THERE comes a time in everyone’s life when the art of negotiation becomes important.

And, for our six-year-old granddaughter, an early lesson in striking a good deal has involved her beloved pet guinea pig.

There I was, working away in my office, when there was a tentative knock on the door, and Chloe walked in.

“Grandad, I’ve been thinking. When I go on holiday, do you want me to give you some of my pocket-money for looking after Mister Roly?” she asked.

She was due to go camping in The Lake District, with her mum and dad, and my wife had agreed – without consultation – that we’d look after the guinea pig (again).

I considered my options, the first of which was to accept some pocket money as a way of teaching her an important lesson – that you’ve got to pay your way in life.

On the other hand, I wondered how it would look if it got out on social media: ‘61-year-old skinflint takes pocket-money off six-year-old granddaughter in guinea pig scandal’ would fit easily on Twitter.

I knew I had to tread carefully: “Well, how much were you thinking?” I probed, adding: “It is for a whole week, after all?”

She shrugged her shoulders: “Maybe £5?” she suggested.

Before I could accept, she swiftly came up with an alternative offer: “Or I could bring you back a Curly Wurly?”

“Done!” I replied, slapping the table in triumph.

So, Chloe has gone off to The Lakes – sleeping in a tent, pony riding, alpaca-walking, canoeing, and generally having fun – while Mrs Barron and I are sharing our house with Mister Roly.

Chloe called on day one of the holiday: “Hi Grandma – can I talk to Mister Roly,” she said, without giving a second’s thought to saying hello to her poor old grandad.

My wife walked straight past me, as if I was invisible, and took the phone to the guinea pig’s cage while Chloe chatted away: “Hello, Mister Roly are you being good – have you been OK?”

The truth is that he’s doing fine, although he did start making a rather alarming clacking noise with his teeth the other morning.

“Hey Google, why does a guinea pig make a clacking noise with its teeth?” my wife shouted across the room.

“A guinea pig’s teeth chatter when it’s distressed, angry, or sees something it doesn’t like,” Google retorted, which was a bit disconcerting given that Mr Roly was looking directly at me.

“Aw, do you want a little cuddle?” my wife asked him, bending down to give him a stroke between the bars.

I’ve tried clacking my teeth a few times since then, but not a single offer of a cuddle or stroke has come my way, and I don’t think there’s any point trying to negotiate.

Guess I’ll just have to make do with a Curly Wurly.


Had a text from my Mum on the morning of the Lionesses’ semi-final against Australia: “Gone to town on the bus. Gonna race round the shops cos I want to get back for the footy.” She's nearly 92!