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The Reluctant Consumer: stay on the sofa & cancel the Direct Debits

Some days seem to cost me a hundred quid.  Not all fortunately, but even a quick shopping trip to feed the family rarely sees me parting with less than £30.  We don’t eat smoked salmon all the time either.

There was a day in the summer holidays where I thought I’d stay in and save a bit of money, because leaving the house with two kids seemed to cause a cash haemorrhage on a daily basis.  What happened?  I’d booked a mobile hairdresser got the date wrong and wasn’t expecting her until the following week.  She duly knocked on the door for her money (I didn’t have it and had to hop off to the cash point leaving her to answer the door to me in my own house…)  I let her cut my hair anyway sort of in passing.  That seems to be the role of us consumers these days; even when we are lying low, trying to stash our limited cash and pay off the global trillions of debt (that is all our fault obviously), we are still consuming en passant.

We are locked into mobile phone contracts, direct debits for insurance policies (see my Swinton outburst), utilities, parking charges, council tax and most things come smothered with VAT like one of those cheap fake ketchups watered down with vinegar.  I sit in my front room looking at the relaxing fish relaxing but I am noting their innocent consumption of electricity.  Ok they aren’t eating it, but their pump and anti SAD light are and they are chomping on fish flakes and the occasional constipation-inducing bloodworm treats.  In short, they cost.  Everything costs!  But we are constantly told: consume less, stop costing the earth and yet that electrically run screen or box in the very same room incessantly blasts out the message that we need to buy more of more things.  No wonder I’m conflicted.

Today I should get my road tax.  Actually I should have got it last week.  Instead I have parked my car on the ex-front garden (not my doing, an area of hardstanding that probably contributes to localised flooding but handy nonetheless) and am having a bit of a protest.  I don’t fancy taxing my car.  I don’t want to give the government any money today.  I think I’d like to see how much they do or don’t owe me in the great tax code debacle first.

I am going to sit here, and do some work and enjoy holding on to my virtual money for a few hours longer.  I’ll have to give it up eventually, if I don’t no doubt (like the mobile hairdresser) someone will knock on the front door and demand it, but sometimes I think we should all just be a bit more awkward.  A bit less compliant.  Make these people (the I never knew about no phone tapping government, those licence to print money utilities, and those not far off evil Murdochian type firms) appreciate us and our ceaseless munificence just that little bit more.

Something for free from the blog

A Confession

In extremis (are you reading Chris Waddle) it’s calming to look at fish. In anticipation of a sticky afternoon I yesterday whizzed up to Fishy Business and explained my position:

Please Sir, we want a community tank filled with colourful little fish but someone, who shall remain nameless, came home with two angelfish in a bag and now the big silver one is running tings in the tank and will probably eat anything small and pretty out of greed, jealousy and sheer badness.

So Mr Fishy Business said hmmm. And I hung my novice fish-keeping head in shame and pleaded that I had planned the whole thing rigorously for maximum harmony purposes and I really needed some swishy-tailed guppies to calm my nerves. So he bagged a couple up for me and agreed that he would take in Bully Boy/Girl Amazon Angelfish if it put a fin out of line.

Here they are. I like them.

They are nameless so far. I am thinking Lionel and Diego.

This is the hitherto no photos please Bully. It knows it’s on a yellow card.

Remains of the Day (the flipside for Emily)

It’s been ID ed: A clearnose skate.

Well done forensic fish psychologist Emily.

But, now you have to finger the perp!

Meet Mini (or RaRa)

You see, I can’t tell the difference and neither can anyone else thus far.

They arrived yesterday, in a highly inflated placcy bag. This excessive inflation probably saved their lives…

I think I may have alluded to the general freaking outishness that fishkeeping causes me? Tropical fish mark you. That’s fish that need to be kept at a temperature. The right temperature.

24 hours before the fish were expected to land in the tank I started a little light freaking out:-
I don’t think the water’s warm enough. How do we know the heater’s working properly???

By the morning it was proper full-scale freaking out with nearly swearing.
That water’s frigging freezing; put them in there and they’ll DIE.
I held an emergency briefing.
We need a tank thermometer and we need it now. Don’t even think of putting any fish in that tank before we have checked and verified the temperature!

So they went off without their freaking mum and bought:

1) another aquatic plant
2) a scary stone face
3) a thermometer with suction pad
4) two goddamn fish

The eldest, trusted with the task of transporting the bagged fish home seemd quite pleased with proceedings. We left the fish floating in the bag acclimatising. On closer inspection they looked a tad desperate to get out. I went down the road to grill the fish-owning friends. How long do you float them in their bags I asked. About ten minutes they said.

Satisfied sufficient floating had gone on for acclimatisation purposes and that the temperature of the tank water was not life-threatening I then erupted into stressy mother overdrive.
Let them out of the bag carefully! Don’t stress the fish!

Stress? This is nothing! the OH said. The eldest already dropped them the minute she got out of the shop. Thank God I wasn’t there. I would have been reading them their last rites right there on the pavement. Anyway, we are nearly 24 hours into this fish thing and they seem to be holding their own.

One of our weeny Black Widow/Skirt Fish


My eldest has been begging for an aquarium for about four years.  I gave her a kitten a few years ago hoping to stave off the fish scenario.  The cat, the same Bibi Snowball that graces these pages from time to time, went down very well, but the fish obsession has endured.

I can do dogs, cats, horses, goats, chickens, ducks and maybe even pigs (but not all in this house) with equanimity, but tanks with fish in are most worrisome.  It’s the environment you see.  With the aforemention animals you just stick them in your existing environment whether it be inside or out and let them fit in with it.  In the Rudi dog’s case this involved provided him with a whole settee and a kingsize bed.  Simple enough.  With these fish things you have to, and I think this where my anxiety stems from, create a whole new world.

Too cold, they will die.  Too boiling, they will fry.  Too toxic, death ensues.  Wrong types of fish in the same tank, they will eat each other, or fight to the death.  If the pump malfunctions they suffocate.  In fact, whatever way you look at it, fish die and they die a lot.  So even with the best will in the world, we will be bringing pretty little  fish home to die in the front room.  Slowly if we are successful, but as inexpert fish-keepers it could be quite quickly too.

Oh My God.

Anyway, the tank is full of water, the pump is finally working, we have de-chlorinated the water and fitted the filter.  We have one plant and one topical volcanic rock and some gravel.  D-Day will be next weekend. 

Cross your fingers for the little fellas.

I would rather keep a couple of shells like these I found earlier.