As children we always wanted a dog. Most of our friends had one and we always looked on, enviously, at seeing them walking their pride and joy or playing with it in their houses. So, being children we begged and begged until we wore my parents patience down. As it happened my Uncle’s dog had just had puppies and due to them being of the mongrel variety he couldn’t find homes for them very easily, my Dad took one in. It wasnt a pretty dog but so what, it was a dog, we didn’t care, we were delighted and couldn’t believe it, we finally had a dog. It was a very short-lived experience, however, because after it wee’d on the carpet for the fourth time in the space of 6 hours my Mother sent it packing back to my Uncle’s house with a note saying ‘I’ve enough to do with 3 kids’!! After that the only pets we were allowed were either a Goldfish or imaginary dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, basically anything that required little effort to look after.
One Sunday shortly after the dog was sent packing we went to an Outdoor Market, We were all given 5 two pence pieces. We headed off to the ‘Win a Goldfish’ stall. You had to throw a twopence and get it into a bucket to win a goldfish. Jim won one on his first throw. I remember being insanely jealous because Jim kept saying, ‘this is MY goldfish, you’re not allowed play with it’, what did he think we were going to do with it, take it out of the bowl and dress it up in Barbie’s clothes!!! Anyway, it was agreed he could keep it if he promised to clean out the bowl everyday himself and remember to feed it himself. The deal was done and a new bowl was bought. The fish was placed in Jim’s bedroom where it swam round and round all day long every day, good job they only have the memory of a few seconds because that was one boring life!
For the first week Jim fed the fish and cleaned out its bowl every day and every now and again would spend, ooohhh, thirty seconds watching it swim around in its chosen circle, he was only 8 at the time so neither Jim nor the fish had a lengthy attention span. Slowly but surely it became my mothers job to clean out the bowl. After 3 days of telling him to clean the water, she couldn’t bear the smell anymore, it was unbearable. All she did was place the bowl in the kitchen sink and gently run the cold water until all the dirty water spilled out and all that was left was clean water. It was hardly rocket science.
We had the fish for a little over two years and to be honest, Jim couldn’t have cared less about it by now. For some bizarre reason my Mother loved that fish, I think she used to talk to it while we were all at school. A bit like Shirley Valentine and her Wall. One weekend my mother had to go out but on her way out she left instruction with my Dad John to clean out the bowl. No problem.
Later that afternoon John got the fish bowl and placed it in the sink, turned on the tap, gently, as he was told to do and then went off about his business. It usually only took ten minutes to clean out the water. After about five minutes I happened to walk through the kitchen, saw the bowl, saw the water running, yep, he was cleaning the fish’s water. However, moments later when I walked back into the kitchen, I saw steam coming out of bowl and tap. Something didn’t add up, aren’t you supposed to use cold water to clean the fish’s water! Then I had that OMG moment, I ran to get John. We both stood at the sink, he turned the tap off, and when I say the tap I mean the HOT tap. I looked at him, he looked at me not knowing whether to laugh or cry. ‘She’s gonna kill you’ I said. ‘I know’ he replied. He tried to put his hand into the bowl to grab the fish but because the water was scalding he could only manage a second or two, and the fish kept slipping out of his hand. He tried this about three or four times, then he had the bright idea of the soup ladle! He managed to get the fish but it was well and truly poached to death by now. He emptied out the scalding water from the bowl and refilled it with cold water, then put the fish back. I remember looking at him going … ‘You do know its dead, don’t you’. It wasn’t appreciated. I think he knew he wasn’t going to be able to pass it off as an unexplained death because that’s all we could talk about until Ina came home. This story was too juicy to not take pleasure in retelling in minute detail.
When my Mother arrived home all hell broke loose. Ina was calling John every name under the sun as the tears rolled down her face, he having no interest in this little fish started to laugh and said ‘we’ll get another one’. Wrong thing to say! How she didn’t deck him I don’t know, she was furious. It took about two weeks for Ina to forgive John, but once she did, the fish story became another one of those ‘Do you remember when John …… and there are quite a few.