We bought two guinea pigs. They are tiny - babies really - with swirly fur. One of them has motley caramel and black and white sworls and we have called her Daisy. The other one is ginger and white. I would have called her Hazel but frankly I expect some loyalty from my guinea pigs so we settled on Holly. I am trying to bond with them but ever since my husband took a good look at their twitching whiskers and said: "They really are rodents aren't they?" I've struggled.
I told my friend we were getting them and she offered us a hutch. This is the friend with the world's most fabulous house complete with "box" room (full of boxes ready to send gifts to godchildren) and dead tigers on the floor. She said: "Really it's a hen house, but there's nesting boxes in there they could use." I agreed and she said she would bring it round on Saturday night. We waited and waited. No sign of a hen house so my husband rang her. It turns out that our "guinea pig hutch" was 10 feet by 4 feet and they couldn't get it into their horse trailer. These eight-week old guinea pigs are the length of my palm, I can only think that when I said: "We're getting guinea pigs", my friend heard the words "We're getting Afghan hounds."
We borrowed a cat box for their first night and resolved to revisit the garden centre the next day to buy a real guinea pig hutch. It was just as well because a variety of guinea pig fanciers up for bank holiday weekend had convinced us that "Daisy" was suffering from gender misidentification. "Daisy-or-maybe-it's-Donald" went back in her box and back to the garden centre. I'm no expert on guinea pig genitalia, but "Daisy-it-could-be-Donald" did not look like "Hazel-You-Tube-If-You-Want-To-Holly". The assistant who sold us the guinea pigs had already said breezily as she ladled them into their cardboard boxes: "We can't be sure but we think they're both girls". "We can't be sure but we don't think you'll get pregnant" - it's not a marketeer's dream for condoms is it?
There was a different girl in the pet section this time and she was ready for us. She took a look and shook her head. Daisy was definitely Daisy. Perhaps I seemed sceptical because she asked: "Do you want to see what a boy guinea pig looks like?" I don't know what I expected - perhaps I thought she might say "Do you see, they've got longer tails" or "You can always tell a boy guinea pig by the shape of its ears." Instead, she scooped one up, flipped him on to his back and splayed him as if she was cracking the spine of a paperback. There, in all its glory, was a guinea pig penis popping out to say hello. It was tiny but I have not been able to shift the image from my head since. I may have been permanently damaged. Perhaps this girl thought I had never seen a penis - I have no idea how she explained the three children with me. I said something like "Right. OK. Well that's definitely a penis then" just to reassure her I could recognise one. After that, we went home.