Tag Archives: abigail ahern

Bottom-dwelling, snail-eating loachfish, and all that jazz

We have not so much introduced the children to the joy of fish as we have introduced them to the cycle of death. It seems there is more to this aquarium malarky than you might first think.
With hairy things off limits, due to my husband’s nasal challenges, it was to fish that we turned to fulfil our dreams of owning a family pet.
Of the first batch of four fish only one survived beyond three months. Two died in under a week. One never made it out of the plastic bag we brought her home in. Looking after fish was beginning to make childcare look like a piece of piss.
We had opted for a tropical tank on the grounds that it allows you to buy some slightly more exotic and interesting fish than your bog standard goldfish. Although as a friend recently remarked it is a curious thing that we then went on to buy a bunch of fish that bear an uncanny resemblance to goldfish.

It is one of these goldfish doppelgängers that is our survivor, our veritable Beyonce of the fish world. She is a heart-shaped brilliant red platy called Ruby and has become an important fish in the family. In moments when I have doubted my ability to keep a biologically viable tank I have oft thought of Ruby, and her will to live, and it has given me the confidence to carry on.
It has been a learning curve. On my first visit to the pet shop I decided I wanted a small tank and a very beautiful angelfish. What an amateur I was. Angelfish require a minimum of about 90 litres of water. The tank I was looking at was 9 litres. “They need room to swim and turn around,’ pointed out the shop assistant, eyes rolling.
It really is worth getting a decent sized tank. That way you can get an interesting number of fish and be confident that they are enjoying a decent quality of life. I think a minimum of 50 litres, a heater and a filter and you have what you need.
Unfortunately the design and style of fish tanks has not really evolved since the seventies. Being an interior snob (see other posts) I was determined to find a solution. I found a wooden cased tank that I was able to paint in the same Abigail Ahern Mercer Green as my kitchen and then used House of Hackney’s house print as the backdrop to the aquarium.


For decoration I added lots of lumps of lava stone that have interesting nooks and crannies for the fish to hide in. I do feel a bit bad about not putting in my kids’ choices of accessories that included a replica of the Eiffel tower, the Roman Colisseum, a shipwreck and a bubbling bum air filter. Actually I don’t feel that bad.
We chose from a rainbow coloured cornucopia of fish, including five-banded barbs, Strawberry and Blue Neon Dwarf Rasboras, disc shaped Gourami and beautiful, vividly coloured scarlet and neon tetras. We are the proud owners of two lamp eye fish, tiny, grey and with bright blue eyes. Ours are called Honda and Fiat.
In an imaginative use of alliteration we decided to call our red fish by names beginning with R. We have Ruby Ray and, and chosen, rather brilliantly by the phonically focused five-year old, a fish called Arse. Curiously the other name that he is wedded to is Isabella. Give that our mortality rates mirror that of sixteenth century royals, we are currently housing Isabella III.
I am really trying hard to embrace life as an aquarist, but there are limits. Pleasantly surprised by my enthusiasm, the shop assistant asked if I had considered purchasing a bottom-dwelling, snail-eating loachfish. I reminded him that he was dealing with a woman only recently robbed of her dreams of owning a big brown-eyed, fluffy cockerpoo. One step at a time.


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Nothing like a flush with a view


Blooms, blooms, blooms.


While the weather in the UK continues to leave the tip of your nose icy and the garden slightly bleak, a big old bunch of faux or real blooms can lift the spirits and provide welcome cheer. Even if you are on a January budget, take some of your existing faux flowers and rearrange them. Add a burst of colour to a different spot. I even have an arrangement in my downstairs toilet. Nothing like a flush with a view.


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Faux flower power


What can be more joyous and uplifting for the spirits than a beauty of opulent blooms spilling out of a tarnished gold vase. Flowers symbolise lots of things, love, friendship etc, but for me they are a beautiful way to express the feelings, depths and rhythms of a room.

In the absence of a partner bequeathing the real floral goods with any kind of regularity, as is my case, faux flowers can be a great, and ultimately cost effective, way of festooning the home in a verdant excess of foliage.


Abigail Ahern is quite righty known as the purveyor of the ‘Chanel of faux flowers.’ Her shop is always lavished with acreage of beautiful blooms. Abigail’s very talented sister Gemma, is also a professionally trained florist. At certain times of the year she produces ready-tied bunches of faux’s and there are also a selection of these online. If you ring ahead you can always try and combine your visit with when she is in the shop and ask for advise and help. www.abigailahern.com

Other retailers have quickly cottoned onto this trend and the florist Jane Packer sells some great faux flowers via her Rose Grey collection in Debenhams. John Lewis, Marks and Spencers, Ikea, they have all jumped on the faux band-wagon. Your best bet is probably to take your vase (will do a blog on vases) with you to the shop and play around until you are satisfied with your arrangement.


I used to always stick to one colour and flower type but it can be quite fun mixing colours and blooms. I just experiment until I have something I am happy with. The beauty of these faux flowers is that you can be quite brutal with them, bend them, push the around. They always bounce back.

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