I’m a semi-professional pet sitter.
Every so often I pack up my more useful possessions, go to some London dwelling, and spend a week or two pottering around, as though I could afford to live there.
I’m quite proud of my 100% pets not dying on my watch record. Not all pet sitters can say that.
Most of my competitors, in fact, have an “in memoriam” section of their websites, with all the dogs, cats, turtles and fish they have unwittingly killed are listed, alongside headshots, cause of death etc.
This is a legal requirement in many counties.
Anyway. Today I headed down to suburbia to meet my latest sittee. An old dog belonging to an Irish couple known vaguely to my dad. I get a lot of my bookings via the pub grapevine.
They turn up, late, which stresses me out somewhat as I am supposed to be at a producer meeting. They are, as always, extremely lovely and charming, though I note with some confusion that they’re carrying a massive bag full of kibble, bowls, treats, and other canine paraphernalia.
Ah. Oh shit. They think I have my own house for the dog to stay in.
Around now, it would have been appropriate for the Curb Your Own Enthusiasm theme tune to start playing in my head.
As we made small talk about the dog’s love for ready salted crisps, my brain was weighing up the options. The first and funniest – and also, awfully, the most tempting, as I hate all and any awkward conversations – was to just brazen it out.
Yeah, sure! I live round here. I’ll just head on off with your prize Labrador, don’t worry about it. And then figure out things from there. Walk into the sea.
The lovely Irish lady is on her second glass of wine. They’re off to New York, where a relative is getting married. Their role is to sing and tell stories, the full, token auld country representatives.
It’s time to own up.
“So… why have you brought all the dog’s stuff out with you?”
No reaction. All my fears are true.
“You know I live in Brighton, right?”
It takes literal seconds for this information to go in.
“Usually, I just stay and look after the house while the dog owner is away?”
Their plane is at 4:30am tomorrow morning.
“Don’t tell John, let me explain it to him, but that’s absolutely fine”.
But John already knows. He’s talking to an old fella at the bar, who knows me well, who has already asked “so where exactly is James bringing the dog, then?”
It is indeed fine. Everything’s fine. John goes in a taxi back to the house to pick me up some spare keys. I just need to get there at comedy o’clock tomorrow morning.
And I run back to the station, and to the producer meeting, for light ribbing at my customary lateness and to rest my head upon the table.
 Often with the lyrics to “Straight Life” by Black Box Recorder running around my head. Key line “lives in a tin on top of the wardrobe”.