Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Waiting......with fish.




A hiatus for me, as I have to sit in three different waiting rooms on three consecutive days.
But always plenty to do, luckily.
I can do my daily drawing, now in its third year of endeavour,
I can eaves-drop, shamelessly.

Today's waiting room is the dentists'. An elderly couple, who are probably younger than I am, notice me drawing the aquarium and begin a furtive conversation:
She: Why do you think they have fish-tanks in the dentists'?
(pause for thought)
He: I expect it's to do with healthy eating.
She: What are you on about....healthy eating?
(pause for more thought)
He: Well, you know. Better to eat fish than meat, isn't it?
She: Oh, I see.
Longer pause.
She: I wonder why they don't have them in the doctors' then.
He: No one's going to tell me what to eat.

I think briefly of the complications of catching and preparing a plate full of neon tetras. Then I think of whitebait, and how much I like it with brown bread and salty butter. I try to compare the cost of a plate of fried neon tetras compared with a plate of whitebait.
Well, it passes the time even if unsatisfactorily.

I finish my drawing and decide to look at a magazine. The magazines at the dentists' are new and glossy, those in the hospitals are dog-eared and out of date. I decide that the magazine quality is an indicator of private practice (the dentist) as opposed to National Health Service.

I choose a magazine devoted to up-market country-style living. There are subtle mono-chrome adverts for hand-built kitchens zooming off into the middle distance over hand-crafted marble floors. There are sludge-grey bespoke conservatories ready to be attached to Georgian mansions; some of them can be designed to contain swimming pools. There are cashmere throws and amusing sculptures made from willow twigs, bedrooms with white painted floors and great rosewood wardrobes groaning with brocades and velvets.
There is little connection with the sort of country living more familiar to me, which involves a lot of mud and the smell of diesel and damp Barbour jackets dripping over the Aga. Waxed cotton and wet wool steaming, as opposed to those chunky candles fragranced with cinnamon. Magazine kitchen tables have glossy pyramids of polished fruits and a tumbling arrangement of out-of-season flowers, as opposed to peelings waiting to be taken to the compost when the rain stops,  plus last weekend's newspapers and all that unsolicited mail for thermal vests and cheaper insurance waiting to be recycled..

Other magazines available have less appeal, golf, motor-sport, financial matters.
So I return to the fish. They seem busy, darting around their little world. I wonder about their attention span, their memory. Perhaps life seems constantly new and fresh, full of surprise, possibly full of delight, or possibly full of threat and anxiety.
It's hard to tell with fish. They don't give much away.
Angel fish might be easier to catch and cook. They would fit neatly on toast.

Ah well, tomorrow the tattered day-old newspapers, the posters asking me if I am obese, the many offers of help to stop smoking, the dehydrated potted palms and the endless conversations about the iniquity of parking charges, that's if you can find a parking place to start with.
Always  plenty to do.

Next day.

A surprise this morning, a very smart hospital waiting room with a very smart aquarium - big black and white fish cruising dreamily between dark volcanic rocks.
Apologies NHS, you too have been reading the right magazines (and only £2 for a parking space. I could have stayed for four hours, watching the fish for that price).



11 comments:

Jee said...

I had a dentist trip today too - no fish. There are fish in my doctors' waiting room though - quite large ones!
Eaves-dropping is definitely the best occupation. I was the only person in the dentist waiting room this morning so I was reduced to reading a boring magazine.

Relatively Retiring said...

There's a coincidence! Obviously a good day to get all these unwelcome duties done.

marigold jam said...

Hope the hospital appointment is nothing serious? I do so agree with you about the pictures in those Country style magazines - I remember one cover having a chicken perching on the back of a chair in the kitchen - what about the ploppings (my daughters word when as a small child we kept a few hens) I wondered! And you summed it up with the compost peelings on the table instead of a lovely arrangement of flowers!!

Elephant's Child said...

Eavesdropping is a joy. Often surprising, often an education, and sometimes hilarious.
And I love the idea of neon tetras on toast. Filleting them would be a challenge.

Jenny Woolf said...

Nice post. And it cracked me up to think of people fishing in the dentist fish tank for lunch! Mind you ... it HAS raised the question in my mind now. Why, indeed?

pohanginapete said...

You'd think the obvious fish for dentists' waiting rooms would be piranha.

EC — filleting whitebait is harder (so I'm told).

Speaking of whitebait, a former colleague loved catching whitebait but always felt awful about killing them: straight into the pan was too horrific, and freezing wasn't much better. Another colleague thought about the problem briefly, then offered the perfect solution.
'You batter them!' he said.

Relatively Retiring said...

Marigold: during my chicken-keeping days their ambition was to roost on the stretcher under the kitchen table. I'm ashamed to say that sometimes they got away with it!

E.C: more eavesdropping this morning, and a smart new aquarium in a hospital, but the conversation consisted of 'Are there four...oh no, there are five...oh no, here's another one. How many are there?' A bit repetitious!

Jenny: you've opened up a new train of thought - the catch-your-own waiting room lunch!

P.Pete: sadly, battering seems to work for lots of things! I've always assumed that hypothermia was a gentler way to go, at least for a lobster.

Zhoen said...

Ah, the strange little corners our brains snag in when we are waiting.

D now swears by his ipad (refurbished) for waiting rooms and waiting for busses. Games, stuff to read, movies even.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: I think I need the strange corners. You never know what you'll find there.

Isabelle said...

A nice circuitous post.

No fish either at my dentist or my doctor. There were fish at the Sick Kids hospital where Nicky the Grandson stayed a couple of times, though. They were nicely at child level.

James Duncan of Glasgow were the tile makers, by the way.

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle: thank you - and for the information about those lovely tiles.
Grand-daughter's hospital had wonderful bubble-tube distractions at the cot-side. I think many adults enjoyed them too.