G is for Gertie #atozchallenge

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 think these little tykes were trying to sell us coy…

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.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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27 Responses to G is for Gertie #atozchallenge

  1. Ritu says:

    Aw poor Gertie!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. noelleg44 says:

    Guinea pigs do require care – not sure why they’re sold to children as easy pets. Check out the blog George’s Guinea Pig World! Poor Gertie. I can see why you are a dog person – Punch was one handsome boy. My whole family ate guinea pig when we were in Ecuador – they served them whole, so we made them take the heads off so as not to frighten the kids. It was the usual – tastes like chicken. We visited a village up in the mountains while they were there and the kitchens were full of guinea pigs running around!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 says:

    I am not surprised she developed a tick and RABS… 😱


  4. Poor Punch, what else was he supposed to do?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Erika Kind says:

    What a trauma for the poor thing. I had a guinea pig when I was 6 and I played with it and did not realize it must have been torture for it. Then decades later, my daughter got two guinea pigs and after about 2 years I took them over because I couldn’t stand how little she cared. I made them an enclosure outside and cried with each that died. After the third died (I replaced the first two in order that the one left wasn’t lonely – the always have to be at least two) I gave the last one away because it was a never ending story. But it was so sad!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. gordon759 says:

    As far as I can remember you chose the name Gertie, though where it came from before that I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not much attracted to guinea pigs – though I prefer them over pet rats or mice. Rodents in general aren’t my cup of tea – or sandwich ………. It’s nice that you learnt to appreciate Punch though, as a result of your failed experiment. He looks most jolly!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. JT Twissel says:

    My sister had a guinea pig named Gertrude! She ate the curtains near her cage and would squeal whenever the refrigerator door opened.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have never been a fan of guinea pigs. Dogs are good, so are cats, but when I was a child they didn’t live in the house like so many do now. They were outside animals and had spaces in the barn with the other animals (which sometimes included us kids). Thanks for the great story.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I had two Guinea pigs as pets since no one thought I would take care of a dog being to little. I taught them to whistle when I clicked at them with my tongue. That was the extent of their interaction with me, other than that they were just fuzzie things who’s cages I had to clean. My kids had a dog… now two dogs since I was tricked at a Petsmart into getting a rescue, her name is Rory… I call her little wooden head. Dogs are the best we should all have some.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m obvs too prim for Fleabag. Watched about 10 mins of an ep then switched off. Did enjoy Pls Like on bbc3 though.
    Enjoyed your read much more than I did ‘Gertrude’ by Hermann Hesse!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Poor old Gertie! Mind you, I m with you on only really liking pets that give something back! I do have goldfish as well as Roxy, but their saving grace is they are pretty to look at!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Rowena says:

    Lady says well done to Punch for capturing Gertie but says the real skill doesn’t lie in the capture but the eating. She comes from a long line of Australian farm/working dogs and her idea of working was catching rabbits… and eating them. That was all before she joined us, of course.
    I’ve never had Guinea Pigs. My brother had mice and thank goodness the kids never asked. Miss wants a Guinea Pig but we were too concerned about Lady eating it. That reminds me that I haven’t heard her mention guinea pigs for awhile and what a relief it’s been. I hate constantly saying no to something, especially when it’s beyond our capabilities. Quite often, I wish the kids came with an off switch.
    xx Rowena
    PS An on switch could also be useful, especially with recalcitrant teens.


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