For the last two years I’ve joined in the #atozchallenge, namely to post every weekday in April using each letter of the alphabet in turn. In 2015 it was places I’d been to, in 2016 it was London themed. This year it is a dictionary of my family, recounting incidents small and large that have taught me lessons down the years, caused me consternation or generally seared themselves into my memory. I hope you enjoy them. To find other bloggers doing the challenge and maybe be inspired yourself, check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge Blog, here.
History no longer relates where that name came from. The Archaeologist may remember and comment. She was my guinea pig, the operative word here being ‘my’. Not family and certainly not ‘his’. Was it a birthday present? Maybe. I think I may have even asked for a guinea pig but that’s probably just a memory falsely implanted by the ‘my’ above.
Gertie was light brown and white, more fur than flesh and as indolent as any cherry tree on a sunny sultry spring day. She allowed herself to be held but showed nor reciprocity to the affection I was prepared to shower on her. She just was, gurning and cud chewing her jaw on and on like her teeth didn’t fit properly. She took cucumber from me with a supercilious air. I suppose it felt a little like being granted an audience. She might be a rodent but she was a royal rodent.
As is the way with parenting mine weren’t prepared to do the hard yards while I just enjoyed ‘my’ pet. Oh no. There had to be a life lesson wrapped up in there. I had to clean her out. And while, in retrospect guinea pig faeces is better than some sorts, to this 7 year old it was only slightly less appealing than marmite and school shepherd’s pie.
I’m sure I made no fuss, if only because mum didn’t tolerate whinging – it was a crime requiring severe retribution, along with littering and someone calling to sell her a religious tract when she was cooking.
In truth having acquired Gertie our relationship continued on a downwards path until one day she escaped. I imagine I failed to latch her hutch correctly – it’s the sort of thing I’d do. But her bid for freedom didn’t take into account the other mammal that shared our house.
The family dog, a boxer called punch. He was big and drooly and wouldn’t really hurt a fly. Except Her Royal Ratness didn’t know that. So when Gertie, no doubt perambulating slowly and taking in the new surroundings, found herself swept up inside the jaws of hell she didn’t immediately think ‘let’s play’. Rather I imagine it was nearer ‘What the fuck?’
The squealing was horrendous, reaching a pitch that made nails on blackboards seem soothing in comparison. Mum managed to rescue her, physically unharmed but psychologically scarred. She developed a twitch. She was prone to RABs – random acts of biting – and she began to fade. I am sorry to say that when eventually she died I didn’t mourn her.
No, looking back I realised that in truth I was with Punch. What I wanted was a playmate. I had gained a sentient warm blooded toy, not a reciprocating playmate. I can’t be certain but my affections for our daft dog grew after Gertie’s demise.
Nowadays a pet will worm his or her way into my heart if they give back a little. Which is why I’m truly a dog person.
I didn’t think much about guinea pigs until I visited Peru years later. Coy is guinea pig and a local delicacy. I tried it – like you do, but I didn’t like it. I suppose I still felt guilty about its 407th cousin 1237 times removed that once lived in a hutch in our backgarden.
But some are obsessive about these rodents. If you haven’t tried the TV comedy Fleabag, do. It’s very rude, very funny and centres on a guinea pig themed cafe. It’s good to know someone cares for them.