We used to have a large pond in the garden. It now resembles a filthy, muddy puddle, coated in a thick carpet of weeds. Pumpkin has walked on it. Unless she’s the second coming, the weeds are able to support weight.
When it was a real pond, with fountain, pond skaters, lillies and frogspawn, we had goldfish.
My mother had always enjoyed the misty-eyed thought of tropical fish, but the idea of the inherent heartbreak on occasion of a power cut cooled her ardour. Goldfish would be just fine.
Probably more sturdy than their skinny, warm-water loving counterparts, I was sent down to the garden centre to select a handful of fish.
I returned with half a dozen, slightly dumpy looking fish; sturdy, and surely, built to last.
The carers would take my mother down to the bottom of the garden in the mornings and let her watch the fish slowly stalking flaked food in the opaque water. A sudden flash of orange in a world of black.
Late one night, my mother called me through to her room, which overlooked the pond. It was a deep-cushioned moonless night. And there was a furious splashing sound coming from the garden.
I was very prepared for emergencies in those days. Having stocked up on canned soup, baked beans and batteries for the possible world-ending events of Y2K, I knew exactly where the torch was.
It was almost as big as me.
The light shone brightly on the pond, and there, looking rather proud of himself was an otter. His heavy-whiskers were branched out by the helpless floundering of the goldfish in his mouth. No amount of shoo or waving will move an otter, I know this now.
The next morning, as the sunlight streaked over the glassy water, there were no fish. There was a decent sized hole in the netting over the pond, but no fish.
Back I went to the garden centre.
Another half-dozen fish. Some new netting.
The otter became more crafty. He brought a friend. They sneaked up under the wire mesh and finished off the newest selection of fish.
My mother decided she wasn’t running a restaurant and gave up on the idea of the pond. It would go back to nature; it became a bordello for frogs, a haven for butterflies, a skating rink for various spindly insects.
I have reached an age where many of my friends have started their families. They have fabulous children. The children are always delightful because I am the lesser-seen auntie figure – they find me funny, and I’ve usually gone by the time they’re tired and grumpy. As such, they are wonderful, as am I.
I decided, with the advent of children, I should empty the pond. The garden wouldn’t be a safe haven for the multitudes of small people who would appear in the summertime for barbecues and treasure hunts with a semi-open pond still in place. I determined emptying the pond was the only answer. With no intention of giving something akin to fellatio to a garden hose, I dunked a bucket and ran back and forth to the stream for an afternoon or two.
I know what I should have done. I should have then removed the liner and drilled holes into the walls of the pond to ensure sufficient drainage; then, I suppose I would have filled the resultant crevice with top soil and grown some herbs or something pretty. It should have become a raised flower bed. It would have been quite wonderful.
No, I didn’t do that. I went away on a course for a week, during which it rained from morning to night and night to morning for seven days straight. The pond filled back up again with rain and grot and silt.
There was a man up the road who kept koi carp. They were massive, gorgeous, moustachioed swimmers. Thick lipped and brightly coloured, they were his pride and joy. They had cost thousands of pounds, and they justified it by swim and shimmering in the summer sunlight.
A heron swooped down and ate the lot.
Very much in the style of my mother and the circle of life, the man bought yet more koi.
Purple-faced parents found themselves explaining to their tiny-footed offspring that the heron, who devoured all the fancy fish up the road, was not the same as the stork, who had brought the babies.
The children were perplexed.
The parents, more so.
The heron polished off the new koi carp.
Soon, my neighbour, grieving for both fish and wallet, transformed his long-shimmer of pond into a raised rose garden.
And then he moved.