Richard Ord: A bad day for hamsters

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OUR servants may be a little slipshod at times, but at least they’re relatively cheap.

After running after our children for the last 10 years, I feel we’re beginning to turn a corner. They are now proving pretty useful.

They can fetch slippers, dressing gowns, telephones and the bigger one (I forget his name sometimes) can even make a cup of tea.

It’s about time there was bit of payback.

The pair of them (Isaac, seven, and Bradley, 10) may be noisy, ill-behaved servants with the memories of goldfish, but beggars can’t be choosers.

The older one (he answers best to a shout of “Oi you!” and two swift claps of the hands), in particular, is learning fast.

With age, comes wisdom, and, for me, a near-pathological need to look after the pennies. As such, when eating in McDonald’s I am always on the look-out for coffee cup stickers.

These stickers appear on all McDonald’s coffee cups. Collect eight and you get a free cup of coffee.

I spend the majority of my time in McDonald’s monitoring the movements of other people’s coffee cups, coveting their stickers.

Any abandoned cups must be swooped on before they are collected by the staff and deposited in the bin. It’s a fine art. Timing is everything. Swoop too early and you may discover the cup has not been abandoned, the owner’s just gone to the toilet! Swoop too late, and you can end up in an unseemly tug of war with the cleaners.

I have, however, always stopped short of rummaging in the bins for stickered cups. That would look bad, even for me.

Thankfully, I can now leave that edifying task to the kids.

I know it it doesn’t look too good sending your children to scavenge in McDonald’s bins, but I firmly believe they are learning lessons about the value of money and the tough economic climate we now find ourselves in.

These are lessons that can build character and will shape their lives for years to come. And, hey, I get a free coffee! Everyone’s a winner.

ANOTHER week, another newspaper talk to youngsters.

This time it was a lively group of primary school children in Cullercoats.

One fell sick and another cried all the way through my recounting of a typical day at the Sunderland Echo. Which, ironically, probably sums up my typical working day at the Echo.

The crying girl started just after I showed them some typical eye-catching newspaper headlines.

Try as I might to cheer the wee girl up with my hilarious (to me) anecdotes she was having none of it. Her teacher told me later that her hamster had died that day.

Ah! I picked the wrong day to include in my slideshow the famous tabloid headline: Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster.