22 October 2010 (Friday) - Fish Tanks and Astronomy

I thought I’d take a day off work today. Mainly because not many other people were off, and if I don’t use my holiday, I lose it.
The plan for the day was fish tank maintenance. Keeping fish is a (relatively) low maintenance hobby, but occasionally you have to do something. Our fish tank was originally bought as a (second hand) gift for “My Boy TM over ten years ago. When he decided he’d had enough of fish, he passed the tank back to his old man. Over the last weeks and months (and years) the fish tank has grown more and more grungy, and so today I decided to pop the fish into a bucket, empty the tank completely, give it a scrub, reorganise the shelves behind it, and rebuild the whole lot a bit tidier than it once was. In theory it sounded a straightforward thing to do. The bits and bobs came out of the tank easily enough. Catching the fish was slightly more tricky, but “Daddies Little Angel TMsoon caught the more elusive tiddlers.

The worst part of the job was scrubbing out the gravel. When we first got the tank it came with gravel. We never cleaned the stuff at the time of purchase, and since we’ve had the tank we’ve never cleaned the stuff. I got the gravel out of the tank and into a bucket, and the idea was that I’d fill the bucket with water, swill it all about a bit and after three of four changes of water the gravel would be as clean as if it were new. After twenty changes of water, the water was still black and thick with over ten years of various fishy gunges. I eventually got the water running clear, but it took some doing. But then, that was the whole reason why I was cleaning out the fish tank.
Time for reassembly. Everything went back together fairly easily. I had a plan to use some of the slate chippings I’d popped around the garden water features as a decoration in the fish tank. I couldn’t find the chippings. I wonder what I’ve done with them? And there was a dodgy five minutes when I was reconnecting the electricals: I managed to drop the plug for the heater into the fish tank. I didn’t swear much. But I took it apart, dried it out with a tea towel, and all was fine.
When we started there was a shelf on the wall just above the fish tank. I even managed to move the shelf up a bit and get another shelf in as well. There is now a minor dilemma in that the new shelves are closer together than the old ones were, and some of ‘er indoors TM ‘s dragons now are too tall for the shelves. But there are shorter dragons on taller shelves elsewhere. She can play moving dragons about later. She’ll enjoy that.

I had expected to spend most of the day on this job – in the end it only took a couple of hours, and so after sleeping in front of the telly for a while I decided that the fish tank needed more Neons. You can never have too many Neons. Bearing in mind how hopeless Bybrook Barn’s pet shop had been a few days ago, I thought I’d try the shop round the corner from me. So I walked into Pets at Home and went up to the counter where the nice lady was having a conversation with her friend. And I waited. And waited. And eventually gave up waiting and walked out. Having collected “Daddies Little Angel TMfrom college we both went back to Bybrook Barn who were very helpful (this time).
We had a mooch round and got the Neons, and a Siamese fighting fish. They are all called Dave.

And as I close this evening, spare a thought for those members of the Astronomy club who’ve gone off to the club’s first Astro Camp. In conjunction with the Cranbrook astronomy club, they’ve gone off to spend the entire night (up till tomorrow morning) star gazing.
On hearing about this Star Party, my initial reaction was to laugh at the idea. Star gazing at a kite festival or at the Batfarm is fun. Especially just after a gutful of ale, and just before falling asleep. But spending all night doing proper astronomy, and actually doing it properly as well, didn’t really appeal to me. But then I thought that I really shouldn’t run the idea down until I’d tried it. So I buttered up ‘er indoors TM and we set off to Cranbrook to see what was happening.
As it happened, not very much. The sky was rather overcast, and and when the clouds did break, the light of the full moon drowned out pretty much all of the sky. But we got to see the moon, and the moons of Jupiter. There were those doing it through telescopes. The Cranbrook people had got a huge telescope rigged up to a TV projector, and I sat inside with them watching stuff on the screen. And as it clouded over, we were able to use the technology to look at pictures they’d obtained previously. In my book that’s a resounding victory for the armchair astronomy brigade (!)
But it was cold and I have got to be up relatively early for work tomorrow, so we came home. I shall look forward to next week’s astro club meeting where they can tell me what happened after we left. And they can tell me in the comfort of a warm village hall…

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