Monday, 20 May 2019
Fred's Fertile Fish
My landlord lived with his wife upstairs, and I had a room and small area comprising of a kitchen and bathroom downstairs.
My Landlord, Fred by name, (to protect his true identity of Frederic Banksworthy), was something important in the City. Finance I believe it was. I never quite understood what he did, but he mentioned things like debentures and loans and so on. At first I thought he meant dentures and he was some sort of dentist. But he looked down at me from on top of his spectacles and said, "No young man ... I am talking finance here, not false teeth!"
Anyway, Fred was a posh sort of man and everything he had was top quality and of the best. I recall once he and his wife invited me upstairs to their part of the house for Sunday lunch. There were so many bits of cutlery, (all real silver), on the table that I did not know which to use first. I am very common you understand, and had never heard of asparagus or Lobster Thermidor, whoever he is.
One Saturday morning a group of workers turned up at the house with a huge digger and started making a big hole in Fred's front garden. He was there, supervising the work like a proud Roman Emperor building his latest mansion. I asked him what was going on and he said, "Wait and see!" as he touched the tip of his nose with his index finger.
Eventually, the workers had built a large pool in the front garden. Not the sort of pool you would swim in - it was about five metres in length and say four in width but only two metres deep.
The intention was that he would put in it some fish which would swim serenely and make him happy every morning and evening as he went and returned from work.
"It will raise the tone of the neighbourhood!" he said to me as he stood next to his wife with a proud smile as a new parent welcoming his new born child.
Once the fish where in, he covered the pool with a thin yet sturdy wire net to keep away prowling birds. I am not sure what he expected to find in London. The last time I checked we had a shortage of sea eagles, cormorants, seagulls, herons, or any kind of fish-eating birds. The best we had were sparrows, robins and wrens; all of whom would need the help of a crane to lift a goldfish from the pool considering the birds' size.
Anyway, Fred and wife were proud of their dozen swimming offspring and did not miss an opportunity to tell everyone about them. I saw them many times talking to neighbours, and when friends visited them, proudly showing off the pool and goldfish to all and sundry.
And that's when I had this silly idea. Let me explain that the goldfish were ordinary fish. Nothing special. The sort of fish which you can buy at any pet shop for a few pennies ... which is what I did!
At first I bought just three. I got them home without anyone noticing me; and at night, when everyone was asleep I got out and put the three fish in the pool.
Imagine Fred's surprise when he set off to work the next morning. I hid behind the curtain and watched him. He stood by the pool as always, then suddenly the wheels started turning in his brain. He stuck out his index finger towards the pool and counted the fish. There were now fifteen. Three more than the previous day. He counted them again. Then he went in upstairs and I heard him telling his wife. They thought their original fish had new babies. They were elated by the good news.
As he came down again I pretended to go to my kitchen. He told me all about his new babies. I congratulated him on being a parent once more.
That night, I added another three similar goldfish to the pool.
Fred was over the moon at the fertility of his children.
The next night I added three more. He could not believe his eyes having counted the twenty-one fish over and again.
That's when I stopped playing my silly game. His fish all lived happily together for a long time.
And I never told him what I had done.