The podcast of JOY

Not my podcast. That’s a work in progress. I mean Louis Theroux’s. It’s called Grounded with Louis Theroux and is a series of Zoom interviews with people since lockdown kicked off.  There are seven episodes so far, I’ve listened to them all in three days and I can’t recommend them enough if you need a bit of an escape. The one with Boy George* made me want to be friends with Boy George, the one with Lenny Henry (recorded and uploaded before the recent protests) is madly prescient about racism in Britain, the one with Miriam Margolyes made me CACKLE to myself like a mad old witch as I walked through Dulwich woods yesterday and the one with Rose McGowan is stop-you-in-your-tracks powerful and feels like new material on Weinstein even if you’ve listened to stuff like Ronan Farrow’s The Catch and Kill and/or read She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey who broke the story for the NYT.

*When I texted my friend Clare about Boy George she agreed and said it was his combination of immense cheerfulness and irreverence which is so magnificent. She then told me that once, when Andy Murray was being particularly grumpy about something pre his Wimbledon title, Boy George tweeted ‘Andy Murray looks like he could do with 30 minutes on a bouncy castle’ which made me BARK with laughter.

Sun Tel column from two weeks ago about the madness of puppies below.


I noticed it a few weeks ago; my local park was turning into a puppy farm, small bundles of fluff dancing about on the end of leads everywhere. I smiled and cooed at the mini Cockapoo/Cavapoo/Yorkipoo/Maltipoo as if it was a chubby baby. What sort of psychopath doesn’t smile at the sight of a puppy, even though it’s got an embarrassing name? Meanwhile, at home, my sister is debating one of the Sloane’s most difficult life choices: spaniel or Labrador? After Harry Potter and what we’re having for supper, the future puppy is the third most-talked about subject in this house. A list of names has been drawn up and ‘Fiona’ is the surprising first choice of the nieces. I worry slightly about what this will sound like bellowed across Streatham Common, but it won’t be for a while yet since puppies are currently harder to come across than yeast and my sister can’t actually find one.

The demand is also apparent from that extremely posh website, Radio H-P. This is the site that’s a bit like Gumtree except instead of old bikes and car seats, it advertises housekeepers and fifty-bedroom houses in Warwickshire. The pleas for puppies have shot up recently – members are looking for Bedlington whippets, Jack Russells and Cockapoos (obviously). This week, one couple evidently decided to solve the Sloane’s Sophie’s Choice by advertising for two dogs: ‘My wife and I plus our two children are looking for a Labrador puppy and a golden Cocker Retriever puppy to join us in Hampshire.’ Jolly smart they’ll look on the Christmas card, too.

It’s understandable on one level; with everyone bored of one another at home and looking for a distraction, why not get a new family member who’ll never make passive aggressive remarks about how many times you’ve unloaded the dishwasher. Also, it’s a good time to train a puppy. With few social obligations, you can keep a constant eye on it in between batches of sourdough and eating ginger snaps. Although I note from afar that my mother’s training of her one-year-old Parson terrier remains a work in progress: on Wednesday, Beano savaged his toy badger, spilling the woolly innards over the kitchen floor before sitting down beside the carcass and feigning the weary but innocent expression of a government advisor in the Rose Garden.

Without wising to be a spoilsport, however, what happens when normal life, or something close to it, resumes? I often make dog jokes and used to say that I was Labrador correspondent at Tatler but there will be serious repercussions to all this. In London quite soon it’ll be cheaper to buy a house than a dog since the price of some breeds have tripled on Pets4Homes; the Kennel Club has reported a 140 per cent rise in inquiries about puppies; waiting lists for litters are apparently now longer than the one that gets you into Hurlingham. Imagine!

Doubtless most people have the best intentions in mind and the dogs will be loved, but there will also be a surge in dodgy breeding and animal charities may be swamped in a few months. Perhaps the answer is to divert your children with discussion about a dog, but mull it over for a while instead of actually getting one now. I’m just grateful that we occasionally talk about something other than Voldemort here, which is ironically also a name on the nieces’ list, albeit some way below Fiona.


It’s with a heavy heart that I declare it’s picnic season. John Lewis has sold out of picnic hampers and South London seem to be full of these deviants, happily sitting on rugs and slurping from plastic glasses as if they’ve never even seen that film about Hanging Rock. Picnics – the making of them, the transporting of them (‘we’ve left the cocktail sausages in the Aga!’), the unpacking of them once you’ve inched into a parking space near a famed beauty spot alongside 856 other picnickers, the consuming of them and the packing up again of fetid, greasy Tupperware – are hellish and I don’t know why we mythologise them. Stay at home and save knives is my message this summer, so if the Prime Minister needs a new slogan writer, he knows who to ask.


Talking of sausages, two thirds of us have put on timber during lockdown. ‘Why do I now weigh the same amount as a small family car?’ I wondered, frowning at the bathroom scales last week. Well, I can’t be absolutely sure but I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that, every day at around 4pm, we gather for tea. Toast heavy with Lurpak, crumpets, homemade cake or Rocky Road and cups of Earl Grey. It’s not just in our house either – apparently cream tea deliveries are up 750 per cent as the traditional afternoon snack makes a comeback. I like it a good deal but it’s a Bunterish habit given that we also uncork the bottle at 6pm sharp. It’s one of those comforting treats that will have to go once restrictions are eased, so we must eat double rations between now and then.