Start at the bottom: Promoted, Neil Start experiences a love of goldfish, eastern style

Monday: I've been promoted from assistant fundraiser (acting) at the Goldfish Action Group to assistant fundraiser (non-acting). Or, to put it another way, permanent. And all because I looked after David the chairman's goldfish so well during his absence. The news topped off a perfect few days, although yesterday, Anka, the Latvian receptionist, helped me bury Gloria Mundi - the one goldfish not to thrive under my careful nurturing but whose absence has not yet been spotted.

The ceremony was straight out of GAG's Funeral Rites for a Goldfish: fish-scented candles (I rubbed taramasalata on the wick), a coffin (a dominoes box, hand-painted orange), music (Golden Years by David Bowie) and a Bible reading about Jonah and the Whale. It took place on the banks of the Thames - we had a picnic and solemnly dispatched Gloria Mundi to a watery eternity. Anka shed a few tears and then headed for home.

Wednesday: My first task as a trusted permanent member of staff was to greet a delegation from a hitherto unknown sister organisation based in Beijing, which had contacted us about launching a joint project in London. On the way out to Heathrow in my Mao jacket, I read a book Clare, our head of policy, had lent me on the Chinese love of goldfish.

David had been unclear as to whether the group was from the Goldfish Care Promotion Agency or the Goldfish Compassion Promotion Agency, so to avoid a diplomatic faux pas I stood at the arrivals gate holding a giant inflatable goldfish. They soon found me. Only one spoke English.

They were keen, he explained, to go to Chinatown in central London. I figured they were hungry and phoned ahead for David to meet us at a restaurant there.

Even by GAG standards, it was a decidedly odd lunch. The delegates kept disappearing, one by one, into the kitchens and emerging shaking their heads. David and I bonded over raised eyebrows as we carried on talking them through our promotional literature. They pointed to the pictured goldfish and talked among themselves with great animation.

Then they got out their booklets. The text was in Chinese and so beyond us, but the pictures were bloodthirsty. David blanched but to his credit managed to talk movingly - and rather nobly - about cruelty to goldfish and the need for an international campaign along the lines of the coalition to outlaw whaling. Meanwhile, I idly flicked to the back page of their brochure, where I had spotted a brief English text. They were not about goldfish care or goldfish compassion, but goldfish cuisine. Cannibals! Aargh! We made our excuses and left.

Thursday: Another promotion. After yesterday's events, David has put me in charge of co-ordinating international goldfish protection policy.

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