It started as an innocuous “what pet would be best for my child?” question. Of course I answered guinea pigs, or rats for older children. No brainer. However it got me thinking. Dingbat was the first to bring GPs into our family, accidentally, as she was supposed to get a tortoise, specifically our grandparents’ tortoise. The tortoise ‘ran away’ a few days before her 6th birthday. In reality this was during the years when it was illegal to import tortoises so I suspect said tort was pilfered, being very valuable at the time. Either way Ding ended up with a too-young-to-leave-her-mum guinea-pig Sophie as a substitute. And an era was born.
Sophie co-existed with Bobby the rabbit for a while (Bobby being my second rabbit). Eventually Bobby went the way of most of our rabbits and died young of colic. I remembered the day clearly – I loved Bobby, but had already realised that I could best serve animal-kind by instantly adopting (buying) a replacement. So I bought Squeaker, a guinea-pig, from Barkingside pet shop, on the day Bobby died. This was the turning point. I believe it was the 6th July, approx 1989, though I can’t be sure.
All was well for some years, until at five years old Squeaker (and his three year old son Rascal) succumbed on the same day to suspected ragwort poisoning. I was a perfectly normal CofE child before that point, happily accepting of all of the Church’s faiths as gospel, but at the sudden death of Squeaker I could not comprehend how any benevolent deity could allow the seemingly senseless death of an innocent creature. I was 12-13yo, and I had rejected Christianity.
And that was that. None of my family went though the same process so I am slightly separate to them in beliefs now. I got over my brief guinea-pig inspired dislike of Christianity many many years ago, but I very definitely still view Protestantism with the same light as any other religion, in that it is something I find intellectually intriguing, but not personally compelling. I adored my visit to the Vatican and want to go again very much, and I loved visiting churches and abbeys in Ireland, but I view them with the same interest I would view visiting a mosque or similar. Great respect, and true enjoyment, but no personal involvement.
I do not dislike religion. I state this, as I feel some of my friends and family suspect I do dislike religion (note: sitting in a Christening thinking about Buddy Christ and giggling with the toddlers about tractors does not equal a dislike of religion, just a dislike of toddler censorship and an inappropriate sense of humour regarding Alan Rickman. LET TODDLERS GIGGLE.) I find the culture of religion fascinating, and I am not non-spiritual myself. I love visiting churches etc., I find it all incredibly fascinating, and I tend to steal saints to incorporate into my own philosophy, but the Christian God I read about in my illustrated bible also took away my guinea pig, and things like that can irrecoverably damage a relationship.