fish one

Fish! Such safe, innocuous pets, we thought. Low maintenance, low cost, we convinced ourselves. Ha! As If! Those were the days of innocence.

Five years ago, when our son was, well five years younger, the pet discussion had dragged on for months before finally we all agreed on fish. Dogs were out as we travelled abroad a lot, cats were ruled out after my husband mentioned his (still unwitnessed) allergy to the feline creatures. So fish it was.

Five years later my son’s fishes are mostly ours! How wonderfully typical.

Five traumatic years later we still persevere. You’d think we’d know better by now. 

The first days and weeks of joy and excitement were ones of bliss. Each feeding time an event in itself, numerous questions of sleeping habits, eating habits and er, mating habits, had me rushing secretly to google in a desperate attempt to provide an intelligent answer to my keen son.

Names. Of course the fish were soon all named and if you’re embarking on this venture, be warned. Once named, you’re doomed. After all, this is not just one pet, but dozens.

As the first poor mite pined away, then visibly sickened I watched my son’s emotional rollercoaster helplessly. His fears became mine. That was only the start.

Years of fish-related nightmares followed; tankful of dying fish, escaping fish, fishes with humongous deformed eyes! 

I quickly became an expert on diagnosing their diseases – that was the easy part. Treating meant possibly killing the other healthy ones. Catch-22.

When the first poor blighter died we agreed upon a funeral and solemnly it was placed in a matchbox. My husband donned his winter coat and gloves and looked at us expectantly.

My son and I both glanced at the cold grey frozen outdoors then my son asked could he stay in? I nodded, relieved and quickly agreed I would remain in the warm house with him.

My husband turned and headed out for the pre-arranged burial site, picking up a trowel from the shed along the way.

Minutes later, I saw him on his knees, hacking away at the frozen ground. Finally the deed was done and he eased himself up, then stood still for a moment. Stretching his back? Or saying a few words, perhaps? 

By then, exhausted from lack of sleep, over-wrought with emotions, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I fancy, I did both.

fishtwoFiver years later, our love affair with the fishes has only, perversely, flourished. On Saturday, as our son went to the cinema with friends (oh, how I recall those idyllic care-free days!), my husband and I do what all sensible parent do with a couple of free hours- we headed to the pub!

Once ensconced in a cosy corner we settled down with our drinks and snack and talked; desperately trying NOT to talk only about our son. After all, we must have conversed in our pre-child life. Didn’t we?

At last, I relaxed, easing into the peace and novelty of the day when ‘ping’ a text. Yep, my son asking if I could email a photograph of his passport for proof of age.

I remained strong! (Round of applause, please.) Where before I would have dashed to the car, driven six miles home in a panic to fulfil his request I stopped to think. To be rational.

Picking up the phone, I took a deep breath and called my son. On hearing where we were, he was ever so apologetic. I offered to to talk to the attendant but in the end the boys sorted the problem themselves and I continued to enjoy my drink…well, sort of…only fully calm when I received a text that they were in and the film was about to start.

The day continued with a visit to the Garden Centre. I don’t know what it is about these places but they are quietly reassuring, providing a burst of colour and hope in the middle of winter. A mecca of stunning flowers, a homage to dreams and possibilities. They are so normal.

Normality. For years I fought against its existence; the very word an anathema to me. I wanted excitement, I wanted constant change. Gradually I began to recognise the power and significance of normality and routine. What I feared was what I needed. Those repetitive routine tasks are the basic building blocks of life that form the secure foundation of my life and that of those close to me; however they are intermingled with adventures, of course!

As our normal day continued, our thoughts returned to the depleted fish tank; full of plants, Greek temple ruins, treasure chest but not many fish. With determination we headed to the aquatic centre.

Thirty minutes later we exited carrying a brown paper bag, with 12 guppies swarming at the bottom of the plastic bag within. Once home we slowly introduced the guppies to the tank; our eyes bedazzled by the beautiful array of colours, the luminescent fan tails shimmering away. We stood back and admired our catch; the proud new parents owners! 

I just had one thought in my mind.

How did this ordinary day become so extra-ordinary?

Enjoy this star-studded version of ‘Perfect Day ‘ by Lou Reed, who appears throughout wearing cool dark glasses. The song sums up my day perfectly:))



44 thoughts on “AN ORDINARY DAY

  1. kellyelizabethhatley

    Great post. We have one fairground goldfish. Long story. I’ve been told it will live to aged 42! Hmm mm! ?!

    1. Blimey! 42 years is a long time – I’ve had friends with goldfish for 10 or so years and I thought that was a record. It grew huge and nearly the size of a normal fish tank! Good luck…

  2. Good luck with your guppies. I so enjoyed reading this post Annika, your words truly do bring a day alive and make it interesting and so human. My husband is a great Lou Reed fan, he is still reeling after the deaths of his two heroes, Lou Reed and David Bowie (mine too.)

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Marje. It is so sad how so many greats are dying; almost as if another one each day. Lou Reed and David Bowie two of the biggest and then this morning my husband saddened by George Martin’s death (someone I haven’t heard of I must admit). All guppies still alive and happy – honestly, they swish their tails in a joyful manner!😀

  3. Oh gosh, we’ve had our fair share of drama over fish days. These days we only have three tiny stripey fish but we have a menagerie of other animals including three guinea pigs, chooks, a spoiled dog and one massive horse. That’s enough!

    1. Wow! You definitely have got your hands full. The horse I take it is your daughter’s? I had to look up what chooks were – ah…chickens. I like way the dog is not just a dog, rather ‘a spoiled dog’. At one stage our tank was down to a few sad lonesome looking fish but it feels good to have a colourful collection again. As young I loved having guinea pigs as pets – a affection my son was not keen to adopt, alas!

      1. Ah the language differences, I had to laugh at my word “chooks” which I use frequently and take so for granted. Yes, we have chickens and plenty to keep us busy including the horse, Merlin, who is my daughter’s. Enjoy your fish Annika, at least they’re fairly low maintenance!

  4. Hahaha. The fish saga continues at our house too. Because of allergies, we had no dog or cat. Our son returned from Germany, a happy 7 yr. old with his beloved guinea pig, Mike. That’s another story. Mike lived with us for 8 years. My husband is an ichthyologist and suggested to our daughter that we get a fish tank with fish. Of course with both children out of the house now, we still have that fish tank and fish. After a few attempts to replace the fish that died, my husband decided there was one pet store he would no longer visit because those fish were unhealthy and did not live long. I am only “in charge” of feeding them when he is away on business. I then post a list of my feeding times to make certain they are not forgotten. The things we do in life! Loved the entry. Happy writing and Mother’s Day.

    1. Thank you, Mary Ann and lovely to hear about your fish stories. You had me heading to google for ‘Ichthyologist’ (for others equally clueless readers this is Fish Science, is the branch of biology devoted to the study of fish. This includes bony fishes (Osteichthyes), cartilaginous fish (Chondrichthyes), and jawless fish (Agnatha)). Your husband is quite the expert. We too have one store nearby which was heart-breaking to visit as there were so many dead and sick fish – we never go there now. I can’t believe you brought a guinea pig with you from Germany! Cant’ wait for that story. I love them and I’ve had four altogether – I tried to convince my son they were wonderful pets but he wasn’t interested (alas!). So far having a wonderful Mother’s Day, spoilt with breakfast, presents and my son playing keyboard for over an hour. We’re baking a cake soon for my mother’s visit. Another extra-ordinary day!😀 Happy Writing to you too.

      1. Oh, such a delightful visit with you on Mothering Day. Our Mother’s Day happens in May and our Father’s Day in June. With biology, oceanography and marine biology degrees, my husband’s specialty is fish as you correctly discovered. He is the water quality expert with his Ph.D. in marine biology for our county in Upstate New York and also teaches biology and environmental science classes at a local college. At some point, I will attempt to get the guinea pig story as a chapter book for young children. Along the way, our daughter also had a guinea pig named Caramel because of its color. It’s so interesting to note that you also have a pet store you avoid because of sick and dead fish. They require special attention which probably pet shops don’t do on weekends for example. Happy baking for your mother’s visit.

  5. I think I must have given up on the idea of any day being ordinary many years ago…but it is nice to experience life’s little surprises, especially the kind you so deligthfully write about here Annika 🙂 Your fish tank looks beautiful! And how wonderful that you are starting to enjoy time for yourself and hubby…now and then at least 😉 Amongst our menagerie of pets over the years when the kids were younger, we had fish, but cleaning the tank and dealing with dead/ill/rotting fish was solely my ex’s preserve…I refused, just can’t handle it. But when all is going well, they are so beautiful and relaxing to watch. Lovely post, full of the joys of an extra-ordinary episode in family life. Have a wonderful weekend…guppies included 🙂 xx

    1. Thank you, Sherri. Guppies still doing well and giving us lots of joy.😀 I like the sound of that, ‘menagerie of pets’ – ah…but it’s always traumatic to lose one. Before we got the tank I put my foot down that this was one task I would not do – I can’t even net a dead fish. For once I didn’t cave in but of course, my son’s help has only extended to the feeding part! I don’t know whether to be happy or worried that you have given up on ordinary days – they definitely have their role in life. Wishing you a lovely Mother’s Day – hope you’re being spoilt!❤️

      1. Glad to hear it about the guppies Annika (butI hope you won’t have to net any dead fish! 😮 ) And yes, every single burial of lost, beloved pets is heartbreaking. Been through a few too many 😦 I got to the point with pets where I only allowed them if the kids did all the work, and I mean all the work. It just got too much. The cats and dogs I did/do (oh and the bunny too, ha!), but with hamsters, rats, frogs, lizards a corn snake (yes, I finally relented to let my daughter get one, something she wanted for years…his name was Charles P Snake but he died last year) and now of course her Chinese Button Quails, she is 100% responsible. They are her hobby now and give her a wonderful focus. I think that’s what I meant when I said about giving up on ordinary days…they are wonderful, but I never seem to have them!!! You’ll know why after reading this, ha! I say it tongue in cheek of course… 😉 Thank you Annika, a lovely day but will have proper time with my family when my boys come home this coming weekend and I’ll once again have all my chicks back in the nest 🙂 I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day…and I’ll be in touch! ❤

  6. Anonymous

    Sounds like a perfect day to me – especially the bit about the pub! I’ve been through the fish burial routine too. We still have a tank full of fish but these days any that become “deceased” are quietly flushed down the loo (but some times together with the occasional salute).

    We have to make the most of days like these though, they are an oasis of normality in an ever more busy and challenging life.

    Good to see the video again, and I hope your son enjoyed the film!


    1. So an occasional salute for the poor fish! 😀 Here you have me smiling, Mike. I’ve always chickened out and so far haven’t had to get a dead fish out…I don’t like being a stereotype female but I don’t care on this issue. Wishing you many days of ‘oasis of normality’ with fewer flushing away of fishes. Oh yes, the film was great I’m told – only problem is I now want to see it!

  7. What a perfect story. That’s what happens to us parents–we blend with our kids. We get so excited about their interests. I don’t know any other way to parent but I must admit to chuckling at your story and realizing I’d made several decisions just about like yours (different topic of course).

    Loved reading this.

    1. Thank you so much and I’m so happy this had you chuckling away. I’m sure many parents could identify with the general scenario – being a parent is a fully immersive experience and I wouldn’t have it any other way. With a more independent teenager we are beginning to enjoy our independence as a couple again – a new adventure! (Just keep them coming.) As long as they’re only for an hour or so – I’d miss my son too much otherwise!

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Annika, as would most parents, I suspect 🙂 Guilty of sneaking off to the pub whenever possible, back in the day! Still, at 26, our son has an unerring instinct for destroying our finest moments. Some calamities are greater than others, aren’t they? I did feel for him yesterday! First day back at work after a fun weekend in Eindhoven, a lady ran into the back of him, shunting him into a taxi up ahead. When the phone rang at 9.30, he had reason to call, and I was a gibbering wreck for the rest of the day! He seems reasonably ok, I’m glad to say. 🙂
    Love that video too. Thank you for a peaceful interlude.

    1. Oh dear, Jo, I’m glad the video and post could help a bit. Sounds like you needed it. Is your son okay? Was he shaken up? I’ve been in a shunt on the M25 when it was car-park mode and I felt shaky for the rest of the day. As for being interrupted I hope I always will be – I know I don’t give my mother much peace even now!! Always some drama or other. Let’s toast to parenthood. 😀

      1. Yes, let’s! 🙂 He seems ok, thanks, Annika. He says a bit stiff in the shoulders and back, but then he was already a bit sore from his go-karting adventures at the weekend. I’m hoping it’s nothing much. 🙂

  9. Great post, Annika! Ah, for those carefree days I long, and I’m patiently (sort of) waiting until the kids are both in college. One down this fall, the other in a couple years. We also had fish, learned very early on that goldfish will eat any fish smaller than themselves. We made the mistake (once) of introducing mollies in with our goldfish. I think the last one vanished the second day. We’re down to one goldfish now, and it’s going on 10 years, I think. Once it dies, though, we’ll put the tank away. Enjoy yours while they last!

    1. Thank you, Julie! Oh, we’ve made that mistake too – mistakenly buying aggressive fish which attacked others. I felt quite despondent! Gold fish live for ages don’t they? How does it feel when one of your children left for college last year? Although we cherish an hour or so on our own, I dread the day my son leaves home – I’ll be so happy for him and excited but we are so close and best friends it will be heart-wrenching. I suppose I have the fish to keep me company (if they’re still alive by then!)!!😀

  10. I came across a video yesterday where the proud owner of a fish tank discovered it had contained a metre-long and ferocious-looking worm for a year or more. You never know what’s in there!

    1. Urghh!! How could you not notice such a creature in the tank – it seems my fish related nightmares are mor true than I thought possible. 😀 Glad I’m not the one cleaning the tank out, that’s all I can say.

  11. I think every day is extraordinary if we take the time to be conscious, or at least, reflect on it. It sounds like you had a day of “life” – renewed freedom in your relationship, a child growing up and successfully navigating a piece of the world, beauty in plants and animals, color and life. A normal day, Annika, with many more ahead 🙂 Hope the guppies do well, too!

    1. Diana, you got it in one! During a day of these seemingly small events, life was lived to the full and developing all the time. You are so right, I am proud to bits that my son went to the cinema for the first time on his own with his friends; excited as we all move on as my son increasingly enjoys the freedom growing up involves. So often these kind of days would be rushed through, unacknowledged but for once I paused now and then to savour every moment and to glow with happiness. Gosh, that is mushy. 😀 Guppies still all alive and doing well. Warmest wishes to you.

  12. “began to recognise the power and significance of normality and routine.”—Isn’t that the truth? I can relate to this post very well, including the fish experiences. We went through that as well. But the fish tank is gone now. Can’t say I’m disappointed. 😉

    1. Carrie, we did consider giving up with fishes for a while, particularly when we had two tanks with over forty fishes (mollies breed quickly and we didn’t realise they weren’t separated so we had to start another tank to save them!) We’re back to one tank and we’ve got used to them. Yes, I even talk to them! 😃

      The routines and normal days are there all the time, it’s just taking that milli second to give them weight and acknowledgement that counts.

  13. Very cool video. I’m glad I took the time to watch it. Fun story about the fish. I didn’t think you were going to head to the pub; I thought you were going to clean the fish tank! Ha! Good for you!

    1. I’m so glad you liked the video and it does take a few moments to get going, I agree. Oh no, I’m beginning to learn what is important in life – relaxing drink in the pub on a cold Saturday afternoon! Cleaning the fish is my husband’s job! That was agreed before the venture began all those years ago…I’m sure I’ve got the contract around here somewhere!😀

  14. A great story! I can relate to the fish experiences. We went through a lot of goldfish and once I had to rush out into the night to a pet store to buy an overpriced bottle of drops to cure what ailed our fish. They didn’t make it. Now we have 2 goldfish in a tank and they have grown so big I don’t have a net big enough to scoop them out!

    But you are right, those ordinary days are really something !

    1. Gold fish can grow really big and live for years – my friends have a couple which are over ten years old. One early on got an illness which made it swim upside down constantly, but it’s still alive. Looks like something out of my nightmares! So sad that your fish didn’t make it. those drops to supposedly cure the fish cost a small fortune and we ended up with quite a few. Don’t bother now. Wishing you many special ordinary days.😀

  15. “My husband and I do what all sensible parent do with a couple of free hours- we headed to the pub!” What a great line, Annika!
    I thrive on routine and I tend to become very cranky when it’s disrupted.

    1. When younger I think I had an idealised picture of what my life should be so it has taken some time to realise that, hey, this, my life now, is just what it should be and quite perfect. I don’t mind disruptions to routine and can quickly adapt; as for my husband though, that is another story! He needs advance warning of any change in plans.

  16. Being born under the sign of Pisces, I have an affection for fish. Most people are surprised by how entertaining they are as they do there fish thing. I remember a friend in college had a tank full of fish with the ruins set to mimick the ocean floor and I would watch for what seemed liked hours. So I know first hand how mesmerising they can be almost to a fault.

    So I love my routine days and have found that what’s routine for one is not for another as the fish will let you know. Now for a pub, the fish will have to wait 🙂

    1. JC, they are fascinating to watch and as you say, mesmerising. I never tire of watching them (well, apart from when they are ill!). As young I’d often sit by my brother’s fish tank, just staring, until he no doubt despaired for my sanity! So true that routines means different things to everyone – I just hadn’t realised that before! Also that these small seemingly inconsequential events are life itself. Oh, definitely pub first! I’ve got my priorities right!

  17. Mirja

    Your “Ordinary day” is just a perfect day as the great video says.
    It is pure delight to read your post.
    Full of ‘normality’ , laughs, loves, small fears and beauty.
    The pictures are great, I do love these guppies with their shimmering tails.

    Thank you and long may these guppies live.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Mirja and for such kind words about this post. What struck me was how many wonderful moments were in this ordinary day and that if I’d rushed I’d have missed them all. The guppies are my favourite and they are doing very well. We’ve learnt from past experience which ones live longest, the best over three years, the worst less than 24 hours. That was in the early days when I still at the end of my tether with all the trauma.

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