This morning we have been giving Hammy’s considerable estate a thorough clean and refresh, working in stages across the various activity levels and living areas, as the tiny fellow moved around to make room for his housekeeper, who removed soiled shavings and scattered a thick layer of clean, warm flooring in its stead. No expense is spared. Hammy Jo enjoys the warmth and softness of real, natural kapok which is provided for him both loose and also in pods, so he can forage for it for himself. Food supplied is copious and varied: nuts of all shapes and sizes, seeds likewise, dried fruits of all colours (including the sliced banana which I so enjoy as a treat, when Kemo Sabe and I are alone together), coconut slivers, shrimp ‘cookies’, fresh spinach, rocket, broccoli, grated carrot and cheese – delicious mouthfuls which are carefully cleaned up every morning, once the little chap has retired to his nest after a night’s fun and frolic. Within his aegis, he has about five or six little caches, supplies for a rainy day which we know – though he doesn’t – will never come. He is, indeed, greatly loved and given every care, quite out of proportion – some would say – to the contribution he makes to the world. After all, not only is he a tiny rodent, he also spends most of the day asleep in his bed, while we write and read and gaze occasionally across when we hear him – like Barnardine – rustling in his straw. Now nearing his second birthday, Hammy Jo is looking older, particularly when he gets up for a quick drink of water or a nibble on a Brazil nut during the day, when his eyes aren’t properly open and his duvet hair is really in evidence. He is obviously very used to and comfortable with us all, despite the proliferation and range of dogs here, unaffected by barking and jumping up just as little as he minds Jeoffry’s sidling in and out of the study when he’s looking for attention. Our lives here in this warm and comfortable home are so privileged, so protected – as I have often had cause to ponder. Beyond our homely little world, where we bigger boys are never permitted to roam unattended or undisciplined – our freedom is not that much greater than Jo’s really – deprivation and struggle for survival are evident everywhere, even when you look out at the birds, feeding hungrily on the seeds and fat-balls provided in the garden. In a world wearily dragging its feet towards the winter solstice and the sense of hope we believe the return of the sun will bring; where so many displaced and suffering people demand our help, on our own streets and across the continent; with so much to induce despair and the sense of meaninglessness, our kindness is measured here at home in the life of ease offered to a tiny hamster, in his contemplative cell a couple of feet from where I ponder now.