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.