Those who know me well probably have some idea already of the ongoing Fish in Winter saga - today I finally had enough >.< I have tried to do all I could for them, going down every day to clear inch-thick solid ice from the tops of the ponds, but it has been horrendously cold since mid-November and no sun reaches that end of the garden. Consequently, the water filtration tanks are frozen solid and the pumps can't be switched on, so the water is filthy, with hydrogen sulphide bubbling up and being trapped in a suffocating layer under the ice - which is of course where the fish come to try and gulp more oxygen from the water surface.
You can barely see into the murky depths of what should be clear water - but I spent an hour down there fishing out everything I could find into a bucket. They weren't hard to catch; they are sluggish with cold, and (sensibly) trying to keep near the surface instead of hiding down in the toxic depths. After removing the obviously near-dead ones (the odd twitch, but basically all kipper side up and starting - literally - to freeze) I have a bucket of tiny golden orfe which are sharing the back porch with Andrew (my husband) when he goes for a smoke.
The full death tally so far is 20 - 10 each from the big and small [that's fish size] ponds - I don't believe there's anything left alive in the big pond, and it being harder to de-ice, and me having been ill with flu the past few days, I decided not to bother with it and concentrate on saving the tiddlers. Not that they are young fish, by any means. They are at least three years old, having been here since before I arrived, but conditions clearly have not assisted their growth. I don't know their chances of survival in a bucket, but they can't be much lower than in that freezing, toxic hell hole of a pond, and I just couldn't bear to do nothing. There will be more ice tonight, and I doubt I will have time to clear it tomorrow morning as we have a very full house-viewing itinerary, followed by dinner at Andrew's parents.
Thank you, Dad, for this traumatising experience. You might have learned from your experiences last year, when you managed to freeze half the fish INSIDE the ice (something I've managed to avoid, even though it's been colder, for longer) and then trap half the remainder in the roots of the overgrown watermint when they made a rush for the oxygenated water outlet - a saner or more considerate person would have concluded at this point that a man who spends every other month in another country is not suited to keeping pets, and sold them to someone who was. Instead, you soldiered on, trusting to blind luck and the well-meaning but inadequate care of your daughter, who has enough to do with minding a 2 year old besides not knowing the first thing about your jerry-rigged pond filtration/oxygenation device; bar the manifestly obvious fact that it is UTTERLY USELESS in sub-zero conditions.
I had better not get the blame for any of this. But soon we will be moving out and then it will be out of my hands. Except that I will never quite assuage the feelings of complicit guilt in the deaths of these poor animals. If the Buddhists are right about reincarnation, I think I know what I'm coming back as - but I am optimistic that there can be few perils for the domestic fish quite so awful as those suffered in the [absent] care of my father.
What makes it even more pathetic is that I missed watching the CBeebies Christmas Panto with Jamie while I was doing all this. Oh yes, I did. Not. Happy.