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Quite some years ago, I figured I should get a pet.

I was living in E.London, a shared house, and had the upstairs front room.  About 10 x 14 feet, two south facing windows in the long side, the door in the r.hand corner (so to speak) as you walked into the room to face the windows.  The wall immediately on its right (and abt 18inches from the door post) had been painted by the pretty, art girl next door to reflect the atmosphere of the room and complement the colour of my bass which was banana yellow.  A colour much admired by the african brothers though less so by the heavy metal dudes.

Looking to the left as you stood at the door you saw, on the floor, the foot to the head of my bed and then the open fireplace.

A bright, spacious room with me curled up in it somewhere.

I figured I should get a pet.

A pet comes with certain requirements.  For one thing it should need a minimum of attention (hey, attention is for  me).  For another it should lead as natural a life as possible, our lives should be lived in parallel so’s I can enjoy it but it doesn’t get to intrude.  And preferably it should have some endearing quality e.g. fur.

I gave it some thought.  Some burrow liver would meet the criteria, bunnies alas were out as they do too much hopping about and need floor space to crap all over, which is seriously not on.  I liked the idea of a burrow complex made of  transparent pipes fixed high up on the walls though,  maybe something like guinea pigs would suit.  Then I remembered the reality of living with guinea pigs and, frankly, a lot of burrow dwellers. 

I once looked after a guinea pig for a friend.  It looked kinda cute in its cage, a ball of fluff under a load of shredded stuff it’d wrapped itself in.  It didn’t do anything much but snooze.  Our first night together, about 10mins after I’d turned off the light and got into bed there was this frantic mechanical whirring and I put on the light to discover it racing in its wheel, endlessly rushing to get to the finish line which was where it had started.  Of course, when I put the light on it stopped, blinking, wondering “Whaaaa ...??”  

Burrow dwellers tend to have the outlook of clubbers so aren’t so much fun during daytime hours.  Plus there was the desperate design reality of having to construct its environment accessible to cleaning, a mega parameter.

My thoughts turned to fish.  There was enough space down the painted wall to put in a tank which, if I built it it from waist high up to the ceiling and eighteen inches across, could be big enough to have tiny fish shoaling and diving.  An attractive prospect.

Tiny fish need warming and their water needs aerating and cleaning.  There’s going to be constant noise ..... bubbling.  I’d been to the Alhambra and sat in the gardens, relaxing to the sound of water flowing in the streams that feature there.  But that’s not the same as having to live with constant bubbling.  Besides, I always slept to the World Service.

There was also the prospect of having to construct an aquarium to hold 2 ½ tons of water in a first floor bedroom.  A leak from that would prolly bring down my gaff and the house next door.  Difficult to explain to a housing association that already had enough trouble getting my co-residents to jointly and severally come up with the rent.

Forget fish. 

So I let the whole idea rest for a while.  Then, one day I went to some event at the Barbican.  At the Barbican I had to go up some large, winding staircase a few floors and at every turn of the stairs there was a pot with a large tropical plant.  It was kinda nice but the ambience lacked something.  “This place needs birds” occurred to me.  A few tropical birds swooping around the airy space and complementing the plants would have been sensational.
I went home that evening and, sitting in front of the fire turned to look at the mural on the wall and thought ....“birds”.

Next day I went to the library.

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