Given time to pause, I find it strange to reflect on how much my life has changed in the past couple of years. We bought a fish for the apartment a few weeks ago, well, actually two fish, and demise of one has caused a degree of anxiety about the well-being of the other. They’re only fish after all, a commodity like any other, but when they start to become a pet it’s natural to think of their well-being.

I think I read somewhere that New Zealanders (and wealthy countries in general), spend billions per annum on their pets. It’s annoying that one 5cm long Shubunkin goldfish has vaulted me into that demographic. This website states that Shubunkin are one of the toughest goldfish types, but I don’t believe it. That first goldfish died within three days of bringing the little eight-dollar son of a bitch home…

Back in Melbourne the ‘purchase of fish as low-cost pets experiment’ was also undertaken, mostly to provide a degree of calm to my small office. The demise of a fish was a serious financial set-back in those days. After I’d driven out to who in the hell knows where and bought the fish, the water softener, the special plastic piping for syphoning the water out of the (inexpensive) bowl I got from a junk shop, the food, the weed, and the little net for catching the darting little buggers, I had shelled out a fair whack of cash. Having a damn fish die after I’d gone to all this hassle to make life lovely for them was also a slap in the face. And yes, a slap in the face with a tiny fish, with all it’s pythonesque overtones.

Mostly the Melbourne experiment involved getting too excited about creating the little aquatic habitat and buying too many fish. There were a bunch of some kind of darty, flashy little bastards, and two conventional goldfish that ended up looking like orange behemoths by comparison. Problem was, the darty fish made one of the goldies nervous, so whenever they flicked off to a corner after getting a fright the fat guy would waddle off to the nearest bit of weed and hide too. This inevitably made the other goldy nervous, and I spent half my time with two sets of eyes peering at me from the concave sections of the circular bowl. It was unnerving in the extreme.

What I hadn’t fully grasped at the time was that goldfish are highly social. I’d always bought into the old “memory of a goldfish” theory, and assumed that having goldfish would be like watching a bunch of half-cut petit-bourgeois circulating at a cocktail party. All “Oh hi! Haven’t seen you for ages!” and “Hello! Have we met!” every three seconds. Well, turns out that this isn’t true.

Being the decreasingly proud owner of a habitat of paranoid fish made me resolve to remedy the situation, so I built a outdoor goldfish pond and separated the two goldies. I also transferred the darting ones outside because they had started to piss me off. I wanted calm, and I was getting rush-hour traffic. And, unsurprisingly, it worked. The nervous fish liked the deeper water where it could only be seen from above, and could easily hide, the darting fish all died (bye bye $$), and the remaining goldfish was a calm as a cucumber. It would just flounder about on the water, wait to be fed, and generally take life easy.

So, I shipped the fish-bowl and some of the gear back to New Zealand with me when I returned, but it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to justify the readies to spend on something as frivolous as pets. Like I say, they’re expensive little bastards. We bought two fish, named one each, and one carked it immediately. This leaves us with one fish. And he’s as cute as a button.

Hold on, going to pause writing to get up and check he’s still swimming. Brb.

OK, sweet as. I couldn’t imagine trying to explain how he had been a great fish…

Thing is, he’d been spending an extraordinary amount of time breathing at the surface of the bowl of late, and we were worried he wasn’t getting enough oxygen. I’d changed the water, so we knew it wasn’t too much nitrogen in the water. I wouldn’t have worried too much, but he’s a fish with an extreme amount of personality. Seriously. When you walk near his bowl, he swims up to the glass to see you, and kind of “wags his tail”. You can put your finger against the glass and he tries to nibble it, and if you move the finger a little, he’ll follow it.

How could we let a fish as cute as that die?

And here’s where the lifestyle change kicks in. One trip to the pet store later and I’m walking out with $40 worth of water softener and an electric air pump to make sure the little guy is getting enough oxygen in his water. FORTY BUCKS. In other words, more than I used to spend on a week’s groceries in Melbourne. And I didn’t even think twice about it. And all to spoil a wee goldfish because I think he thinks he’s a puppy.

I think that I’m the petite-bourgois! God knows I saw enough of them out by Animates. La Cloche for brunch, dahlinks?

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