On Saturday 7 February my wife and I finally succumbed to the combined pester power of our four children and bought a hamster. They’ve been nagging us for over a year to buy them a pet and this seemed like the least hassle. We opted for a six-week-old Syrian with reddish-brown fur and white patches. We decided to call her Roxy on account of her being so pretty. It’s short for Roxana, the Bactrian princess that Alexander the Great fell in love with.
I quickly realised that hamsters are a bit like printers, in that you think you’ve got a bargain until you realise what the running costs are. Roxy herself was only £10, but the cage set me back £65 and her food is so expensive that I’d be better off taking her to the Savoy Grill every day.
When we got home, we had to lay down a few ground rules to prevent her escaping. On no account were the children to take her out without adult supervision and once she was back in her cage it was absolutely vital to ensure that the door was firmly shut. To ram this home, I stressed that she was very unlikely to survive if she got out. Either she’d find her way into the garden, where she’d be eaten by a fox, or she’d scramble up the chimney, in which chase she’d be burnt to a frazzle next time we lit a fire. ‘Her best hope would be getting stuck beneath the floorboards where she’d slowly starve to death,’ I said.
The children looked suitably horrified and swore up and down that they’d never leave her cage open.
Fast-forward to last Saturday night. Everyone had gone to bed and I was settling down to watch Match of the Day.