On the breakfast bar in our kitchen live two goldfish, Lucky and Lipstick. ‘Lucky’ because he never dies (!) and ‘Lipstick’ because, well …you need to see the lips on it!
I never wanted goldfish. I’m happily owned by two cats and dream of sharing my house with a dog again at some point in the future.
Yet I find myself feeding two fish twice daily, while hubby reluctantly cleans them weekly. “They’re not even house-trained!” he proclaims with disgust every time he shovels poo from their tank. “Fancy eating and crapping in the same place!” is another regular cry from him.
So why do we have fishy squatters in our kitchen?
When we moved into our current house we remained friends with our elderly neighbour from our previous address. Winnie wasn’t your stereotypical OAP. She dressed in up-to-the-minute fashion, could drink anyone under the table and was always the life and soul of our parties. For someone knocking on the door of 90, she was the ultimate in cool and loved nothing more than a good joke with young people. We can still hear her raucous laughter in the air as she shared a joke with my mum or played the part of a Madam in a murder mystery we hosted.
Yes Winnie, we loved you. Now sadly departed, you are often fondly remembered as we chuckle at some of your antics.
But as you play your harp or (most likely) boogie on down in heaven knocking back your chilled white wine, we hold you solely responsible for us becoming Permanent Fish Owners.
Dear Winnie, it probably seemed like a fun idea to give a 7 year old boy a fish tank for Christmas and enough money to buy a goldfish. But that’s where the trouble started. Son decided that one fish would be lonely so we needed to get two.
OK, not too much of a problem there, I hear you cry - but fish are boring. The novelty soon wore off and the great new pets that we brought home were suddenly nothing more than ornaments. Admittedly sometimes entertaining as we watch the ridiculous length of poo they can manage to trail around behind them. Oh, and one of the cats seems to think the tank is a TV so he spends happy hours watching them but even he gets bored when he realises they’re not sushi.
Fast forward a couple of years and one of the fish passed on to Piscean heaven and suddenly our son was devastated. “I loved that fish.” (He probably hadn’t looked at it for six months let alone held a conversation with it! That’s all left down to me). And so the histrionics continued, “Winnie bought him for me. Now the other one will be lonely!”
The Dead One (can’t remember his/her name) was buried and laid to rest in a ‘Dove’ soap box, which worried my son as he thought he might go the Bird Section of heaven instead of the Fish Department. We told him not to worry (we’re not talking Waitrose here), it would all sort itself out - I still hope to this day that Saint Peter saw the funny side.
So we were left with the dilemma of the lonely fish … heart-broken and looking for love, floating around the tank with no means of logging onto Dating Direct. Out of guilt, we set off to the pet shop to buy a replacement.
Son and fish were now happy. Son was so happy in fact that he completely forgot about them and went off to play on the computer.
And that, Winnie, is how the cycle began. Every time a fish dies, we cry, we bury, we feel sorry for the one left behind and we head off to the shop returning with a bag full of water and a new swimming/eating/crapping machine.
We’ve begged and pleaded with our son to release them to a very pleasant garden pond in an equally attractive home in Surrey (my sister’s!) - with hot and cold running water, en-suite, daily room service and regular social events (my brother-in-law talking to them while he works on his veg!).
We’ve also tried the guilt trip. “It’s not fair to keep them in a tank when they want to swim and be free. You’re holding them captive. How would you like to be stuck in one place all your life and never be able to explore?” We’ve even said that the next time one departs we’ll leave the surviving one to die of a broken heart.
And before you report us to the RSCPA and the NSPCC, we don’t actually mean it. Sometimes being a parent means being cruel (in the nicest possible way) but even that hasn’t got us anywhere.
Fifteen year old son still swears undying love every time we suffer a bereavement but the minute the funeral is over and the new free-loader is installed, it’s back to business as usual.
So, thanks Winnie. Your memory lives on, not only in your laughter but also in our kitchen … swimming around in a plastic tank, dreaming of a better life in Surrey.
Libby doesn’t own fish in my book “Diary of a Mummy Misfit”. She owns a dog of questionable sexuality. Check it out on Amazon for Kindle/PC or Smartphone. Now also available in paperback at Lulu.