Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I always wanted a hamster ever since my first ever TV must-see, which was called "Tales of the Riverbank". This charming children's TV series was filmed with live animals close up doing human things, like sail a boat down a stream, which image would have young Deek screaming "LITTLE BOAT! LITTLE BOAT!" Basically it was child-friendly, with Wind in the Willows-style characters pottering along in Johnny Morris's beautiful country tones to a very simple plot that wouldn't tax a miniscule budget.

Keirkegaard on the other hand was a spunky, virile, male character with good size balls. He was very much a vertical hamster, as I discovered when he took off at high speed up the fold of the curtain, and spent 5 minutes on the top rail sniffing around. He was probably getting a good tobacco fix. I was at first petrified that he would fall and die, and grabbing a chair, reached up to reclaim him. But having got myself to the same ceiling height, I could see how happy he was up there.

So I trained him mainly to drop safely. He really knew his stuff, always landing spreadeagled on the cushions I put out for him around the bottom of the curtains, With a quick shake of his head, whiskers twitching, he would scurry straight back up to the top.

I got worried at first thinking he'd be mashing his insides, falling 3 metres or more. But he lived to a very great age for a hamster, so I guess it did neither of us any harm.

Keirkegaard was a very cool hamster. I got him from the legendary Percy Parslow himself, went all the way down to Great Bookham and picked him out. Aged 12 I knew that you could train hamsters, and I had every intention of having a happy relationship with my new pet. I even wrote a book about hamster care, cribbed from various publications in the library and something I had picked up in a jumble sale, to prove my knowledge, and therefore future trustworthiness for his care. I kept his water fresh, cleaned his cage regularly, gave him cardboard and paper to shred, and even took him on holiday, where we played burrowing games in a hill of damp sawdust.

At night, left to his own devices this small Syrian émigré would do his routines: round and round on the wheel, chew the bars on the cage (this looked desperate but in fact was probably good for keeping the ever-growing teeth down) stuff the face-pouches with sunflower seeds. Then it would be back to round and round on the wheel, chew the bars on the cage. Pretty monotonous. I would fall asleep to the various sounds of rattling and chewing and rustling, and sometimes wake up to them if Keirkegaard really got going in the middle of the night. I learned to wax the axle of the wheel so that it wouldn't squeak.

Keirkegaard escaped once, and we found him behind the chest of drawers. He hadn't gone far, and seemed pleased to be returned to his metal cage.

I kind of wished he didn't have to live in a cage, but neighbourhood cats would have eaten him for sure, so, as I explained, it was for his own protection. He was resident King Hamster, and I even made him a fur-trimmed red-and-blue-bejeweled silver crown which he looked quite good in, but left with him, it would have become part of his greater bedding empire, so I kept it safe, for formal occasions.

Poor Keirkegaard ended his days in a veterinary surgery, his mortal remains committed not to his burial plot, which I had prepared for him at the bottom of the garden, surrounded by his favourite weeds, but to an industrial plastic container. The plans I had for a state funeral with full honours and a long cortège of tortoises and newts (who were available and up for the task) were thwarted by an unsentimental animal doctor, who when asked for his opinion on the elderly, by then moribund animal, declared him geriatric to the point of imminent death, and disposed of him forthwith. My harried parents did not understand why I was so upset that they had not even returned his body to me for proper salutation and farewell.

Farewell, Keirkegaard. You were a true furry friend, and like several humans since, you bit me from time to time and kept me awake at nights.

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At 7:16 AM, Blogger transience quoth...

put anything that looks like a rodent near me, i become suspicious.


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