February 2nd, 2011



   Alice Thomas Ellis opined that “There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters. Hamsters don't love anyone”.
   Hamsters are right to be circumspect, a life in a cage whose only entertainment is a treadmill leaves a lot to be desired. And that's not all...

   Tom Higgs was a friend of mine who died last year after having lived a long and full life. His son Bill, similarly a friend, has a beautiful chess set carved by Tom during the years he was incarcerated in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, a period he talked about only when pressed and then without rancour.

   A taciturn man with a dry wit, Tom was an accomplished accordion player who would enliven a social gathering with impromptu performances. He was also very dapper with an eye for the unusual, for instance, his overcoat was lined with hamster. Bill kindly gave me Tom's coat which, despite being several sizes too small for me, takes pride of place on my coat rack.

     The 28 hamster pelts that line Tom's coat are those of the European hamster (Cricetus cricetus), a large hamster species under threat of extinction here in France. When Tom first had his coat they were being enthusiastically eradicated from the French countryside as they were considered an agricultural pest (they are fond of root crops). Unusually for a hamster they readily take to water, using their inflated cheek pouches as an aid to buoyancy.

     Speaking of inflated quadrupeds; I recently came across a video clip of a man called Risto Todoroski. Risto's musical ability, combined with his unusual choice of instrument (a form of 'gaida'), reminded me of Tom. I think he would have enjoyed this;