Alice? Who the…

Meet Alice:


She’s Lola’s new companion – hopefully. I had a horrible moment this morning when I went to feed Lola and there was no movement in her hutch. I gently tapped her little house and there was no response. I told everyone she’d died as well, including the girls. R and G didn’t believe me so I took them out to show them the lack of activity in Lola’s house. At that moment, a black twitchy nose appeared and Lola scampered over to munch some hay. Relief!

Anyway, one of the signs of guinea pig depression is lethargy and Lola is definitely suffering from that, although she is still eating well. Dh and the girls bought Alice (named, according to G, after Alice the camel who lives in wonderland) home this afternoon and she’s in the indoor cage for now while she gets used to us. Dh told the girls to be quiet, so they decided to dress up in pseudo-Halloween costumes and ran around the house howling like ghosts at the tops of their voices.

We’re going to introduce Alice and Lola to each other slowly, as they may fight to start with. Hopefully things will work out and Lola will start to feel a bit happier.

Farewell Charlie

Charlie the guinea pig died yesterday.

Dh went out to feed Charlie and Lola and reappeared with his ‘I have to deliver bad news’ face on. I was really shocked. Charlie was less than two years old and we expected the piggies to live for another couple of years, at least. She hadn’t shown any signs of illness in the last few days (although apparently guinea pigs hide illness as a defence mechanism) and had been eating normally and running around as usual. There were some loud bangs from the fireworks over the weekend but they have coped fine with them before.

I told the girls this morning. R went very quiet, developed a very wobbly lip and launched herself at me for a big cuddle. I stroked her hair as she sobbed quietly. G looked confused for a moment and said ‘Yes but when can we have breakfast?’. I asked her how she felt and she said ‘Not sad’. I suggested that the girls made cards to remember Charlie by. G said ‘Charlie won’t be able to see them and anyway, we didn’t make cards for the fish when they died’. Sometimes G is so very much like her father/Richard Dawkins that it is frightening!

It was with some trepidation that I went out to see Lola this morning. She seems to be fine, although hadn’t touched her food since yesterday. This is also quite common in guinea pigs. The loss of a companion can make them depressed and off their food. I brought her indoors and the girls and I gave her lots of cuddles. She has now eaten all of her food, plus some carrot that the girls and Dh fed her earlier.

We’re going to keep an extra-special eye on Lola over the next few days to see how she copes with the loss of her companion. Charlie was always the first to the food (she practically inhaled lettuce leaves) so Lola is probably adjusting to having first dibs at the buffet for a change. I’m not sure whether I want to get a new baby guinea pig as we might end up in a cycle of replacing piggies. Plus, we don’t know if Charlie’s death was a freak incident or if Lola has something untoward too.

Charlie – you loved your food but didn’t like eating out of our hands. Every time we cleaned your hutch out to tried to escape Steve McQueen-style across the garden. You were always the first to the vegetable buffet. You had quite a lot of junk in your trunk despite the guinea pig run and squeaked indignantly if you thought we had forgotten to feed you. You were a good and true friend to Lola and we will all miss you.


Bong! HoT animal update.

After the demise of Maisy, Eddie and Bob the fantail goldfish earlier in the year we were left with an empty Spongebob Squarepants tank and a lot of fish food. After leaving the tank respectfully empty for a week or two we decided to take the plunge (again) and buy two bog-standard goldfish.

Inevitably, there was a problem. Apparently the tank isn’t big enough for two goldfish so we bought a singleton and three Danios to keep it company. The girls called the goldfish Minnie and the Danios Mickey, Miffy and Kitty. Mickey died within a week. Kitty went to the big tank while we were on holiday. Minnie and Miffy (touch wood) seem to be fine. When we bought them I muttered darkly that we should just number the bloody things. The subsequent demise of Mickey and Kitty proved me right.

Charlie and Lola are simply lovely. Charlie is now sporting quite a lot of junk in her considerable trunk so we need to buy them a large run to exercise in.  They had a lovely mini-break with one of the girls’ nursery friends while we were on holiday. They were thoroughly spoilt for a week and Lola was even allowed in to watch television with them!

We revisit the pet shop periodically for supplies and I still quite fancy getting a rabbit and a hamster. The idea of tropical fish still appeals but it’s pointless because we’d kill them off in a week.

Bong! This is the end of the HoT animal update.

The end of 46 Days

At the beginning of March I had a crazy idea. Instead of giving something up for Lent, I would try to do something every day. The idea for 46 Days came from there. Today is the 46th and last day.

I thought I’d have a look back through the last 45 days and see what’s happened:

0 people offended (that I’m aware of…)

1 holiday booked

1 disastrous week of night training

1 graduation attended

1 Margot Leadbetter moments

2 bouts of nostalgia

2 guinea pigs (Charlie and Lola) arrived

2 fish (Eddie and Bob) bought

3 fish (Maisy, Eddie and Bob) died

3 Easter bonnets made

4 3rd birthday parties attended

4 One Born Every Minute liveblogs

5 separate illnesses (2 for me, 2 for G, 1 for R)

6 twinny observations (I could have written hundreds of posts on this)

7 Friday photos

8 rants (I’m amazed there aren’t many more)

That’s a fairly average seven or so weeks in the HoT. Ok, so you don’t buy guinea pigs and kill off goldfish every day, but everything else was pretty normal…for us at least. It’s a nice little snapshot of our lives.

I only missed one night – when I was away for work – and I made up for it the next night with two long posts.  I have to say, as the weather improved dramatically in April I found it much harder to generate enough enthusiasm to sit down every night and write a blog post. Last night I ‘cheated’ and uploaded the Friday photos from my iphone whilst slumped on the sofa after another busy day. Thank Steve Jobs for the WordPress app!

I speculated at the beginning of all this that a period of sustained creativity might make me want to do some creative writing. It hasn’t, but only because I haven’t had time after writing 46 Days posts. There are a couple of ideas percolating in my brain but I can’t commit them to screen just yet.

Instead I’ve been exploiting my creative mind in different ways. I’m really into card-making at the moment. If there’s an event coming up I’ve probably made a card for it! My cards aren’t going to make me rich and they definitely look ‘home made’ but I hope people appreciate the effort. I attempted my first scrapbook – a graduation present for my Mum. I love getting creative with photos, bit of paper, a stack of embellishments and a ton of pritt stick. I have also made great progress with my latest cross-stitch and am already thinking about the next stitching project. I might do something really challenging this time…

As I get older I can no longer sit in front of the telly of an evening once the girls are in bed. I have to be doing other things, so that I feel my evenings aren’t wasted. That reminds me…I have very strict rules on my ‘me time’ activities. They are all done in the evening in the precious few hours I have when the girls are asleep and before I go to bed. During the day I’m either spending time with the girls or working.

I’m looking forward to having a few nights off (maybe even a week or two) from blogging – or the tyranny of the blank page (which only affected me twice in 46 days) and the feeling that I ‘have’ to write something. I might try something similar later in the year. November is my bogey-month so I might try 30 Days or something like that to ward off the SAD.

That’s all in the future. Now, I’m off to make a Mojito and await our take-away delivery.

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Bob’s gone to the big tank…

…in the sky. Yep, we’ve managed to kill off another one.

I noticed that Bob was moving rather strangely in his tank when I got home from work yesterday evening and Dh put some of his medicine in the water. It was all a bit ER for 30 seconds – I practically got the defib equipment out whilst shouting ‘FULL BLOOD COUNT, CT SCAN AND CONTACT NEXT OF KIN GODDAMMIT!’  The jump juice seemed to perk him up a bit. Bob, not Dh. I announced his departure on Facebook (again, Bob. Not Dh), and five minutes later had to issue a retraction as Bob seemed to undergo an Easter miracle and rise from the depths…of his tank…and start swimming again.

Dh checked on the Bobster before he went to work at the ungodly hour of 5.30am this morning and he was a deceased fish. He had fallen off his Spongebob house. He was now sleeping with…well, Maisy and Eddie.

I HATE fantail goldfish. We know the water is good as we’ve been so careful with it. The filter works. He was fed appropriately. He had medicine when he was looking a bit droopy. What else could we have done?

R noticed the empty tank this morning after breakfast and I briefly explained that Bob had been very sick and had to go away, like Maisy and Eddie before him. She looked sad for about 10 seconds until G piped up: ‘Can we get Miffy now?’

Anyway, Dh and I have discussed it and we’re going to get to normal bog-standard cheap as (fish n) chips goldfish. You know, the yellowy-orange sort that we all had as kids. Maybe not just yet though.

FYI, Charlie and Lola the guinea pigs are thriving* and now eat from our hands. They are infinitely easier to look after than the infernal fantail goldfish

*Have I doomed them by writing that?

RIP Eddie the goldfish

At 10.45 last night Eddie the goldfish went to the great big fish tank in the sky.

I went to get a glass of water from the kitchen and noticed that Eddie was swimming rather strangely. He looked like he was being buffeted by a huge tidal wave and couldn’t control his swimming action. Dh and I watched him for a little while, feeling completely helpless. I hoped that he would recover himself and start swimming normally again but he started listing to one side. His final act was to fling himself towards the filter cover and that was to be his final resting place.

Eddie wasn’t ‘just’ a goldfish. He was R’s goldfish. Eddie was much wanted and waited for. R showed great patience and maturity in the six weeks between Maisy’s arrival and Eddie’s eventual appearance after all of the dramas with the water. It seems cruel that he only lasted two weeks in what should be perfect conditions for a goldfish. Maisy seems fine but I keep checking on her because I’m concerned that she may have whatever it was that saw off Eddie.

Dh sent me upstairs while he dealt with Eddie. After the deed was done Dh and I discussed how we would break the news to R. Dh initially favoured the ‘hospital and sneaky replacement’ option. I argued (forcefully) that R wouldn’t buy it for a second and that she should be told the truth. We agreed that we would just tell R that Eddie was very sick and we couldn’t make him better so he had to go away.

This morning dh spoke to R and I explained the situation to G. We told them separately because we knew that G, in her usual, oblivious way would just say something like ‘Maisy’s my fish and she’s fine’, which is exactly what she said. I told her that R would be feeling a bit sad and would need some cuddles. R didn’t quite believe dh until she saw the fish tank. Dh and I felt quite emotional as Eddie’s departure hit her and her face changed. G gave R a hug and told her she could help to look after Maisy.

R’s been pretty down today, veering between being very upset and extremely naughty. She internalises things far more than G does, so I thought it was better to be upfront with her because she hates being fooled and feeling silly. We’ve told her that she can get another fish and she’s already thinking of names. Bob seems to be the current favourite.

Eddie – your time at the HoT was too short. You were bullied by a prima-donna female and I’m fairly sure she stole your food and flapped her massive tail in your fishy face. I hope the fishy afterlife is kinder to you.

Home and community

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of creating a home and becoming part of a community recently.

Just after my 30th birthday I felt a need to build a home for my family. No, I didn’t retrain as a hod carrier and get busy with bricks and cement! I’ve lived in plenty of ‘places’ over the years but none of them has really been a home. I still refer to my parents’ house as my home in conversation and I haven’t lived there since I was 19. Since I left home I’ve lived in (deep breath) four different halls of residence, two different shared student houses, a one bed flat, a two bed house and now a three bed house. Until our current house, they all felt quite transitory. I knew that at some point we’d be moving on again. That hasn’t necessarily changed with this house but I feel differently about it.

I didn’t ever care that much about furniture and decoration – things like CDs, books, clothes and DVDs mattered hugely, but the big grown-up stuff didn’t really bother me. In the nesting phase of my pregnancy I used to take the Ikea catalogue to bed with me every night. I still get quite giddy at the thought of ‘storage solutions’. It’s not the ‘stuff’ that makes a home though. It’s the feel of the place. As the girls get older they are marking their territory (not literally, thankfully) and we now have certain things because they’re here: toys, picture books, teddies and more kiddie kit than I can possibly list here.

People that know me well were quite shocked when we started accumulating pets recently. To them I didn’t seem like a pet person. However, I think they help to make our house a home and Maisy, Eddie, Charlie and Lola are already part of our extended family. I was saying to my Mum the other day that I’d happily have a house and garden full of pets. This is a huge shift for me. I think I’m going soft in my old age…

An extension of that is my new-found interest in our local community. I’m a passionate advocate for my area of London and if I hear of anyone that’s thinking of moving to our patch I practically put them in a headlock and tell them how wonderful it is until they agree with me. The girls’ nursery is in the process of setting up a PTA/committee and I want to be involved in it. Through R and G we’ve developed a local network of like-minded parents who have become friends. My Dad asked me who would look after the piggies if we went on holiday. I think he was reassured by the list of names I reeled off!

We’ve lived in this area for nearly four years now and we’re now on nodding terms with lots of people, including those that work in the local shops. It freaks me out no end when I pop out to buy a pint of milk or a loaf of bread and someone random (but clearly not a stranger) asks me where I’ve left the girls. It’s a level of recognition I quite like. I couldn’t quite cope with everyone in the vicinity knowing what I had for breakfast before I’d even eaten it.

While I don’t quite see myself as a Midsomer Murders-style local busybody yet (give me time) I now realise the importance of making connections with the local community and becoming part of something. Londoners are notorious for not speaking to their neighbours but owning a. children and b. pets changes that. You have to build relationships or you would go mad. That, or start baiting people on online forums and I really, really don’t recommend that to anyone.

I think I can attribute this sea-change in attitude to R and G – another thing to be grateful to them for! Dh and I had a lovely time together before they were born but we led quite a solitary life, in our own loved-up bubble. Thanks to R and G we now connect with the world beyond our very happy, and very loving, home.

Guinea pig manor

After a week in their warm, cosy indoor cage Charlie and Lola have been turfed out into their Spring/Summer quarters  – the rather grandly named guinea pig manor. It’s been lovely to have them inside with us as it’s given us all time to get used to each other. On a practical level it makes sense for them to be outdoors most of the time though. Plus if they’d lived in the house for very much longer the dining room would have started to get a bit smelly.

Dh and I have been sharing feeding and cleaning out duties and the girls have been getting involved as well. They love stroking the piggies and have been helping to change Charlie and Lola’s bedding, straw and food. C & L love broccoli, celery and cucumber so the girls help to wash the veg and put it into the cage. G would dearly love to hold and cuddle C & L but they are extremely wriggly so we’ve reached a compromise where one of us holds them and G snuggles into us. R loves observing their behaviour and keeps up a running commentary on C and L’s movements. She frets that they’re not using their salt lick and playing with their toys but finds their (massive) straw consumption fascinating.

Aside from being totally different cosmetically, C and L have very different personalities. Lola is extremely feisty and doesn’t really fear anything or anyone. She spends much of her time gambolling around the hutch like a newborn lamb. Charlie is much quieter and more timid but loves cuddles – when you can get hold of her! She’s a bit of a speedy Gonzales.

Just a quick note on the goldfish. Maisy and Eddie are doing really well and Dh actually allows R and G to give them fish flakes every other day. I think they felt a bit upstaged by the piggies and Maisy seems to be shimmying around the tank more enthusiastically now that C and L have moved outdoors.

I keep thinking about one of the animals in the adoption section of the pet shop. Hobo was a lop-eared rabbit that appeared to have alopecia. He had bald patches on his head but the information sheet next to his cage said that the hair should grow back in time. G was quite fascinated by him and insisted on going to visit him on the numerous occasions we went to the pet shop. Normally the turnover of animals in the adoption bit is quite high but Hobo had been there for a few weeks. Last week R and G sat next to his cage for ages and chatted to him. If he hasn’t already, I hope he finds a suitable owner soon. I was half tempted to suggest to dh that we adopt him but guinea pigs and rabbits don’t really mix…

I have these little guinea pigs…

…..they are small and very funny…

So after our (ahem) overnight success with the goldfish we decided we just had to add to the menagerie. We are now the proud owners of two female guinea pigs (we only do things in twos in this house) called….Charlie and Lola.

We’ll come back to the potential gender confusion later. Buying guinea pigs is a breeze compared to fish. We went into the pet shop, selected our piggies and left the shop 20 minutes later, me carrying a cardboard box containing two scuffly little creatures and dh carrying an indoor cage and a guinea pig starter kit. We drew a little crowd in the shop as one of the staff lifted our chosen piggies from the pen and handed them to dh and I. Charlie and Lola squeaked with…fear? Excitement? Hopefully the latter.

We’ve been debating adding guinea pigs to our collection (of two fish? Yeah. Massive collection) for a while but it took me a bit of time to bring dh round to the idea and to get permission from our letting agents. I’ve always had a fondness for guinea pigs. Less rodenty than a gerbil or rat but marginally less of a commitment than rabbits, they seemed like our kind of pet. Plus they’re sociable creatures and there’s nothing worse than living with a sarky hamster or a cantankerous rabbit.

So, why have we called two girl pigs after a boy and a girl? You’d have to ask R and G about that. Since we told them the piggies were coming, various name combos have been floating around. I quite fancied the idea of Frasier and Niles, Daphne and Roz or Albie and Dustin. G briefly wanted to call them George and Toby but friends of ours will be relieved to hear that I quickly dissuaded her. Percy and James were in the running for a while but G came up with Charlie and R added Lola and it felt ‘right’.

No photos of Charlie and Lola yet as they’re still settling in. They currently reside in an indoor cage while we all get used to each other but the plan is for them to live in an outdoor hutch (the grandly named guinea pig manor) for most of the year and to come indoors in the depths of winter. Lola (black with brown highlights) is the more feisty of the two and has darted in and out of their sleeping area today to check out the environment, sneak food and poo. Charlie (white with large brown patches) has spent the whole day hunkered down in his/her sleeping quarters. At one point I made dh check that we hadn’t freaked him/her out so much that he/she had gone to the piggy heaven in the sky. Charlie is fine, just a little frightened and possibly quite confused. They are approximately twelve weeks old, so were ‘born’ in December 2010.

I don’t think we’ll be expanding our numbers again now. I rather like having eight creatures – three women, one lady fish, two female guinea pigs (one with an identity crisis), one slightly terrified looking boy fish and dh who is beyond description – in the HoT.