Sarah Ferguson is ready to share — but do we want to listen?


In this complex world of social anxiety, cruel social media and artificial intelligence, what could be better than a nice cup of tea and a natter with a friend? Come the hour, come the podcast: Tea Talks with the Duchess and Sarah.

Confusingly, both ladies are called Sarah, but one is Sarah Ferguson, or Sarah Duchess of York (“I’m a redhead… I’m an author, I’m a mother, I’m a Granny and I’m lucky enough to be a Duchess”) and the other a Sarah you may not have heard of, Sarah Thompson, who according to her friend is a terrifically brilliant entrepreneur and on her own admission is blonde.

The world outside is a beast but inside Tea Talks all is warmth. “We’re great friends and we decided to do a podcast”, Duchess Sarah tells blonde Sarah. “Basically the reason I wanted to do it with you is because I respect you. I really admire and respect you... Why should you be judged for being blonde, pretty, with high heeled shoes? Why should you be judged? You’re one of the most incredible CEOs and business ladies I’ve ever met.” Why indeed! And so we have this new adventure: “I think it’s about what I can learn from you. It really will help me. Because it’s time.”

In case you’re wondering, there is nothing in what follows to sully this mutual positivity. It extends to the two producers, whom they call Dreamy and Ash, who are, the Sarahs tell us, actual totty. (“If you’re going to do this, let’s be surrounded by good looks! That’s an element of us”.) Can I just say that if the genders were reversed they could run into trouble for this sort of thing.

Tea Talks with the Duchess and Sarah (Instagram)
Tea Talks with the Duchess and Sarah (Instagram)

Confusingly for a show called Tea Talks, it only occurs to them half way through that they’re meant to be having tea, so Duchess Sarah runs off to get some, pursued by Dreamy or Ash. Milk in first? “I never take milk”, says Duchess Sarah, avoiding this fraught question.

If I may ruin the mood by being beastly, the only one of the two we actually want to hear is Sarah Ferguson, and she does share. She’s got unexpectedly Sloaney (for younger folk, that’s Sloane Ranger, the term for the likes of her and the late Princess Diana) diction, which somehow she’s managed to keep. There’s something terribly poignant about her insecurity and her relentless desire to please. She is an open book, the book in question being a self-help book, and to listen to her is to hear all the psycho-speak of the last 30 years. “Everyone writes self-help books”, she observes, “but what about making it about play? … My next book is going to be about, “Be Unique; Learn to play”.

We learn that Tea Talks is all about being real. “Be passionate about what you do”, observes Duchess Sarah. “This podcast is so cool because I passionately want to do it. I mean, you’re listening to me! Most people don’t.” For she is, in fact, a bundle of insecurities. “I play down to get myself out of everyone’s way. I’m terrified that if I stick my head above the parapet, I’ll be shot down. Normally I’d run.” Why?

And then we get to the real reason for the insecurity, for the anxiety to please. “All my life I’ve been on the treadmill, since I was 12, because my mum left to live in Argentina and she left me. I must have been awful to be left.” There you have it, and it needs no psychotherapist to deconstruct that pain.

We’re promised several more episodes, with actual guests and the Sarahs are keen to hear from listeners. But for all the chattiness and openness what’s striking is what she doesn’t share: the only mention of the royals is that the Queen asked her how she liked her room when she got married; and there isn’t a word about Prince Andrew. Make of that what you will.