Stick insect and a tortoise called Flash (who ran away!)

Pic: Toby Williams/TSPL
Pic: Toby Williams/TSPL

Growing up in inner city Manchester I come from a family that never really took to having pets around the house.

Well, certainly not the usual dog, cat, rabbit or hamster, guinea pig type of thing that you’d instantly refer to.

Pic Lisa Ferguson

Pic Lisa Ferguson

The guinea pigs I’d had my eye on were quickly dismissed as ‘hairy rats from a dirty country’ and any encounters with animals during my youth, can only be described as fleeting.

Sure, I once won a goldfish on the ‘hook-a-duck’ stall at the funfair.

Not sure if that really counts, as it was such a low maintenance.

I did clean out its lime green, algae-filled tank on a quarterly basis ...whether it needed it or not.

It’s inevitable demise was met with a quick flush down the toilet and it was gone.

And we did have a tortoise for a few months ...until it ‘ran’ away.

I must confess I loved tortoises as a kid and fondly remember being taken to Tib Street in Manchester, a short, dingy back street in the city centre occupied by a dozen pet shops next door to each other, to view all the exotic animals within.

The windows were crammed with caged birds, and, oddly enough, crates and crates of tortoises ...tragic and cruel looking back now but wonderful and the norm back in the early 1970s.

I’m eternally embarrassed to say that we got the tortoise because of a ‘right royal tantrum’ I once threw.

As a a five-year-old I’d kicked off when my sister was born because I looked in the cot when she came home from the hospital for the first time and looking up at me was not the brother I’d ordered.

I didn’t want a sister, I wanted a brother or a tortoise my mum and dad were told ...hence the brief fling with ‘Flash’ as he was named.

Anyway, he didn’t last long and further trauma, as far as my mum was concerned, was just just around the corner.

At the age of 11 I brought a stick insect home from school.

My pal had been selling them to anyone daft enough to want one, and I was one of those who happily parted with 20 pence.

I kept it in the now empty and redundant fish tank without mentioning anything to my mum about the transaction and the new addition to the family.

My mother’s fear of anything creepy crawly would have meant the end for stick!

All was well until it started laying eggs.

I could have just got rid of them but,, no, I collected them up and put them in a desk drawer.

I can still remember the piercing scream let out by my mum as she pulled open the desk a few days later to be confronted by a swarm of the stick-like things.

Jeez, there were hundreds of them all over the bedroom by the time I’d got the courage to go up stairs and find out what all the fuss was about. I knew, of course.

I’m remembering all this because my two girls have just got guinea pigs as pets.

It’s alright I can tolerate them,, but there’s already talk of getting a dog.

My suggestions of a stick insect or tortoise have,sadly, already been rejected.