Posts Tagged ‘gerbils’

Quiet birthday


All of the children’s birthdays are recorded here, with a note of the theme of the party or event. Gabe’s 15th was the quiet birthday. He had refused the option of a party, a meal out with friends, or a cinema trip. L had the idea of a visit to the Beatles Museum in Liverpool. “No, thanks. Don’t want to spend my birthday in the car.” He was, he said, happy to have a quiet day. A meal at a pizza restaurant? No, pizza at home. 

And he was happy. A football match, the last of the season, in the morning. Then a quiet afternoon, cheerful and sociable with us all, pizza and presents. L and I briefly worried about some sort of social anxiety, but it’s more like a preference for no fuss and self-possession. 


Eliza’s desire to have pets surfaced again. ‘Yes,’ we said to a question about gerbils and knowing how she stores and accumulates riches like a rodent, ‘you can buy them’. Bumble and Bianco, two small brothers, live in a cage in her room. She seems satisfied and her own brothers happy to have them around without the responsibility of looking after them. 


Robin’s team qualified for the cup final to play at Trafford United’s ground against the only team they didn’t defeat during the season. On a bright, sunny day, with a loud crowd around two sides of the pitch, the opposition took an early lead. Robin had the best chance to equalise in the first half, but missed. He saw little of the ball, with the other team’s defence outstanding. The second half continued with the other team missing chances. Robin was moved into attack and deep into the second half, screened a bouncing ball from a defender and as it dropped on the corner of the area, volleyed it past the keeper. His team clung on through full, then extra time. Robin took the first penalty and scored. After 4 penalties, the score was tied 2-2. Luke made a diving save and then took the final penalty, scored to win the final and man of the match. Robin revelled in the experience, particularly enjoying playing in front of a noisy crowd. 

Silver no more


Robin’s gerbil, Silver, fell ill and died in the space of one day this half-term holiday. Robin held him at the vet’s as death took hold. L described him as looking like McNulty when Kima was shot on The Wire. Of our three gerbils, only Romano lives.


Gabe is a dedicated TV watcher. Evenings, when the other two are in bed, are his perk. He’s inquisitive and sometimes has to be stopped from viewing unsuitable programmes. He walks the line with Top Gear, Stop the Week. Yet, the programme he chooses to watch most often is an animated children’s programme, Arthur. Its eponymous hero is an anthropomorphic aardvark. Similarly, all his friends, teachers and neighbours have animal heads on human bodies. The story-lines are ethical plays about children coping with each other, with difference and with challenges. It’s wholesome and so is Gabe’s attachment to it.


I saw the last 20 minutes of Eliza’s gymnastics session. In that time she did around 20 practice back-flicks and another 20 jump-start cartwheels. But, no, she assured me later, she wasn’t dizzy.

Boys who read


Connect-4 has for weeks pushed reading aside, with a football book tolerated if L or I insist. Then Robin picked up and began reading one of the Astrosaurs series. We have read them to him before and they come with Gabe’s recommendation. But this reading is focused and outcome orientated. He updates me regularly on his page number. He read to himself in a whisper on the landing on Saturday when he woke before he was allowed downstairs. Now he’s finished his first book and started another. Yet, I’m not sure how much he understands.


Gabe’s bedtime reading has returned again to his hardback 2010 World Cup books. The challenge he sets me is to give him four teams he hasn’t read about in recent nights. An alternative is his book on the history of the Olympics. My role is to pick an olympiad for him to read about – one he hasn’t read in recent nights.


Baejae’s even-money bet was lost. Eliza was upset but seems to have a tough shell to protect her. L set aside an afternoon for some Baejae memory fixing, writing and drawing about him. Of the kids, Eliza continues to be the most consistently interested in the gerbils; for example, taking the lead in cleaning their cage before they went to stay with friends during our holiday.

Another gerbil drama has played out yesterday and today. L found Silver with a bloody tail. The cause is uncertain – fighting, the vet thought; our suspicion has fallen on a new neighbhour’s children who were alone with the gerbils for a few minutes. The vet presented two options, of which I selected surgery, to remove the tail-end where the skin had been torn off. This was performed successfully today. A groggy Silver was brought home with a one-third length tail.


Faced with Gabe having his ‘worst birthday ever’, L took Baejae to our local vet, a second such visit in three days. Similar outcome, barring some good advice on adminstering medicine and a numerical prognosis – 50:50. The certain uncertainty assuaged Gabe and he returned to birthday mood.

Gabe was very pleased with his camera, European Championships replica football (a ball-a-birthday, but this time he hasn’t asserted that it’s a “real replica”), cricket bag and chocolate cake.

Bank Holiday Monday was spent as Gabe’s day of family celebration. He directed us on a walk to the Mersey where he goes cross-country running with school. We ran along the river and then around the Water Park. Later we went ten-pin bowling. Oddly, the birthday boy was off-form. Eliza’s zig-zagging bowls kept producing spares. Robin was very serious, putting competition ahead of enjoyment . L sprung from the pack to win the tournament.

Gabe’s party awaits at the end of the week, by which time we’ll know whether Baejae is in the surviving or declining cohort of gerbils with infected sebaceous glands.

A day of mini-dramas

Soon after breakfast, Eliza noticed that Baejae was scratching and nibbling himself, sometimes spinning in an effort to get at the irritant on his underside.

Gabe and I left for his first cricket match of the season and first competitive hard-ball game. His team batted first, he opened and faced first ball. That ball deflected from bat to pad, unluckily onto his stumps. In under ten overs, his team was dismissed for ten runs, eight of them without scoring. Gabe took a wicket – bowled – but there was little for the team to cheer and indeed they looked broken as their opponents batted through their 20 overs.

Eliza and Robin were taken to a friend’s house, as much to take Eliza’s mind off Baejae’s continuing discomfort as for the company.

L picked Gabe up from the match and rushed him to his football team’s Cup Semi-Final. His team trailed twice, but equalised – the second time in the final minute of the match, taking the game to extra time. Gabe stayed on the pitch throughout, looking more and more tired. Extra time was scoreless and so the tie was to be decided on penalties. The score was 2-2 when Gabe took his penalty and lifted it expertly into the top corner. But in sudden death, a teammate fired at their keeper and the game was lost. Two sporting disappointments borne in a matter of hours.

L had researched vets open on a Sunday. Eliza, Baejae and I set off to a 24 hour vet service. Two of the families ahead of us in the waiting room left without the dogs they had come with, in tears. Another family brought in a wheelchair using alsation, leaking from its amputated rear legs and reaking, I imagined, of rotting flesh. It was queue-jumped out of the waiting room.

Young vet Tom diagnosed Baejae as suffering inflamed sebaceous glands, reckoning a parasite the most likely cause. Baejae sunk his teeth into Tom’s hand, so he quickly handed him back to Eliza. At home, we cleaned the cages, isolated Baejae from his brothers, and hamfistedly administered an anti-parasite drug and rodent antibiotic.

Meanwhile, Robin had helped L bake fairy cakes and then eaten his first proper cake since the official passing of his egg allergy.



In recent weeks, Gabe has got up in the morning, woken by his alarm, without prompting. He has come downstairs for breakfast dressed for school and completed his other preparations quickly. It’s a sudden change from years of moving slowly and reluctantly, slumping and fiddling, as if school could be resisted that way. With up to an hour freed each morning, Gabe spends it watching TV.


Robin is usually up first in the morning. Hunger, boredom or some other need draws him out and about – into our bed or to wake Eliza. At breakfast he eats one and one-half or, if unsupervised two, bowls of cheerios and his own, special, soya milk, using his own blue-handled spoon. And he’s loud, singing and barking, unable to retain a warning to be quiet.


Eliza casts off her morning sleepiness, evident the moment she wakes, in minutes if not seconds. She is the least habit-bound in the morning. She’s easily distracted at breakfast and errs from getting dressed and ready for school into games with Robin and playing with the gerbils.