We have nurtured and protected goldfish in our garden pond for many years. Many visitors have delighted us there also, an industrious wren, robins, sparrows squabbling with the starlings, blackbirds bathing together among the lily pads and occasionally a bejeweled dragon fly. None of these have ever interfered with our goldfish except to nick some of their food. There was a net to discourage the heron but he mastered the vertical take off and landing. Our ghost koi disappeared. The net got taller and unsightly to a point where we couldn’t see the fish or the flowers. It was like a shabby nomad encampment. We settled for a lid. It kept the heron at bay but it depressed the lilies. The heron gave up on us and went back to his solitary vigil in the rock pools. We became careless, like the nymphea. We left the lid off. It was off for a year. The heron never came back.
Claude Monet might have sniffed at our small spread of water lilies. They take their time. For a few months of summer they probe upwards from the depths, more than a dozen at any given time, a little patch of Amazonia in our back garden. Adam in his garden probably named them, as he tried to name every creature on the earth, but the Greeks saw them as beautiful water nymphs. I’m ok with that. Monet would have given a little Gallic shrug, ‘Zut alors!’ and gone back to his great work. Candide would would have gone back to cultivating his cabbages. Erich Cantona would have muttered something cryptic about seagulls.
I’m with Erich on that. Seagulls are the original snappers up of unconsidered trifles. They can out-eat all competitors in the garden or anywhere else. They soar. They cruise. They watch .”Why do they follow the fishing boats?” asked Erich. He was speaking metaphorically about journalists. “Because they know that sardines will be thrown overboard.” That’s fine too, as long as they open the tins themselves and dispose of them responsibly. I like sardines, but not in our pond.
Anyway these are herring gulls. Their job is to chase the herring fleet and scavenge behind the boats. They can squabble with the fishwives and gutties on the quaysides. Sooner them than me. It’s a question of definition. In recent years they have branched out, abandoning their traditional trade. They have moved inland, preferring rubbish dumps and dustbins, not to mention wayside cafés and outdoor diners. They are thieves and brigands at heart, not honest fishermen. Our few fish are goldfish, a breed of carp. Freshwater fish. Perhaps I’m being koi. Have you ever heard of a carp gull? A shubunkin gull? A black-molly gull? I rest my case.
Our grandchildren witnessed the crime. On Saturday last a seagull dive-bombed the pond. He grabbed the biggest goldfish and swallowed it live. They gave us graphic descriptions of the culprit. I’m sure I could pick him out from a line-up. The next time I see those hooligans congregating at The Brook, I shall confront him and issue a stern warning. If I were a younger man I would administer a kung fu, Cantona style, flying kick and put him to flight. Meanwhile the lid stays on. No more topless bathing, malheureusement, for the nymphs.
“All my ex’s live in Texas” sang the man on the radio. It rhymed, which is half the battle in writing a song or a jibe. So that’s why he hangs his hat in Tennessee. I get it. Distance gives him some perspective on his failed relationships. In fairness he seems to accept a fair amount of the blame. There’s a good persuasive rhythm to the song too and a spot of wry humour. I like it. Another fellow on the radio talked incessantly about relationships and love, the staple ingredient for whimpering pop songs. It was, in fairness, Valentine’s Day. I feel a “Bah! Humbug!” coming on. He always talks incessantly. I reached for the little button beside the volume control. It’s a marvellous gadget. By depressing the button you can restore tranquillity to your life, instead of depressing yourself by listening to prattle or songs devoted to You, Baby,Love, My Heart, Leaving, You and me Baby, Love etc. It can also eliminate bad news, advertisements, (‘all those garden chairs–when they’re gone they’re really gone’). and the prattle of lemmings in Westminster arguing about, em, Brexit. ‘Can the Right Honourable Member describe this cliff?’ The little button does wonders for your blood pressure.
But wait. He was burbling about an anti-love Valentine’s message for your Ex. ‘It’s a bit of fun.’ There is a service where you can name a cockroach after your Ex and watch it being devoured by a larger creature. There is a more expensive grade which involves a salmon being devoured by a bear. I wondered what the most expensive, super-de-luxe version of proxy hatred might be. Could it be a scapegoat, laden with the sins of the reviled Ex, or even a human Sin-eater as was once the practice in primitive societies. People tired of this world could hire themselves out (This offer cannot be repeated) to be torn to shreds by tigers. Public spectacles could be arranged in stadiums to vent the hatred of jilted spouses and lovers on the hapless Ex’s. ‘When they’re gone they’re really gone. ‘ Would people go to watch? Would they what? ‘It’s a bit of fun.’ The more humane thing would be to pack them off to Tennessee.
I wondered about the obverse of love. The hatred and disappointment. The resentment at opportunities foregone or denied. The void where love and loyalty once dwelt or even empathy or even pity. The desire for revenge. Where’s that bloody cockroach? The cat taking evasive action to avoid a boot. The rancid despair and venom that makes someone want to inflict pain and suffering on another human being. I came to the conclusion that the Ex had a lucky escape. Better to hang one’s hat in Tennessee and start again. You would be close to Nashville. When you’re gone, you’re gone. Why, you might even write a song about it.
Aristotle defined tragedy as the imitation of an action that inspires pity and fear and purges those emotions in the audience to make them better human beings. It’s play-acting. They don’t kill the bad guy in reality. Even the bad guys come out after the curtain to take a bow and receive the plaudits of a grateful audience. But you knew that already. It’s a different thing entirely to derive pleasure from the infliction of pain on another creature, even a cockroach. It is less than human. It’s not a bit of fun.
I pressed the button. Silence. I pressed the button on the electric kettle. I needed a cup of tea. You can do likewise if you’ve had enough. There is a little X in the red square in the top right-hand corner of the screen. It…………..
Great leap backwards.
There is a salutary story about the Plains Indians of North America. They depended on the migration of the bison/buffalo and hunted them for food, clothing and shelter. Wealth was measured in hides for tepees etc. These hides were difficult to get, entailing a lot of footwork and stealth. The hides were transported from place to place, in times of migration. The tribes travelled on foot. They had no wheels or horses.
Enter the Spaniards, with their firearms and horses. The Plains Indians acquired horses and perfected the art of hunting on horseback. Their productivity increased. Wealth was available to all. The possession of hides became an encumbrance.
What about ourselves? We talk about “the old days” when crime was a rare phenomenon. We left the key in the door all day and often, all night. Burglary was not regarded as a serious problem. There was feck all to steal in the average home. Prosperity has created inequality and consequently, envy. One of the problems of winning the Lotto, (I haven’t), is the fear of being burgled, robbed, kidnapped etc. Security becomes a priority. Your bright yellow Lamborghini will probably invite resentment, envy and possibly theft.
The moral, for me, is that I obtained a modest upgrade of my computer. I brought down on my head a myriad of new problems. All my programmes appeared in unfamiliar guises, promising undreamt-of capacity and limitless reach. My familiar and limited activities went AWOL. This causes stress to the non-expert. Explanations and instructions, usually in initials, caused more stress. I avoided the damn thing, except for the occasional email.
HaHa! Yesterday I found my cache of photographs..by accident. This morning, also by accident, I found my old WordPress blog. To Hell with the new improved super-duper, rage inducing, version. I am reverting to the old, steam-powered version. Send me no advertisements for new anything. As for high-tech phones..Bah! Humbug!.. No, I don’t want a horse either. There’s nothing wrong with this old robe.
Nahh. That thing won’t get off the ground