Saturday, November 8, 2008

The fish man cometh . . . and goeth

Oh dear, I do hope I'm not upsetting the apple cart . . . or, in this case, the fish pond. At least this story should give you a laugh.
I've just received a phone call from a fellow member of the Garden Committee. A neighbour in a nearby street has, so she told me, a pond full of valuable coy carp. Would we like to take her overspill? There are now, it seems, too many coy for the size of her pond and the surplus fish need to stretch their fins elsewhere.

It's such a kind offer . . . we have a pond and, as of this moment, we only have nine remaining fish (remember how the heron came in the winter and devoured ninety per cent of the pond’s inhabitants?).
BUT . . . what would the shell-shocked survivors think of an invasion of coy? Would it put their noses out of joint? After all, glorious and heroic they may have been to survive the massacre, but there's no getting away from the fact that they was originally very humble, rescue goldfish. These coy are valuable, might they also be bossy . . . and combative . . . and definitely not the sort of thing that the surviving goldfish would like to contemplate? We don't want a Balkans War in the pond!
But it was a kind offer . . . I couldn't really turn it down without sounding ungrateful . . . and these young coy carp need a good home.
I told the intermediary that we'd have them.
Think of me in half-an-hour introducing the new arrivals to the pond! I'll keep you up-dated.

(ten-minutes later)
I've had another phone call. They're not coy carp. Apparently they are small, and black, and are known as 'invisible fish'.
"The only thing that concerns me," I said, "is that they're not aggressive. If they come in peace, and don't upset the existing fish, they're welcome. If they cause trouble, then they go straight back!"

And so it's all arranged. The fish man (have you ever heard of a fish man?) will be here after lunch tomorrow, at which point I shall tip the 'invisible fish' from their bucket into the pond. (How do you know if you've tipped them in if they're invisible? Ah well, we'll doubtless find out!).

(two days later)
It was rudds that we were being given. Rudds, so I'm told. are a native British species, and much to be desired in any British pond. They are, apparently, quiet and peaceful, rather timid, and totally non-aggressive. We'll hope so!

After an uncertain morning, come yesterday afternoon, events speeded up dramatically, as you'll see . . . I was having tea with Jeri when, at four-thirty, the fish man arrived. We hurried down to the garden.
I've never met a fish man before and, if this one was typical of the breed, they are imperious and unpredictable. Fish men would seem to be one of the products of our over-affluent age. Along with dog-walkers, they have sprung into existence to cope with the aspects of our lives that we find time-consuming. Fish men come with second homes and second cars, and, in employing them we miss out on one of the great pleasures of life, that of going down on our knees and getting thoroughly mucky!
This professional fish man was young, of a strong physique, and garbed appropriately in waders and elbow-length rubber gloves. He carried a bag full of fish.
Before I knew what had happened, not only had the fish been released into the pond, but, without so much as a "Shall I?" or "May I?" the fish man had lowered himself over the edge and waded in to join them.
I was shocked - although I tried hard not to show it.
All right, it was kind to come and bring some fish, but that didn't give him the right to go striding, uninvited, into someone's else's pond for no reason whatsoever.
As politely as I could manage, I urged him to come out.
But the fish man was having a whale of a time (sorry for the pun!). He was groping around under the water and discovering all sorts of broken bricks and large stones that had found their way to the bottom.
I was not amused. He was stirring up all the sediment and making it impossible to see where the new fish were hiding. Not only that, what sort of treatment was this for the surviving goldfish? Already suffering from post-traumatic-heron-stress, this was the last thing they needed.
I finally persuaded the fish man to return to dry land, and peered into the now murky depths to see what had happened to the new arrivals. Needless to say, they had vanished from sight.
I'll go down later this morning to see if the sediment has settled, the newcomers have acclimatized, and the old guard have not been too put out by all these disruptive goings on

Was I once foolish enough to say that visits to the pond were peaceful . . . ?!

No sign of the new fish . . . the original inhabitants, renamed Dad's Army, came for their food, but seemed a little flustered . . . broken lily pads marked the fish man's point of entry and exit.
The gardeners, who come once a week, stood beside me looking down into the muddied depths. Our decision was unanimous and heartfelt . . . no more fish men, thank you!!

(Friday afternoon)
What a relief, 'Dad's Army' are fine and eager for their fish food. Of the new recruits there's little evidence - just the occasional shy, dark head waiting on the fringes for any of the food that Dad’s Army have spurned!

What a relief . . . you, I hope, have had a laugh, and peace has returned to the pond!