Start at the bottom

Neil Start takes to his latest important task like a fish to water.

Monday: Having failed miserably with one boss - Clare, our head of policy, who hasn't spoken to me since the Prince William dinner fiasco but seems to have told everyone else in the office, including Anka, our Latvian receptionist, that it was all my fault - I have a chance to redeem myself with our chairman and founder, David. He set off this morning for Tegucigalpa for the annual congress of Igloo - the International Goldfish Lovers Orange Organisation. I'm to drop in at his house on my way to and from work each day to look after his fish - or his family, as he calls them.

It's clearly an honour to be asked and, since goldfish can't talk, despite what David says, they won't be able to tell him it took me only five minutes to sprinkle a bit of food in the tank.

Tuesday: David's house - accessed by a big brushed metal door off Buckingham Gate - is uber-modern and built around an internal courtyard that houses a series of huge, sunken fish tanks the size of mini swimming pools. I settled down at the table in the middle of this giant water feature and opened the parcel he'd left marked with my name. It contained a letter and a pair of small Speedos.

"Dear Neil," it began, "the Goldfish Action Group's goldfish care guidelines are a minimum standard. I prefer a more intimate relationship with mine than GAG recommends and would appreciate it if you could spend about 30 minutes each day swimming with the fish to keep them in touch with their humanity. You may want the enclosed. I don't bother with them, but I have CCTV in the tanks and don't want to embarrass you. Towels are in the bathroom cupboard."

I chose the course of modesty - though the trunks were alarmingly skimpy - and plunged in. If I'd been thinking straight, I would have swum with the bloody fish first and chucked their food in second. But I wasn't. Not only was there the frankly creepy feeling of fish touching my skin, but there was also a very real chance of swallowing flakes of cardboard. I felt like I had been suspended in formaldehyde, in a Damien Hirst artwork called Something Fishy.

Afterwards, I wandered around the house in search of the bathroom. It was white minimalist, with blown-up black and white photos of fish everywhere, and only the occasional vase of dried flowers to break the monotony.

Friday: End of a sodden week. Even Clare was laughing when I rolled in with wet hair and algae behind my ears on Tuesday. Still, only four more days to go before David gets back, and I've high hopes of persuading Anka to come with me over the weekend in the hope that my tender concern for David's fish - not to mention the sight of me in my trunks - might begin to melt her Baltic heart.

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