Scenes from Islington North

The view from our flat on Tollington Way, HollowayI was hunting through an old diary for possible date confirmations of when I last applied for a particular fellowship – this is really uninteresting to everyone, including me, though it is a small detail in something that could be very interesting for me. And I came across this passage, during our family visit to London to attend a friend’s wedding. We took the opportunity to visit old haunts, including our stretch of Holloway near the North Library in Islington, and a small park nearby. For our kids – at the time 4 and 2 – a perfect park.

Here’s what I wrote:

(Interlude. Went to follow [Plum] in his stomping by the hill and came across a delightful Australian woman cutting grass with scissors. I tell her there’s a more effective way, but she’s snipping and bagging it for her guinea pig. “It’s lovely when it’s long. When I see it like this, I grab it, because when the council comes a long, they just butcher it.” So, not just a civic duty, then. “All the kids think I’m crazy when they see me.” But I bet their eyes just light up when you say “guinea pig”. [Beangirl] mentions Panda + Patch [guinea pigs of Edinburgh neighbours of ours] who, not being London pigs, have their own patch of grass to nibble. She asks if she can help; the woman says no. Her scissors squeak like a rodent. Do pigs squeak?)

(Found: at North Library: Usborne level 3 – Wuthering Heights, based on the novel by Emily Brontë.)

Piggies the Brave

This is mostly a reblogging effort. My wife has a real and proper online column which she writes once a week, and on the rare occasions where I’d like to write about something that she also wants to write about, her space takes precedence.

This one truly was a whale of a story: the missing guinea pig we were charged with minding, on the eve of our move from the neighbourhood, from Edinburgh, from Scotland itself. You can catch it all here, but this paragraph higlights the nub of the sadness:

It is terribly difficult to be tucked up in your bed, warm and dry, and to know that somewhere out in the dark, there is a little lost creature, shivering and terrified. And that there is nothing whatsoever you can do.

-Katie Munnik, ‘In the Garden’

What I can share here – and you know I’m a guy who likes a good joke – is that I knew,  rooting about in the dark, the wet, looking for the one pig hardest to find in the dark (the others had white patches, whereas Toffee was black and toffee-brown), was that this would be a very funny story to tell if and only if we find the pig again. Otherwise, there’s just no fun. So I’m glad to have a funny joke to share with our new friends in Cardiff. “So, just moved here – how were things on your way out from Edinburgh?”

Let me tell you…


The title doesn’t make any sense unless you know our neighbours’ song, which they wrote about their guinea pigs to the tune of “Scotland the Brave.” It starts like this:

Hark, when the night is falling
Hear, hear the piggies calling!
Loudly and proudly calling
Out of the hutch.
Out in the grassy garden,
Down in the laundry corner,
Panda and Patch and Toffee –
Piggies the Brave!