Mel Giedroyc: My guinea pig is disrupting my TV viewing

The Great British Bake Off presenter explains the trials of satisfying her picky pet

I need to get a couple of things off my chest. Firstly, our guinea pig, Coconut. He’s so large that when I took him to have his claws trimmed recently, the vet laughed at the sheer size of his girth. She beckoned the receptionist in to have a look, and the two of them guffawed.


“He’s the size of a dog!” said the receptionist through tears of mirth. “More like Barry White!” shouted the vet.

Cue both of them, doubled over with laughter for several minutes. Yes, he’s on the hefty side, and whenever I recline on the sofa to watch telly of an evening, he likes to splay himself out over my chest, or slump with his not inconsiderable back end parked right into my chin, thus obscuring my view of the TV screen with his colossal gingery crest. And if there’s a TV theme tune he’s not familiar with (BBC1’s The Village, for example, or Extreme Fishing with Robson Green on Channel 5), he reacts by releasing a Barry White-sized jet of musk from several glands.

Like Robson’s fishing, the musking’s been getting more extreme. More theme tunes than ever seem to disturb him: even jolly ones like Downton, Strictly, Grand Designs. This basically means the end of TV viewing for the evening.

Guinea musk is powerful, pernicious and apparently resistant to most washing powders. If the Guinea Musketeer is in the house – bye-bye DIY SOS, au revoir Cranford, it’s an evening spent over the sink trying to cleanse the jumper with Brillo pad and Vim. So let me just get him off my chest right now. He’s reclining in his usual position like the guinea pig equivalent of Emperor Nero as I try to write. I just hope he doesn’t set fire to his hutch…that’s better.

The second thing I want to get off my chest is this. Box sets. I don’t have a problem with the concept of a box set per se – we have many of them merrily lined up on the shelf above the telly. No, what gives me the pip is the fact that I’m NEVER GOING TO WATCH ANY OF THEM. Why? Because I like to follow a strict regime with telly. First, I watch “live” stuff – current shows – and then the box-set material. But my “live” telly stuff is being so disrupted by my overweight four- legged Peruvian friend that box-set viewing – the secondary stuff – HAPPENS VERY, VERY SLOWLY, IF IN FACT EVER AT ALL. 

Put it this way, my most recent box-set experience was a lovely BBC series of Pride and Prejudice. From 1980. It stars a very nice actress called Elizabeth Garvie and Darcy is played by one David Rintoul. I’ve got another box set of Pride and Prejudice from the 1990s – apparently Colin Firth is in that – but if I stick to my regime and tackle my box sets chronologically, I’ll have to watch The A Team, Hart to Hart, Twin Peaks, The Young Ones and Brideshead Revisited before I even START on Firth.

And then I have a mish-mash of 90s/noughties material to tackle: The Wire, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, The Killing, Pingu, Blue Planet, Friends, Nighty Night and something called Breaking Bad. All with at least ten episodes, all with theme tunes that could spook the guinea pig, and then where am I going to be? Awash with musk and even further behind on the box sets.

I’m putting the enormo-guinea back on my chest. That way, at least the shelf of box sets is obscured for now.

That’s better.


Mel Giedroyc co-hosts The Great British Bake Off with Sue Perkins on BBC1 tonight at 8.00pm