Once Every Three Days - Adventures in Pet-Sitting

There’s a lot going on in the world and if we stop to think about it, chances are stress levels will rise. But mine are already beyond snapping point as I was recently given the biggest responsibility anyone can ever have - looking after the neighbour’s fish.

They’ve gone on holiday and asked me to do a simple job. ‘Feed the fish once every three days and only use a handful of fish food.’ There - easy to follow instructions.

The problem is that their trip away coincided with what I hope they realize was a ‘phew wot a scorcher’ type of week of weather with railway lines buckling, tarmac melting, marathon runners fainting and sleepless nights in hot stuffy rooms as the temperature hovered at mind-boggling highs (26C during the day and 15C at night - we know that's not too drastic but I’m trying to build a case here). My local shop sold out of Mivvis and burgers were nowhere to be seen at the local supermarket.

How on earth, or in water, could fish survive?



It isn’t a big pond. It is nice with ferns growing around the edge to provide shade and a tinkly, sprinkly fountain adding gentle noise and welcome bubbles to the water. I counted six fish beneath the fragmented mat of Elodea oxygenating plant. All good. All happy.

The fish were fed just before my neighbour’s car departed. ‘Once every three days. A handful,’ were the final words as they turned the corner at the end of the street.

I was in charge.



They went on a Monday. So that’s Tuesday, Wednesday and feed on Thursday? Feedy Thursday. Now, Thursday is busy. Let me throw this in. It’s bin day and of course, along with the fish, I was on bin duty. And no one should ever forget to put the bins out. That is actually a notifiable crime. I was concentrating on the bins. ‘Don’t forget the bins. Don’t forget the bins,’ was regularlall Wednesday. Then which bin? Brown bin, green bin or grey bin? My neighbour always knows. I take the lead from them. They aren't here. It was grey bin day

Late Wednesday night, I ticked the bin duty box. Phew.

I forgot about the fish.



Bins came, went, came back empty and were wheeled into place. Lovely. A day passed. I was just about to settle back with a well sought out Mivvi (only joking - it was a Fab) when ‘fish’ came into my head. Fish. Better check on the fish.

Now I’m more of a plant person. Watering the hanging basket, resuscitating the wilting primrose (recovered well) and helping a bone-dry hellebore were just up my street. I didn't however expect to see what I saw.

I’m no expert but two fish floating in the Elodea, stomach side up with flies buzzing about meant, to me, the non-fish man, that things weren't quite right. They looked like big goldfish type things and, to be honest, they weren't - how can I put this? - very alive.

Surely these things can last more than three days without food?



I got the net and scooped them out. But the bins were empty so they couldn’t be put in there.

I bagged them up and drove to the local tip. It’s one of those with massive containers for glass, rubble, cardboard, green waste, textiles, wood… but no ‘fish’ depositary. I had to tell the bloke sorting all the ‘miscellaneous’ items what was in the bag. ‘Over there,’ came the reply as the tip cats circled. As did the flies.

The poor fish was dropped near the mattresses being stripped and the computer screens dismantled.

I drove off with head bowed low.



So, that bloke at the tip knows, I know and you now know - it’s just that my neighbours don’t know. At the time of writing they are four hours away from returning. I’m stressed. But especially so as I always ask them to look after my greenhouse when we go away, and that trip is looming. They don’t look the revenge type.

What should I do? Admit the whole sorry affair? Claim that a heron was seen stealing them? Oh, I don’t know. But what I do know is to synchronise holidays with my neighbours and get someone else to plant-, fish- and bin-sit. Now, there’s a good business idea.