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Claude's Room
A pig called Claude.
Winston Churchill famously said that "Dogs look up to man. Cats look down to man. Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal."
Claude

Writing Claude was a lot of fun. He came to me in a flash! A little pink pot-bellied pig running along and I just knew he had to be called Claude.

Animals are a very special part of my life. I spent many childhood holidays on my grandad's farm. He had two golden retrievers: Justy, who was really mischievous, and Wendy who was a real lady, and liked to sip a cold cup of tea at three o'clock every afternoon from a bowl!

Champ
Geese

He also had lots of cats. One was called Wally Walkins, as was her mother, and her grandmother before her. She was so fierce no one could go near her, apart from my grandad whom she loved. Wally Walkins was a champion mouser and would spend days up in the attic.

When my mum grew up on the farm during the war, my grandad had a working collie dog called Laddie.

Laddie was a very clever dog and used to get the bus at a certain time down to the village to collect my grandad from the pub. One day the bus time table changed, but nobody told Laddie, so he was ages waiting at the bus stop.

Hens
Murphy

My gran had a phone call from the police to say that they had arrested a dog for loitering, who they believed to be hers! My gran then had to go to the police station to pick up poor Laddie who was waiting in a police cell for her.

My grandad used to nick name Laddie the jail bird after that!

Back in London when things were tough for me at school I found my own pets – a rabbit called Flopsy, and my little Guiney pig Tinker – a great comfort. In A Room Full of Chocolate, Claude is a big comfort to Grace in her darkest hours.

Griffid
Larry

I find it really lovely to have my cat Larry with me as I write, except he will insist on standing in front of my laptop screen! Griffid, my last cat was blind and sat with me all the time I was writing A Room Full of Chocolate.

Maybe you are lucky enough to have your own pets.

If you don't have pets but love animals – there are still ways to get involved.

If you live in the town, and reading A Room Full of Chocolate has wet your appetite to visit a farm, there are City Farms up and down the country that welcome visits from young people. Many of them have opportunities for you to help look after the animals.

Geese
Images taken at Kentish Town City Farm

Kentish Town City Farm is particularly close to my own heart. I took a year out from writing and acting to do an NVQ in horse care there. It was one of the best things I ever did. Here is the link:

Claude

If your family is thinking about getting a pet please consider getting one from a rescue centre.

Claude