Around a month ago I bought two goldfish. There is no excuse for premeditated folly but I’m now riding the rapids, going with the flow et cetera.
Caring for goldfish is hard. Firstly, because they don’t help you out by purring, barking, or groaning. And secondly, because when you ask for help like you were taught to in childhood and avoided doing until Google, you’re confronted by the internet's image of a happy, gap toothed kid, hovering over a bubble of infant scrawl informing you it’s easy to care for a goldfish. This adds a profound sense of inadequacy to the feeling of panic already innate in any person buying their first goldfish at thirty(+).
It is for this reason that I just go back to the goldfish shop each week. I don’t want to feel inadequate I want to feel like I might be getting something right. And I want a grown up to tell me that this is so. The owner of the shop fits the bill i.e. he’s old. I think he might be Korean but any which way he’s not English and I’m pretty confident he suspects all English people are odd, which means I’m normal if I just go right ahead and declaim my darkest fears about goldfish care. The fact that every time I go into his shop there’s at least one cagouled middle Englander cooing over something makes me feel intensely ok. I’m beginning to suspect I don’t even look suspect. And anyway I buy stuff.
He used to greet me with a look of panic and declare “life no guarantee!!!” which wasn’t the reassurance I was popping in for. On the other hand even though I knew he was only worried I might want my £3.50 back because his stock couldn’t survive me, it did sound quite epic.
Let’s face it I am God to these fish. I control the tides, the light, their food supply… their lives rest in my hands. And being God is a big responsibility.
This morning I reckon he looked pretty pleased to see me. I don’t think this is about dollars and the fact I was buying a pump to clean the tank, because only the other day he insisted I didn’t need a model house for my fish to swim through. I think he is just beginning to enjoy how palpably impressed I am by his specialist aquarium knowhow. He patiently described how the pump worked (seven or so times) and even controlled the detectable quivering of lip that suggested an urge to chuckle as I struggled to grasp how to use a net: apparently scooping the little bastards out and tossing them back in with a mug would not be best practice.
Soon he’ll be looking forward to my visits.
In the meantime, doing anything right (and they’re not dead yet!!) puts your entire personality at risk. First you want to talk about your car, pet, child… then you do talk (/write) about your car, pet, child… then you introduce your car, pet, child to your peers... until one day your peers are completely irrelevant. I mean, I’m only trying to do my best, but as I proudly topped up their tank with some de-stressed Evian this evening, I realised I was teetering on the brink of c*nthood.