In goldfish costume once more, Neil Start has a brush with the law.
Tuesday I hadn't planned on getting a criminal record quite so early in my career, but last night, in a police cell, I reflected that it hadn't done Otis Ferry any harm.
I'd been on the Goldfish Action Group protest outside the Danish Embassy after a Danish court had ruled that putting live goldfish through a food blender as part of an art exhibition in Copenhagen did not constitute cruelty to animals. Clare, our head of policy, had come up with the bright idea of setting up a giant liquidiser outside the embassy - papier-mache on the outside, lavishly decorated with GAG posters of goldfish in various states of distress (the classic sign, evidently, is when they close their mouths), but with a children's garden slide inside. Then we fed classicly Danish things into the fake liquidiser while our supporters chanted "Murder!
Murder! How would you like it?" until the item emerged through some red curtains (symbolising blood - keep up) at the bottom.
First in was an outsized Danish pastry. Big cheer. Then a Hamlet cigar - stretching it for Shakespeare's Prince of Denmark, I know, but we have a limited budget. Next was a side of bacon. Most of my colleagues refused to touch it on ideological grounds - GAG is the only officially vegan charity in Britain, but I used to do a summer job in a Little Chef so I had fewer inhibitions. Just as I was throwing a vast Lego model of a goldfish in, the local news camera crew arrived. They wanted us to put the Lego fish through again - with some red bricks added for drama - but sadly it had fallen to bits when it hit the bottom of the slide. So I volunteered to get back into the GAG goldfish suit.
To keep the crowds happy in the meantime, Anka, our Latvian receptionist, dived into the blender, dressed as Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. No one really knew what the current Queen looks like, save for the fact that she rode a bike, so Anka had laced a few rashers of bacon into a mock-up crown and had jumped in holding Clare's son's mountain bike. That's when the police arrived.
On the lip of the liquidiser, I shouted "save me" a few times to roars of approval from the crowd. But pride comes before a fall: I threw myself onto the slide with a bit too much vigour, shot through the curtains at the end and crashed into two policemen, who promptly arrested me for assault with a deadly weapon - my torn fins.
For 24 hours, it was touch and go if GAG would be able to raise the bail.
There was even talk of renting out the liquidiser to a funfair in Battersea.
At which point a troubling of goldfish - the collective noun, stretched here to include both humans in goldfish costumes and the traumatic effect of the sight of them at the police station. It worked. Soon afterwards, I was released.