We had a brilliant response to our afternoon tea competition, with over 1,500 people liking and sharing our Facebook post. One of these was to be randomly selected as winner of a free afternoon tea for two, and although we have a handy app. that would have done this automatically, we felt that this would be far too easy. Wouldn’t it be more fun to ask an appropriate animal to make an impartial selection?
Our initial thought was to write the name of each entrant on a label, tie each label to a carrot, and observe which carrot was eaten first by a hungry goat. After a little reflection, it occurred to us that it might be a little difficult to properly shuffle a half-ton pile of carrots.
It was then that someone suggested Guinea Pig Ouija. The idea was simple; just place twenty-six tempting nibbles against the letters of the alphabet, let an obliging small animal wander across to select his lunch and in doing so, select a letter. By repeating this several times we might spell out a word, or better still select the initial letter of a first name, and then the initial of a surname. We’d then check this against a list of those who had entered the competition. It occurred to us that problems might arise if the more unusual letters of the alphabet were selected, (we noted that our list didn’t contain anyone called Quentin Xylophone), but we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.
We therefore set about printing, folding, and sticking pieces of cardboard together to form a circular structure resembling a wall-of-death, and placed twenty-six neat and evenly sized slices of carrots around the perimeter. We would introduce our obliging animal in the exact centre, who would immediately set off in a random direction to select his breakfast.
The obvious star of the show would be Basil, a gentle and handsome agouti guinea pig who is a favourite of many small animal encounters. A true professional, Basil has a special talent for sitting still and remaining totally unphased as countless small hands stroke, poke, and tickle him. With cameras rolling, Basil was placed in the centre of the board, surrounded by tempting slices of carrot. However despite having missed his breakfast, Basil remained solid and unmoving in the middle of the circle; the true professional. After two minutes of total inaction, the cameras were cut. For take two, fresh strips of cabbage enhanced the appeal of the carrot slices, but again Basil remained resolute and fixed to the spot.
At this stage Basil’s understudy and fellow agouti Bunty was called to appear. Although she has a reputation for being a little more timid, she followed the master’s example and sat unmoving in the centre of the ring for minutes and minutes on end.
It was then that the rabbits were called up for action. The first session with Betty was a total disaster. A little unsettled by the shiny surface of the board, big Betty paddled clumsily sideways and collided side-on with the perimeter wall, knocking the piles of food in all directions. The slightly more nimble Dandelion then took the stage, and after half a dozen inconclusive trials, finally succeeded in moving decisively to one edge of the board and nudging the letter “N”.
A tired Dandelion was then returned to her run and Splinter the rat was summoned. The little piles of vegetables were supplemented by some broken cream crackers to enhance their rat appeal, and Splinter was placed in the centre. The rat proved a true showman; taking a few steps in one direction, sniffing the air, moving back, glancing around, moving to one side but stopping short of the edge, standing on hind legs, then moving back across the board. Splinter played his audience in this way for almost two minutes before finally nudging the wall close to the letter “O”.
Consulting the list of those who had liked and shared our post, there was huge relief to discover that one entrant had the initials “NO”, and that we had finally selected our winner.
The Ouija board was hastily dismantled, with universal agreement that if we ever have a difficult question to answer in the future, we’ll by-pass chilled-out guinea pigs and pontificating rabbits, and go directly to a perceptive rat.