Start at the bottom: Neil Start's first week in a new job goes far from swimmingly

Monday: It began badly. I'm the new assistant fund-raiser (acting) at GAG - the Goldfish Action Group - filling in for someone on study leave while her goldfish are artificially inseminated by an expert in Winterbourne Abbas. Not by him. Get over it. Kenneth Williams is dead.

I was taken to lunch by the charity's chairman and main benefactor, David.

He's so close to his goldfish he eats their food with his Corn Flakes as an act of intimacy. That's what he told me when I offered him some of my sushi. The look he gave me suggested (a) that he's trying to imitate his pets' facial expressions or (b) that I might not last the week.

Until then it had seemed a perfect first step into a career in charities.

I've never been that keen on animals, but that's usually only when they try to lick me. No chance of that with goldfish (I hope). And it's arguably a tougher challenge to promote something I'm equivocal about. Plus, GAG's glass-fronted subterranean offices near the Thames - another act of intimacy funded by David, who made millions in IT - are only two minutes' walk from the student flat where I'm crashing.

Wednesday: Splash!, our lobby of Parliament was, David assured us, going to make the Ten O'Clock News. We'd been promised Daryl Hannah through a friend of his in films, but we ended up with an extra from A Fish Called Wanda, which, frankly, didn't even interest citizen's band radio, or improve our chances of persuading Parliament to impose a statutory obligation on all goldfish tank owners to clean them out once a month.

My role was to wear a fluorescent goldfish costume covered with GAG slogans and head our march. There was a built-in fan, borrowed from Children in Need's Pudsey Bear get-up, so my new colleagues told me I'd have no trouble walking the two miles to Parliament Square while they went in the mini-bus.

And, indeed, the walking was fine, even in orange fishnets. My problem was all the people who stopped me to (a) ask if it was Chinese New Year (b) chant Hare Krishna or (c) make an indecent proposal. There was, to be fair, just one of those but he caused me to hiss, by way of reply, GAG's policy on animal cruelty.

That's when I decided to hail a black cab. I got in all right, though I had to kneel on the floor like a cherub at the altar rail to protect my fins. But then the cab driver - distracted by having a meditating goldfish on his knees in the back - jumped the lights and tangled with the back end of a bus.

The ambulance wasn't sure where to take me - London Zoo, an aquarium or secure accommodation. I finally persuaded them to deliver me to the local A&E. David's already been in at my bedside. He brought me a box of fish food instead of grapes. The demo was, he said, a damp squib. I'd have laughed if Pudsey's fan hadn't cracked two ribs.

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