Start at the bottom

Neil Start gets into more bother in his beloved goldfish costume.

Tuesday: There is still a media buzz surrounding my detention under anti-terrorist laws while dressed as a goldfish at a fairground, so David, the chairman of the Goldfish Action Group, has decreed that I need to spend a few days out of London. He fears that all the publicity is doing our cause no good.

I've been sent to Totnes in Devon to inspect two GAG members who are accused of bringing our annual 'Open Ponds' scheme into disrepute. On two Saturdays a year, members nationwide open their doors to fellow goldfish fanciers so they can see their ponds and meet their fish. The visitors pay a small charge for the privilege, which brings in about £250,000 a year for the charity. The problem with the Totnes Two is that they are accused of pocketing most of the entrance money and selling special food - which, one purchaser alleges, was laced with class A stimulants and resulted in his fish having a bad trip and throwing themselves out of their tank to their deaths.

The Two turn out to be neighbours, and their ponds are certainly spectacular.

One is a perfect scale model of the Great Lakes of North America, with an underwater version of Chicago in one corner and a sculpture of Margaret Trudeau in the other. The second is more avant garde and nearly won the Turner Prize a few years back. Called 'Kill or Cure', it is a lopsided tower block made up of bits of old fridges, washing machines and computers welded together, each with a built-in goldfish tank linked to the others by perspex tubes decorated with iron gargoyles.

In retrospect, warning the owners in advance that I was coming for an inspection might not have been the best idea because there was no sign of either of them. I retreated for a miserable night with my parents at Budleigh Salterton and was given the third degree by my father: "Why don't you get a proper job at a proper charity like the RSPCA?"

Wednesday: Was contemplating returning to catch the Totnes Two unawares when the phone rang. David was summoning me back from exile. He'd decided to make an exception to the blanket ban he'd imposed on my media appearances since my arrest. I was booked onto Blue Peter. I was to use my airtime to get children to take better care of their goldfish.

Thursday: It began badly - and got worse. Blue Peter insisted I come in the offending goldfish costume, which got Meg the dog going so much that she rubbed a hole in my orange tights while I was trying to explain the importance of a decent air supply in your tank. Then, when Konnie persuaded me to discard the suit, one of the Blue Peter cats mistook it for lunch, gnawed off the tail and then vomited up the papier mache while I was giving a demonstration on how to clean your gravel base. Hardly a triumphant return to the capital.

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