Monday 11 May 2009

The Strange Case of the Half-Empty Half-Filled Fish Food Fraud!

You know how it is with the Spring cleaning. It’s taken me weeks to find that combination of the right time, energy and mood to get well stuck in, and then, a mere couple of minutes into shifting my gear out of the way so I can have a proper go at that skirting board, I find myself holding an ancient notebook.
Oh, and look, there’s a newspaper clipping in it. The Irish Independent, May 14th, 1993.
Now Adley, don’t go getting distracted. You’ve got a job to do!
Yeh, but I wonder what was going on in Ireland back then?
Just two stories on the yellowing scrap torn from the Indo’s World Report: one about fresh killings in Israel and the Gaza Strip; another about ‘Home Alone Fish’?
Under the simply splendid headline:
‘Fish owner facing scales of justice’
an unidentified Indo journo told the story of how 37 year-old David Sharod was up in court, accused of abandoning his pet fish, for your indulgence m’lud, they being one South American suckling loach and one sucking plec, in circumstances likely to cause them unnecessary suffering.
The accused, a former electrical engineer, had left his home in August to work for a friend in the Cricketers pub, a full two miles away in the dreamy-sounding parish of Littlewick Green, of the county of Royal Berkshire.
Leading the prosecution, Glyn Lloyd made a strong case for fish:
“When animals are abandoned, the public tend to think of cats and dogs, but fish have a right to be looked after as well.”
You tell ‘em, Glyn-o.
Apparently, RSPCA Inspector Mark Turner had somehow been alerted by ‘electricity board officials’, and proceeded to stick Sellotape over Mr. Sharod’s front door, to see if negligence was afoot, or even, afin.
Mr. Sharod protested his innocence, claiming he had frequently returned home to feed his pets, but Inspector Turner told the court that the filter had not been working, the tank was half empty of water and that there was a nearly empty container of fish food.
Had your confused colyoomist been defending the innocence of any man accused of such deeply dastardly deeds, I might have asked the court to consider that the tank was, in fact, half full.
In addition, m’lud, I ‘umbly ask the court to tell me when it became a crime in this true realm to offer pets a ‘nearly empty’ food container.
Instead the stout defender Richard Blake came up with a bizarre line of questioning, truly worthy of the case before the court.
Grilling the RSPCA Inspector, Blake asked:
“Did the fish look distressed? Were they behaving in an unusual way?”
After a long and heavily pregnant silence, Inspector Turner finally offered the court his expert opinion:
“I don’t know what a distressed fish looks like. I’m not an expert on fish.”
A mighty gasp doubtless rouse from the public gallery. The case was adjourned to June 10th.
Trouble is, what with that being June 10th 1993, we’ll never know the outcome of The Strange Case of the Abandoned Suckling Loach.
Who were those mysterious ‘electricity board officials’, what did they know about Mr. Sharod’s movements, and why did they care so much about his fish?
How many years can you get in an English jail for letting your fish almost run out of food?
All this comes as a wonderful distraction, not simply because it means I can go and have a cup of tea instead of Spring cleaning, but also because a few days ago Sammy was put down, and pets alive and dead are on my mind.
My family always had cats. First there was Pussy, (yes, as a blushing insecure pubescent, I had to go outside late at night and get the cat in by yelling that more-than-risqué name out loud, so that all the other teenagers in the neighbourhood could be 100% sure I was a sad pathetic loser) a Tortoiseshell and White of rare beauty and vicious temperament, who ruled our house throughout my entire childhood. She was replaced by Junior, and then came Sammy and his mother Tizzy.
Tizzy died just before my father last year, and so together Sammy and my mother have made it through a difficult year. Sammy sat on mum’s chair while she watched TV. He slept on her bed, and allowed her to talk out loud to herself as she pottered around the house, because, you see, she wasn’t really talking to herself but to Sammy.
Yes, we see, Mum!
But Sammy was suffering and took the needle just before his nineteenth birthday. I was sad, because Sammy was a cutie and even though I don’t live over there, he always recognised me as family and gave me as much feline attention as he could.
But mostly I was gutted for my mum, who had lost her friend and companion, and so I was delighted when my sister organised the adoption of two little grey tabby cat sisters, who needed a home to be saved from the pound.
Their previous owner had been an Arsenal fan, and displaying an ignorance befitting his football choices, had ignored his pets’ genders (and the fact that both namesakes have long-since departed Arsenal) and called the girl cats, ‘Thierry’ and ‘Coley’.
Outraged, my mum declared:
“Well it’s so stupid, because they are girls. And anyway we are Chelsea in this house!”
I declined to mention that ‘Coley’ (or ‘Cashly’ as he is known in my home!) now played for the Blues, instead asking what names she had decided upon.
“Well, I didn’t want to confuse them by changing their names too much, so I’ve decided on Tiffany and Chloe!”
“Brilliant mum. Very girly!” said I, “Just be careful never to leave their food almost empty, or else you’ll be arrested by an Inspector and taken off to Holloway Prison for ever and ever and who’ll feed the little kitties then!”
“What was that dear?”
Oops. Did I really say that? Must’ve temporarily lost touch with reality.
“I just said how lovely and excited I am for you to have new catty company and they sound cute and lovely and I can’t wait to meet them.”
“Oh, that’s funny, I could’ve sworn you said something about me going to prison.”
“Now mum, I’d never say anything like that. Just feed the cats and look out for sellotape on the front door.”

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