The Guinea Pig Diaries

The Guinea Pig Diaries

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by Penelope Rollinson

I spent the last thirteen years writing novels from ideas I received through my dreams. I experienced a lot of automatic writing in the early hours of the morning. I would either see or hear a sentence in my head and then grab a writing pad at the side of my bed to write it down. I kept my eyes closed because I didn’t want to wake up and in the morning I would be amazed to see that what I had written made complete sense. I was learning how to write. I bought manuals on writing, attended courses and wrote constantly on days off and in the evenings after work. I remember a male spirit getting exasperated with my slowness to grasp the concept of writing and I heard him sighing impatiently, I saw him inwardly and intuitively knew what he was sighing about.

In 2012 Alan Cox suggested I write the autobiography of film producer, Manny Fox. It would be a book to go with his musical A Unique Collaboration, which charted the musical relationship between Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Manny suggested I write the book in the voice of one of my animals. I got so carried away, that my guinea pig Henrietta Harriet, literally took over the pages as her story and personality emerged. I was hooked, and in the end I had to separate Manny’s book from The Guinea Pig Diaries.

At the time of writing for Manny, Henrietta Harriet had died a few months previously, giving birth. She was my beloved guinea pig and I was devastated. She visited me in her spirit form and so did her partner Hamlet when he died. Weeks later I had a visit from both of them and I often see the deceased guinea pigs King William and Mohawk running around the kitchen when all the other guinea pigs come into the house for winter. In the summer, I see them running around the hutch-runs in the garden. Henrietta Harriet is guiding me through the writing of her book and she loves to see her domineering and bossy personality coming through and how this contrasts with Hamlets calming influence.

Talking about deceased pets visiting, I had a cat called Abigail who died twenty six years ago; she was determined to stay with me and has followed me through all my changes of residence. I have seen my present cat Poppy playing with her and when I lived in London, a friend who stayed for six months, said, ‘‘You didn’t tell me you had two cats.’’ I didn’t enlighten her.

I have almost finished writing the Guinea Pig Diaries and soon I will be submitting my manuscript to different agents and publishers, with ideas for follow on books. I have attached the first part of the second chapter for your enjoyment. From this chapter you will get an insight into Henrietta Harriet’s background and how her personality developed. When I found her in a pet shop, she was being kept in a box in a cupboard with hay and a whole carrot.

The Box

When my brother and I were six weeks old we were taken away from our gentle loving mother, to live in our human’s pet shop. I wasn’t ready to leave my mother and I cried bitterly. My brother was more resilient. He was looking forward to finding a new human, who would hopefully not be another guinea pig fanatic like our human. My brother got to live in the only cage in the shop, while I had to live in a cardboard box in the cupboard behind the cash register. The cupboard had no windows and in the dark gloom there was the smell of cardboard from dusty old boxes that were dumped and forgotten. When my human came in to look for dog nappies or fish food the dust flew everywhere and I would go into a frenzy of sneezing and coughing. How I hated that dark dusty cupboard and the box I was forced to live in! I really wanted my own cage, so I prayed for someone to buy my brother quickly. Unfortunately, no one seemed interested in him, so I spent the next six weeks of my life in that box with
hay, a whole carrot, a scattering of guinea pig muesli and a bowl of water.

The Box

The Box

In the evenings, we would go home with our human and spend the night in separate hutches with all the modern conveniences of water in a bottle, china bowls for our food and a separate bedding area with fresh hay. The feeding area of my hutch was spacious and I was glad to be able to stretch my legs after a whole day in that box!

I didn’t see my mother when I went home, even though I could smell and hear her. I missed her so much I would curl up in my bedding area and cry out for her. I heard her answering me a few times and that made me feel much better, but I still cried into my hay, longing to cuddle into her soft body.

I hated going to the pet shop everyday and living in that box with no room to run around and no bars to look out of. I used to cry out and complain to my human to tell her I wanted my carrot cut up, but she kept throwing in a whole carrot, which I hated more than I hated that box! My early weeks of guinea-pig-hood were dominated by my experience of spending so much time in that box and that’s why I became so opinionated and adamant to get what I wanted. I quickly learnt how to show my charming and appealing nature when someone I liked visited. Luckily we didn’t get any dodgy humans in the pet shop, so I didn’t have to try and frighten anyone off.

I was bored and unhappy, and to while away my time I used to plan my escape by practising being cute, charming, intelligent and highly desirable. I would walk around the box pulling faces and trying to decide which face would be the best to show any humans who were allowed to see me. Not many people saw me; I was the hidden secret. ‘‘Why?’’ I would cry out, ‘‘I don’t have two heads or five legs and I’m perfectly formed.’’ I knew I was perfect because my mother had told me what a pretty little girl I was and she always said how much she loved my ginger and white hair. My rear end was completely ginger and there were two splodges of ginger over my eyes and ears, the splodge on my right side went down to my mouth. I would always admire myself in the mirror in our cage by turning around and inspecting every bit of my hair, which made my mother laugh and say how vain I was. I didn’t have a mirror in the cardboard box and whenever I reminisced about my mother, it made me miss her even more and I would silently cry in the darkness. I thought about her a lot and I regretted being taken away from her and separated from my funny little brother. The loneliness was intolerable.

I learnt how to become strong and determined in that box and I started demanding things from my human, not, that she took any notice. I wanted my carrot cut up, so I would cry out loudly and when she came to check on me, I would look at the carrot and put my foot on it. What did she do? She laughed and told me what an odd little guinea pig I was, and then she’d walk out to tidy the pet shop or see to a customer. Most of the customers came in to buy dog nappies, and my human bought lots of those to sell. I wanted her to buy me a cage and stop buying dog nappies, so I could be in the shop and see all the customers coming and going. Her attitude made me more determined to get what I wanted and I became even more vocal and demanding. I even began to hate dogs, those stupid animals that wore nappies! I’d never seen a dog before, but I thought they must be really ugly and a little bit scary in those nappies.

Guinea Pig

Guinea Pig

I quickly learnt that potential humans did not like it when I had accidents on them, so I learnt how to prevent my pee and pellets from escaping and spoiling their clothes. I also piled on the charm and pulled all the cute, charming, intelligent and highly desirable faces I had been practising in my box. One human asked if I had a form of guinea pig Parkinson Disease! I didn’t know what that was, but I understood it must have been something to do with the faces I was pulling, so in my box I started practising even more appealing faces and one that would stay on my face the whole time. I found my facial muscles started to ache, but I was determined to get it right and escape from that box into the arms of a loving human.

I could tell when someone wanted to see me, I would hear voices by the till as my owner extolled the virtues of my brother and then I would hear, ‘‘But, I really wanted a girl.’’ Footsteps and the creaking of the door would be my queue to put on my best face. The comments I got about my forced expression were varied, but when one woman looked in my box, she said, ‘‘She’s lovely, but why does her face look so twisted and strange?’’ My owner looked at me with an exasperated frown and retorted, ‘‘She always was an awkward guinea pig from birth, demanding things and causing trouble in the cage.’’

I was finding it hard to be appealing and attract the much needed human, so I decided to change tactics and be a grumpy foul mouthed guinea pig instead, to see how that worked. So the next time I heard the door creak open, I flexed my ears so they stood up instead of flopping over my face. I opened my eyes wide and pulled back my mouth into a forced threatening smile, which showed off my two long and very sharp front teeth. I flared my nostrils so they looked huge and held my head high. I was very emotional and tried to keep back my tears of hope that this person would want me.

When I was carried out in my box and place on the counter, the woman took one look at me and screamed, ‘‘What the hell is that!’’ I felt her rejection cut through my heart like a poisoned guinea pig claw and the tears I had been holding back ran down my face as a deep heart rending sob emerged that wracked my body and caused the woman to go into a hysterical fit of screaming. I shouted a few guinea pig swear words and as my crying and shaking got worse, she screamed, ‘‘Get it away from me, it’s having a fit!’’

Images provided by Emma Johanasson and ania2882.

To look at the July 2014 version of this article click on the title The Guinea Pig Diaries.

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