Thursday, 14 October 2010

A Star in the Family

My friend Polly, (she of the jelly-phobic great-grandfather) has confessed to the fact that she is having trouble with her guinea pigs. Her announcement has reminded me of my first hamster, who had a brief but starring role in a then popular television programme. I never actually saw the episode in which my hamster (whose name was Andy) featured. I think it may have been aired during my short - some might say whirlwind - career as a child actress, appearing in advertisements during the Mad Men (well maybe just a little bit later, but let's stretch the facts to add a bit of topical interest) era (and that's a story for another time, perhaps.)

Sadly, later in his life - after he'd retired from screen activities - Andy vanished from our household. He disappeared, as it happened, while I was away, staying with my aunt. When I returned, I spotted immediately that Andy was not in his usual position. What was more, a quick stroll around the place revealed that neither Andy's cage, nor, indeed, Andy himself, was visible in any of the rooms.

Assuming my mother, always a houseproud woman, had tidied both the cage and its occupant away, I spent my first week back searching the place, floor by floor, failing each day to locate any sign of my pet or his home-within-a-home. I should have simply asked my mother, but, as well as being houseproud, she was in those days unpredictable in temper. I was afraid, if I came right out and demanded to know where exactly she'd stashed my tubby friend, she might snap my head off or tell me I shouldn't ask stupid questions.

It wasn't until I'd run out of even faintly imaginable hiding places (surely she couldn't be storing him in the washing machine?) that I plucked up my courage and raised the question of Andy's current whereabouts. 'I thought you'd never ask,' my mother replied immediately. 'I was so worried about your being upset, but you obviously didn't care about him at all. It's taken you a whole week to even notice he's gone.'

Although I never did convince her that I wasn't completely heartless ('What makes no sense is why you wouldn't have just asked me - I'm not some kind of ogre or terrifying monster'), I did in the end persuade my mother to explain what had gone on. Apparently, Andy had taken his usual stroll around the sitting-room one evening. Then he'd scampered up the curtains, as he often did. Unfortunately, my mother, on this occasion, let him remain sitting on top of the pelmet for longer than normal, only too late noticing that it was the delicious (to hamsters) flakes of paint he'd found between the window frame and the top of the wall that were the cause of his long delay. Those tasty morsels, it appeared, had gone on to poison him. Certainly the next morning he was found belly up, stiff, on the floor of his cage.

Poor Andy - as far as I know, there isn't even any footage left of his brief moment of fame on the television. All there is, in fact, is the clip on this site of his co-star, Mr Pastry, whose show Andy's cameo appearance was on.  It is a rather charmingly ridiculous clip, I have to acknowledge, and, were anyone to suggest that highlighting it was my main reason for telling the whole sad - but true - story of Andy, I probably wouldn't be able to disagree.


  1. I'd like to hear the child actress story - sadly you were apparently not cast in a dancing role with Mr Pastry. I had never heard of Mr Pastry, as I was a fan of Captain Kangaroo and Mr Green Jeans at the time.

  2. I love that - where did you watch it: here or in the old country? Did he ever do anything, or only rattle keys and open stuff?

  3. It was an American show. I was always very excited by what he could do with construction paper (oh, the sound of scissors cutting through construction paper - they must have amplified it or something) and always very disappointed with my own efforts to copy it.

  4. It didn't look at all American (whatever I mean by that). ' ... oh, the sound of scissors cutting through construction paper ...' - I love that.