6 Aug 2010

Hestia...and Hamster wars

Sonshine turned 10 on earlier this week and all he wanted as a present was a hamster.  At £8.50 a throw (poor choice of phrase) a hamster seemed like a brilliant deal.  I could, I thought, spend the surplus Parental Birthday Present Money on a nice pair of shoes.  For myself.

But before we could take a small rodent home, we first had to deal with the regular battle of wills between myself, my son and my mother.

When I'd told her that we'd be coming over to the mainland so that Sonshine could pick a hamster, Juno took herself (and Not My Boyfriend Ron - who is, actually, her boyfriend, Ron) down to Pets At Home to take a look at the little blighters herself.

As soon as she phoned me to tell me there was 'A gorgeous little grey one' I knew there would be a battle of wills.

At this point, imagine that the screen in front of you goes all wavy and wobbly and I lead you by the hand back to 1974 and the redecoration of my bedroom at the family home in darkest Airdrie.

'You can have your room redecorated any way you want - it's your room, after all,' says Juno breezily.

My heart leapt.  I was not only was moving into the Back Bedroom (bigger than my existing room) but I could, at last, express myself through paint and paper, rather than just David Essex posters. 

Betsy Clark was all the rage up here - think Laura Ashley, mop tops, patchwork, cuteness....I wanted my bedroom to look like something from the pages of Jackie:  I wanted a hankie-point lampshade - all boho and interesting.  I wanted an antique dressing screen.  I wanted lace.  I wanted Kajal eyeliner. I wanted an exquisite throw for my bed.  I wanted Charlie perfume on my dressing table. I wanted cascades of curls and a headband....

'Well, that's all lovely dear,' said Juno, but it has to be brown.'


If there's a colour that a newly teenaged girl does NOT want her bedroom painted, it is BROWN.

Despite me sulking and doing the teenage door-slamming thing, my room was duly decorated in shades of brown, with a horrible carpet that I enjoyed throwing up over on the odd Saturday night Tequila Sunrise overdose well into the 1980s.

The screen now goes all wavery again and we are back in the pet shop in the 21st century. We stand before the hamster cages.  I am quivering for battle like a Vietnam vet.

Juno taps the glass lightly. 'I like the grey one.  Do you like the grey one, Sonshine?  I think the GREY one looks really unusual and SPECIAL.'

I grip Sonshine a little more tightly by the shoulder than is perhaps necessary.  'Just pick the one you want, son.' I say through clenched teeth.  Every nerve a coiled spring, tensed and ready to explode into a fight about a Brown Bedroom, not a grey hamster.

Sonshine looks at the squirming mass of tiny hamster bodies: ' I like THAT one.'  He points to a reassuringly hamster coloured hamster.  'Can I get that one mum?'

Juno squints into the case. 'He IS lovely, but isn't the GREY one fluffier and cuter?'

Sonshine peers at the grey one: 'He's nice, but I like THIS one better, gran.'

'Just let him pick the one he wants, mum', I say, my eyes dancing around the store, trying not to look angry, trying not to make this all about a 1974 interior design disagreement.

The shop assistant swiftly packages up the tiny hamster and we trundle the trolley laden everything that he needs to the checkout.

The bill is thus:

Hamster                £8.50
Cage                     £36.00
Carpet                  no idea.  Just lifted a big bag of wood shavings.
Bedding                no clue - like cotton wool for sleeping in
Hamster Museli    again, no idea of cost - but the little guy has got to eat, right?
Hamster ball        £5.00
Hamster track     £13.00 - and if you have a ball you need a hamster track otherwise he tries to dash his ball to pieces on your furniture and make a bid for freedom up your curtains
Treats                £6 - everyone needs a bit of a treat
Space Ship        £6  (absolutely no comment.  But apparently hamsters need space ships too)
Play frame         £10 - well, I don't want him bored
Hamster book   £5
Hamster shelf    £5 - he needs a shelf to sit on.  Apparently.

As the till paper began to curl onto the floor, I wondered about the wisdom of a hamster. It was proving a very expensive investment on something that cost less than a tenner.  Juno, ever psychic, commented ' Thank God he didn't ask for a dog.'  I grinned in agreement.

I'll draw a veil over the stress-fuelled journey from the pet shop to Juno's house.  Suffice it to say that I was speeding because of an escapee hamster, kept only in his box by judicious placing of a library book and two pairs of hands.  The mini now smells vaguely of pee and fear.

Once safely at gran's house, Sonshine started to build up the cage and within 10 minutes, our new family member was scooting around in his wheel and stuffing his face with hamster museli.

'What are you going to call him, darling?' asked Juno.

I could feel my stomach starting to tense up again.

'I thought he looks like a Nibbles,' said Sonshine thoughtfully.

'Nibbles?  What about Houdini?, suggests  Juno.  'He did try to escape in the car, didn't he?  Houdini is a GREAT name for a hamster.'

'No.  Nibbles,' says Sonshine with finality and conviction, before turning the full 100 gigawatt smile on Juno.

'Nibbles is a LOVELY name' says gran, melting beneath this glow of grandsonly gorgeousness.

At last, I can see where I've been going wrong for 40 years.  A smile might have shut off the constant drip of unintentional criticism where a thousand door slams failed.


  1. I love your son.. and I dont even know him .. He knows how to handle the controlling influences of your nemesis....Oh sorry I meant mine..
    Anyhow I so totally understand your post, yet my poor children have zero say in their rooms... its a period property I rescued it from hippies and electric blue skirting boards ..if they want posters they can have them...framed :) Oh god I am turning into my mother xx
    Ps have already done the hamster thing..I hope you dont end up being the sole carer like I didxx

  2. Hi! Cool blog!
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    Stay tuned for the finished painting!

  3. Having tried both the smile and the door slamming on my nana, who we lived with, I reckon they are about even, getting what you want wise. Fortunately, my mum was very much of the ' they have to make their own mistakes and learn from there own decisions' school of parenting, so it balanced out ok.

    Sonshine must have some magic, Jedi-mixed with-Harry-Potter brain tricks mixed with being sweet going on. My inner geek just showed didn't it :S

    Tell him I said Nibbles is a brilliant hamster name!

  4. Live and learn, right? Jesus. That woman is a damn handful.



  5. I'm still having those battles with my mother...sigh. Beautifully written, LLGxx

  6. LLG - I think I'll be having these 'discussions' with my mother until the day one of us drops down.

    SB - She is a handful and I think the problem is that we are scarily similar. I get my untidiness gene directly from my mother :-)

    LM - I think his success is due to some Oedipus Granny thing. His charm is more successful than mine would EVER b.

    Joe's Blog - cool burly bra ;-)

    Ruth - believe me, I know where you're coming from with the house decor too! We're Listed here too - but my family 'baronial' home was a Wimpey semi-detached. And to have it all BROWN. Brown! I just remembered on LLG's blog that mum also bought me a brown long dress for the First Year School Dance. I was a social pariah..... :-)

    But I loves her really!

    She's actually given me a dress to tell you all about. Am lagging in my blogging - perhaps I'll manage to get it up here next week ;-)

    Ali x

  7. I loved this post!! Ah bless you with your brown bedroom! My bedroom door at home had a permanently cracked frame it got slammed so many times... thankfully I grew out of it!

    Can we have some pictures of Nibbles and all his clobber please? xx

  8. Christina - may manage a photo of Nibbles and his bling this weekend :-)

    Ali x


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