My dad liked fish.
Rather more specifically he liked building fishponds: usually - though not exclusively - behind the outhouse.
He would build one, add a pump, fill it with fish and when, inevitably the fish died, he would get rid of the pond and build another a year or so later.
He had two different construction techniques which - like belly-buttons - could be described as the "inny" and the "outy".
The inny techniques was used on several of the ponds he built. In this variation he would dig a whole approximately six feet by four feet and either line it with a pre-moulded polystyrene fish pond or with heavy duty polystyrene sheeting. Then he would add some decorative rocks and fill it with water. A few fish from a local pet store, a pump to keep the water circulating and bingo! we had another fish pond.
The outy required more work and requires a brief digression.
My father also like making bricks.
No this makes him sound mad but it wasn't that at all. He always preferred making things to buying them and would when it was possible do so. So my father made bricks. He made wooden moulds for them - either plain or decorative, mixed up his sand and cement and made bricks.
One of the uses for these breaks was the outy fish pond. In this variation he would use his home made decorative bricks to build a square enclosure about two feet high in the same position that last year's inny pond had been. Then he would line this with polystyrene sheet, add the old pump and some new water and fish and away we went again with this year's model.
One year he changed the location, put it outside the window of the house rather than behind the outhouse. This was an outy year. He built the pond in the summer and stocked it with quite a lot of fish. Over the next few months they grew and it was really rather pleasant to sit outside on the patio and enviously watch the fish swimming about without a care in the world.
Then came winter. And it was as savage a winter as I had seen up till then (I was about thirteen, I think).
My father put several plastic balls in the pond so that the surface wouldn't freeze completely. One morning we came down to find that the whole pond had frozen solid. All the fish were dead, trapped in the water as it froze around them. All the fish but one.
There was a tiny pocket of unfrozen water in one of the corners of the pond. It was at the bottom and obove it was about six inches of ice but it was there and the last surviving goldfish was forlornly swimming around in the icy water waiting for whatever fishy grim reaper would come for him. My father wanted to free him. Afraid to pour hot water on in case the shock of the temperature change should kill him, he decided to break the ice. Looking around the garden his gaze lighted on a shovel, half covered by snow and ice but clearly the tool he wanted.
He picked it up and tapped cautiously at the ice on the pond but to no effect.
Then he raised it and brought it down hard. The ice shattered. The water beneath it was free to flow and the goldfish... and the goldfish, the last remaining goldfish, the game survivalist goldfish who had beaten the winter ice... and the gold fish floated on it's surface neatly chopped in half by the blade of the shovel.
The man who (as a child) had once had a pet rabbit commit suicide* had now killed our last remaining goldfish. When winter had finished the pond was dismantled and it was, I believe the last time we ever had a fish pond.
And people wonder about my traumatised childhood.
(*That is, I feel, a tale for another time.)
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