I've purchased fish before, so I know there is a check list to go through before you can buy them. Having done my homework, everything was in place.
We head to the shop. The kids are excited and arguing over names to call their fish.
I ask the shop assistant which fish they can choose from and after 20 minutes of arguing, changing their minds, pushing and shoving each other to get a better look, they finally decided which ones they wanted.
Eilidh wanted a black one and Taylor a gold one. Easy, peasy.
I call the assistant over and tell her we've finally selected the fish.
Morag (the assistant) with notepad and pen in hand: "Are you over 18?"
Morag: "How big is the tank?"
Me (opening my arms): "About that size."
Morag: "How long has the water been in it?"
Me: "Two weeks."
Morag: "Are there any other fish in the tank?"
Morag: "You going straight home?"
Me: "I was heading to Tesco but I'll give it a miss."
Morag: "OK which fish do you want?"
Me: "That black one and that gold one. Can I also have a couple of small snails as well as apparently they help clean the water?"
Morag: "No. Best you let the fish 'settle in' for a week or two before you add anything to the tank (turning her back on the kids and whispering): "If any of the fish don't make it - bring us a sample of the water and we'll test it to see what's gone wrong."
£3.49 each and the kids can't wait to get them home. We drive a couple of miles, In that short time they argue over who can hold the bag with the fish, the fish names, who's putting the fish in the tank, who's feeding them first ...
Taylor: "Nana Bell - can I clap my fish when it's in the tank?"
Me: "No, don't be silly, you can't clap fish."
Taylor: "Why not?"
Me: "You can only clap animals with fur."
Taylor: "Well, me and Eilidh clapped a snake in Lanzarote!!"
The fish are finally in the tank and after two minutes the kids are bored and want to go home.
All is well until Thursday morning and I feed the fish. Oh no - the black one is dead - that's only five days. It's at the bottom of the tank under the bridge motionless.
How am I going to tell Eilidh? Buy another one and replace it says my colleague.
"It's not that simple," says I. "They have me on record from Sunday and won't let me buy another one."
Friday morning. It's still under the bridge, no movement. I dropped in food. The gold one swam up and fed and the black one lay under the bridge. I didn't have time before work to lift it out so I left it until I got home. As it was dead, it was easy to fish out. I put it in a Pyrex bowl and went to bed.
Saturday morning it's still lying in the bowl and not a flicker. Oh well, might as well flush it away before Eilidh appears.
As I'm walking to the toilet, all of a sudden the fish starts to swim. I nearly dropped the bowl. I sat it back on the kitchen table and stared at it for ages. Nothing - no movement - not a flicker. Right I've had enough - it's going back.
I poured it in to a food bag, triple bagged it in case it burst and headed to the shop.
"The wumin will think you're aff yer heid," says my pal.
"Well,"says I, "there's no point in having a fish that doesn't swim. It's like having a dog that doesn't walk. It's going back to the shop."
Bag In hand, I found an assistant (Shirley):
Me: "I know you'll think this is really strange but I bought two fish on Sunday. One is fine and this one hasn't moved since Thursday. It hasn't moved, it won't swim and it just lies there lifeless. I assumed it was dead."
Shirley: "I think I know what's wrong. It sounds like this fish has been bullied."
My turn to stand motionless with my mouth open ... like a fish.
Me: "Sorry, did you say the wee goldfish has been bullying the bigger black fish and it's been playing dead for two days?"
Me: "Well, can I give you this one back. There's no point in having it."
Shirley: "No, we're not supposed to take fish back."
Me: "Well, what am I supposed to do with it? I can't put it back in the tank as it's being bullied, I can't flush it down the toilet as it's still alive and I certainly can't buy another tank to keep it in."
Shirley: "OK. Give it to me. I'll see if one of the girls will take it home."
Me: "Thanks, can I pick another black fish then?"
Shirley: "No. I'll give you a refund."
Me: "I don't want a refund. I need to replace the fish."
Shirley: "You can't put another fish in with the one you've got in case it gets bullied too."
Shirley (with not a flicker of amusement): "That would be unkind and we wouldn't sell you another fish."
Me (with a quizzical look): "I am one fish down. I have a fish that bullies other fish. I can't buy another tank. What am I
supposed to do?"
By this time there was a small crowd listening in.
"You'd have been easier buying a dug," says one man.
"Gie the lassie another fish," says another customer.
But no. I headed home with my £3.49 refund. Never again!