The perils of watching racy telly in lockdown

Aaaaaand last weekend’s Tel col on watching racy TV in lockdown with your family…


I’ve developed a faintly decadent habit of carrying my laptop into the bathroom every evening, propping it up on a stool beside the loo, then reclining in my bath to watch a film or episode of some series. I like to imagine it’s the sort of déshabillé practice Hedy Lamarr might have gone in for, silk dressing gown slipped to the floor, although given it’s also my nieces’ bathroom I lie back surrounded by plastic ducks and eczema cream which rather lower the tone.

Anyway, there I was last week watching an episode of Normal People, the hit BBC drama about two young Irish lovers who have sex so often and enthusiastically they presumably don’t even need their daily bout of exercise outside. It was a notably breathy performance and while lying in the bath, I panicked that my brother-in-law might walk past the door and have concerns. Lunging forward in the water, causing a small wave to lap over the side, I frantically stabbed at the volume key.

I’m not the only one having problems with watching this particular show with their family. On reaching the bondage scene, a friend reports that her father commented airily ‘I’m not really into that sort of thing,’ whereupon she left the room, perhaps to go and cut off her own ears. Another friend says she and her husband are isolating with the in-laws and have decided to watch it at the same time but in different rooms. Someone else adds that she’s taken to asking her parents ‘What are they doing?’ every time the clothes come off. ‘When I tried to imagine the repercussions of a pandemic, watching porn with my mother wasn’t one of them,’ says a shell-shocked male pal.

A member of my family says it reminds her of the time she forced her way on to a packed commuter train one morning and decided to start watching a new Netflix show she’d read about. Edging her phone from her pocket, she wrestled it to her face and hit play while other commuters stood so close she could smell what they had for breakfast. Seconds later, she clapped her hand over the screen in horror at the thrusting, naked bottoms. But what do you expect if you stream Sex Education on the 7.48 from Sydenham Hill?

My family has terrific form in this area. Many years ago, my father was staying in Kent with his in-laws. Notching that one of his favourite films was on that night, Dad made for the sitting room. Half an hour or so later, my grandfather, Bill Deedes, wandered in and asked what he was watching. ‘Deliverance, it’s brilliant,’ Dad replied confidently, forgetting the male rape scene that happened two minutes later. As Telegraph readers will know, Grandpa was a tolerant and broadminded man but apparently this did cause some confusion.

There are solutions. I’ve gone back through all 12 episodes of Normal People and it has helpful subtitles: ‘she moans’, ‘he gasps,’ ‘they pant and moan,’ ‘they breath shallowly,’ ‘they breath heavily’ and so on. Worth a second viewing for them alone, to be honest. Alternatively, you can offer to make tea whenever one of the characters starts looking amorous, although this means you’ll be making a lot of tea and potentially up all night. Alternatively, ITV has announced repeats of The Bill and I don’t remember much smut between DC Webb and lovely June, so perhaps give that a whirl.


A virtual wedding conducted via Zoom made the announcements page recently, but can I raise that with a virtual stag do? Last weekend, my friend George pulled on black tie and settled in for a night on the sofa with his laptop and several cans of beer so he could drink while chatting to his mates. As the evening wore on, he ate a burger, then a cheeseboard. A bottle of Talisker popped up at one stage, as did Lindsay Lohan in a video wishing him a ‘happy bachelor party’, a message organised by one of his well-connected friends. Best of all, when George called it a night, he only had to stagger 10 feet to his bedroom. Might we consider this for all hens and stags going forward, lockdown or not?


What’s the most distressing supermarket substitution you’ve come across recently? A woman grumbles online that she ordered a big box of wine from Sainsbury’s only for them to send her a dinky bottle, the sort you (used to) drink on airplanes. Disaster! Others mention an orange instead of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, cat food instead of loo roll (huh?), eye drops for wax ear drops, a Twix instead of Tampax (alarming), but perhaps the worst of all was to my household last week, when Ocado sent us gorgonzola instead of Comté. It’s the small things that can tip you over the edge at the moment and I don’t mind saying this was a blow, although fortunately it went unnoticed by the seven-year-old niece, who consumes cheese like a stout Frenchman and is often bribed with the promise of brie if she finishes her green beans. Can any readers offer a more upsetting substitution than that?