitford among us.

That worry, at least, vanished as soon as we parked on the cobbled street and saw the little porker. Let into Karen’s sparse front room (a sole fish tank in one corner), he waddled over our feet and was instantly loved. There was a recent news story declaring that ‘puppy eyes’ are an evolutionary trait designed to seduce us. It worked within seconds here. I busied myself transferring the remaining amount via my HSBC app while Mum cuddled her new friend, christened Beano after a four-hour discussion on the drive.

We climbed back into the car relieved, as if at a hostage handover which had gone smoothly. But then came the manic, waving hand and the money confusion. It was twenty minutes of sweaty anxiety while we rang our respective banks. ‘We’ve been had,’ I said, squinting through the windscreen at Karen, mentally dispatching another £500 because obviously, by this point, Beano was a valued member of the family.

In the end, Karen let us drive off before the money came through. ‘I trust ya,’ she said, making me thoroughly ashamed of my jangling, middle-class suspicions.

A text message pinged an hour later ‘The money’s in!’ she wrote. A relief. We restored our nerves with ginger biscuits and tea at Northampton services. Beano slept on the back seat, oblivious.

***

I was in the studio recently recording my first single. Just joking. I was there to record the audio version of my new book and all was fine apart from one major stumbling block: how to pronounce quinoa. Alex the sound technician and I bickered about this for some minutes: I believe kwin-noah is correct and less pretentious. He insisted it was kee-noir, before consulting other voiceover artists in the office who declared it was ‘key-noah.’ So that’s what I reluctantly recorded (in the future, my characters will jolly well eat cous cous). I thought this would be helpful next time you’re marooned in the aisles of Waitrose having decided to make an Ottolenghi recipe which calls for quinoa, on top of 58 other ingredients.

***

I worry a lot about Love Island. I wish I could give you an intellectual point and say that chicks in thong bikinis squabbling over human T-bones proves that Darwin was wrong. But my worries are less cerebral and mostly to do with bedding and laundry. How often are those sheets changed? Are they washed at a hot enough temperature? Do they lie in those outside beds covered in sun lotion? But most seriously of all, I watched one of the T-bones, Anton, get into bed with socks on and I wanted to clear this up in case people were confused: wearing socks in bed is never acceptable. Not at home, not if you’re in Scotland and it’s cold and especially not if you’re on holiday in a Majorcan villa.

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