ONE of the most persuasive posters ever printed must surely be the famous illustration of a brylcreemed bloke from the turn of the last century trying - and failing - to enjoy some quality time with his kids.

His daughter, an Alice in Wonderland type, perches on dad’s knee, while a splendid little fellow, clearly only minutes away from being dragged off to boarding school, crouches next to the sofa, playing with toy soldiers.

Poppet, gazing lovingly at pops, simpers to her old man: “Daddy, what did YOU do in the great war?”

Daddy looks pretty miserable to be cornered with such a question. Clearly he’d love to be honest and say: “I hid in the back of a wardrobe for four-and-a-half years, you little brat, because I didn’t much like the idea of being bombed into oblivion while I was trying to eat cold baked beans in a muddy trench.”

Regrettably no man could ever force himself to be so refreshingly honest with his child, and that’s why the poster worked so well, as a near perfect example of emotional blackmail. Men marched off to war because they wanted to be heroes to their family and friends. More importantly, they wanted to be heroes to themselves.

A similar sort of predicament faces the ambitious journalist of today. Not that there are any posters hanging on the corridors of newspaper offices, encouraging wordsmiths to die for Queen and Country. If there is a poster, it’s an internalised one that dangles in the mind’s eye. And that poster holds the image of a small child balanced on a hack’s knee, with the youngster saying: “Daddy, what kind of journalist are YOU? Did you ever single-handedly bring down a corrupt government using your intrepid investigative reporting skills?”

The answer is usually no, unfortunately, because not many journalist get to be heroes. Most don’t work as investigative reporters. Or dodge bullets as gung-ho war correspondents.

The day-to-day is our duty. Such work is mostly rewarding, though it can be humdrum, frustrating and even banal at times. Though every now and then a truly exciting story drops onto the desk of your average reporter, and that story can be life changing. For instance... today you find me striding down a street in Yoker, on my way to a local church. Not for any religious reason, though this is a spiritual quest, of sorts.

Throbbing with pent up excitement, I text my 14-year-old son, Ben, to impress him with the news of my upcoming adventure.

“Guess where I am?” I type.

“Dunno,” he replies, “can’t talk now. Motherwell drawing 1-1 with Hearts. Devastated.”

“I’m in Yoker!” I type back.

“Oh.” says Ben.

“But that’s not all…” I add.

Then I leave it ten minutes, to see if my silence teases him into frantically demanding to hear the rest of my thrilling news. When he doesn’t get back in touch I message him instead: “I’m going to a hamster show!”

“Mm,” replies Ben, eventually. Obviously he’s so bowled over by my latest update that his fingers won’t let him type anything more complex.

Or maybe he doesn’t care. Though I can’t see how that can be the case. Pet shows are impressive affairs, after all. I’ve reported on Crufts several times, where there’s always a painfully literal battle to become top dog.

The animals are mostly oblivious to the angst, argy-bargy and intrigue displayed by their owners. They quietly slobber in a corner until someone pins a rosette on their leash. And if no rosette comes their way, there’s always a final, farewell trip to the doggy pound, because loser mutts don’t deserve human mummies and daddies to look after them.

Okay, I might be exaggerating that last bit. Pooch owners are probably delightful people. Even so, there’s plenty of high drama and tension at a canine competition, and I’m hoping this will be replicated at the hamster show, which must be a fairly grand affair as it’s running under the banner of The National Hamster Council. (I didn’t realise hamsters had their very own council. Spiffy.)

When I eventually arrive at St Brendan’s Hall, in the grounds of St Brendan’s Church, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. Most of the hamsters are asleep.

It turns out that they’re nocturnal animals, so it’s not entirely unexpected that they’re catching a few zzzz’s in the middle of the afternoon. Still, it does seem unprofessional of the little snooze-balls. Imagine if the Miss World contestants decided to have a kip when they were meant to be swanking down the runway in gold lamé bikinis and informing judges how they hoped to bring about world peace.

(For the sake of clarity, I should probably add that although the hamster competition is in many ways similar to Miss World, none of the hamsters are wearing beachwear. And, as far as I can ascertain, not one of them is interested in working towards a viable and long lasting amnesty between the warring nations of the planet.)

Conscious or conked out, the fuzzy little rodents on display are all very cute. To the untrained eye they look a lot like mice, though without the shudder-inducing pink tail worming out the back. (The technical term for a mouse’s tail is its icky, flicky bit, I’m reliably informed by no one at all. Though it seems about right.)

Today’s competition doesn’t come with a monetary prize, though rosettes and hamster-shaped trophies are here to be won. There’s also the pride of knowing you own the hottest hammy in town.

As mentioned previously, the event is taking place on hallowed ground next to a church, and that’s entirely as it should be, because there’s something deeply spiritual about the relationship between these proud pet owners and their sleepy sidekicks. You can expect an irate reaction when any of these hamsters is spoken of disparagingly, whether the slight directed towards them is intentional or not. As the competition progresses, Marcus McCready, a ten-year-old hamster owner and vigorous challenger for the title, sputters in outrage: “The judge called my hamster chunky!”

I assure the young lad that his hamster is nothing of the sort. “She’s probably just big boned,” I say. “Or maybe it’s muscle.”

“The judge thought her NAME was chunky,” says Marcus. “But it’s Sandy. You can tell she’s a Sandy.”

Passions are clearly running high. And perhaps no one is more passionate than Margaret Donnelly, who owns a local hamstery where she breeds Syrian hamsters, the most popular of the stock. She also organised today’s show, though curiously, she’s only a recent convert to the world of pet ownership, and got her first hamster in 2015.

At the time Margaret was living at home on her own, after her father passed away, and she felt it was too quiet, too lonely, coming into the house at night. A friend gave her a pedigree hamster and invited her to a show in England.

She took two empty cages to her second show, and returned with hamsters to breed. “It snowballed from there,” she says, adding: “They’ve all got their own personalities. Some of them love to sit and get cuddled. Others don’t enjoy human interaction. They just want out their cage to run about. And that’s fine with me.”

This is the second hamster event Margaret has organised. The first was last August.

Is she surprised it’s such a success, with the church hall crowded? “People obviously have nothing better to do in Yoker on a Saturday afternoon,” chuckles Margaret, though she’s obviously kidding, as some people have come from far outside the district.

Andrea Ang, for instance, jetted in from Holland this morning, and jets back tonight. There was only one reason for her hectic trip. Unconditional hamster love.

“That’s what you call dedication,” beams Margaret.

“Yes,” agrees Andrea. “Though maybe it’s an obsession, too. I just love everything about hamsters.”

I’m starting to feel the same way. If I ever happen to find my son Ben perched on my knee, and asking: “Daddy, what kind of a journalist are you?” I’ll quite happily reply: “The hamster hanger-on type. You know, like an investigative reporter. Only with a bit more fur and whiskers to deal with.”