A parcel has arrived addressed to ‘Cydney Kite’. The spaniel is ecstatic. She has never received her own mail before, let alone an express delivery package. She wags her entire body frantically as I open it and is driven half demented by the heady smell that arises as I lift out the packing bubbles to reveal…
The nice people at Lily’s Kitchen have sent her a food parcel. They read about me getting a £60 parking fine for stopping outside the pet shop and would like to help out. There is a lovely note to this effect and a selection of canned meat, biscuits, treats and a packet of particularly strong-smelling dried fish sticks, which I’m guessing is what is making her almost hyperventilate with excitement.
‘Oh dear,’ I tell her, ‘What about my reputation?’
I hadn’t meant to do product placement. I only mentioned Lily’s in passing. I wasn’t trying to advertise it to get a freebie, honestly. In fact, I almost included a paragraph about how I buy posh dog food mainly for my own selfish reasons, because I can’t stand the smell of what I would call real dog food.
There is real dog food, you see, which is gut-churning mulch, and then there is what the posh dog food companies call ‘real food for dogs’, which is something entirely different. It isn’t dog food at all, but food, which you give to dogs.
A good posh dog food will smell of human grade pâté and not make you sick when you open it. According to the builder boyfriend, who has tasted Lily’s in a fit of hunger after walking in from a building job and finding nothing in the fridge, it tastes like coarse Ardennes, which is impressive. So, to sum up: I like it because it doesn’t make me sick, and the spaniel seems to like it as well, which is a bonus.
I suppose that is an endorsement. This worries me because I have always been proud to say that I have only been given a freebie once because I mentioned a product. It was a pair of leopard-print kitten heels worn by Theresa May and I had to mention them because the newspaper I worked for at the time — in common with all newspapers — was obsessed with them. She wore them to make a speech and such was the furore over their sexiness that I was despatched to find out everything I could about them.
I traced them to Russell and Bromley and when I went to a branch of this emporium later to see if they had been selling well following the furore in the press — by way of a follow-up story, you understand — the sales assistant did not even reply but rushed off to make a phone call. When she returned she said breathlessly: ‘Mr Bromley says you’re to take any shoes you want.’ So, in other words, yes they had sold well. It felt like it would have been churlish to say no, so I selected the least expensive pair I could find and said my thanks.
When I got back to my desk, I made a call to the Register of Interests at the House of Commons. ‘I’ve been given a pair of shoes like Theresa May’s,’ I said, panic-stricken. ‘What do you want me to do about it?’ was the reply of the lady at the other end of the line. I explained in full and she said she didn’t see why or how she could register them. It was a long time before the expenses scandal so people weren’t very hot on those things then. I wrote about the incident — and donated them to a charity shop (after wearing them a few times. Fine, after wearing them to death) — to make sure no one could ever accuse me of anything. But a part of me still worries I am going to end up in Belmarsh for fiddling kitten heels.
Apart from that, nothing. Until the Lily’s, which I cannot send back. Cydney would never forgive me. You have to see her little face when she looks at that parcel to understand how absolutely I cannot send it back. She sits by the kitchen unit where the parcel is parked, just staring and staring at her goody box. Every time I say, ‘Oh dear, I don’t know what to do. I’ve got my reputation to think about,’ she wags at me and opens her mouth as if to say ‘put a sock in it and throw us a fish stick!’
‘Fine, have a fish stick,’ I say. But if I wind up being investigated by some hellish inquiry, called Operation Fido, into the links between the media and pet food companies, I’m putting you on the stand.