Have just got back from expedition to garden centre. This is what my life has become - taking the children out to the garden centre. It was not as if I wanted to buy plants, it was more a case of somewhere to go in the bucketting rain. The weather on the way down was appalling; sleet, snow and rain so bad I thought there was a chance of an accident which might kill us all. Dieing en route to the garden centre would be a particularly rubbish way to go. We had looked round the kitchenware, glanced at the tomato plants, felt guilty about the state of the vegetable patch and had ambled into the pet section when I was ambushed. I did not even see it coming. My seven-year-old took my hand in his: "Can we have a fish? Can we? Can we? I'm not allergic to fish so it's only fair." My five-year-old saw the opening: "Yes can we have a fish? Or a hamster? I want a hamster. Can I have a hamster?" Just as I opened my mouth to say what I normally say which sounds like "We'll see" but means "Over my dead body," one of the assistants opened up the pen right next to us and scooped up two guinea pigs and placed them carefully into a cardboard box with holes at the top. They scampered round nervously. A proud and incredibly happy little girl stood to one side of him, her beaming, doting mother on the other. My boys watched the whole thing, I saw the older one glance at the girl, the younger one look soulfully at the empty guinea pig cage. I lost the pet argument right at that moment and I blame the guinea-pigs.
Courtesy of my seven-year-old's allergy to anything with hair, furry pets are out. We traipsed round the tanks watched by glittering tiny fish. Sanity suddenly prevailed and I said: "We can't possibly do this. Have you seen how much these tanks cost? The bowl is £400 and the goldfish is £1." Both boys looked like I had hit them over the head with a sandbag. I tried reason. I said: "Let's wait till Daddy's back at the weekend and come back then." Eventually I accepted the inevitable but I did not go down without a fight. Like the psycho-mother I am, I said: "If you do not feed it and look after it I will flush it down the toilet - right?" They virtually promised to pay its tuition fees through university. I have ended up £118 poorer than I was when I parked the car - I am now the proud possessor of an aquarium kit, two bags of black gravel, a fake tree stump and a small, ruined temple from the Lost City of Atlantis. Funny thing is they would not sell us the fish. Apparently we have to set it all up, leave it for 48 hours and then go back for the fish. I am hoping the children will have forgotten what it is all for by then.