Little Mitch - A Fish Tribute
I stand before you today the representative of a family in grief, in a
country in mourning before a world in shock.
We are all united not only in our desire to pay our respects to Little Mitch
but rather in our need to do so.
For such was his extraordinary appeal that the tens of handfuls of people
taking part in this service all over the west London area (and our friends
in Bristol) via no television and no radio who never actually met him, feel
that they, too, lost someone close to them in the early hours of Friday
morning. It is a more remarkable tribute to Little Mitch than I can ever
hope to offer him today.
Little Mitch was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of
beauty. All over the fishtank he was a symbol of selfless fishness, a
standard-bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a truly British
fish who transcended nationality, someone with a natural nobility who was
classless, who proved in the last year that he needed no extravagant guppy
like features to continue to generate his particular brand of fishy magic.
Today is our chance to say "thank you" for the way you brightened our lives,
even though God granted you but half a life. We will all feel cheated that
you were taken from us so young and yet we must learn to be grateful that
you came along at all.
Only now you are gone do we truly appreciate what we are now without and we
want you to know that life without you is very, very difficult-ish.
We have all despaired at our loss and only the strength of the message you
gave us through your months of open gilled freeness has afforded us the
strength to move forward.
There is a temptation to rush to canonize your memory. There is no need to
do so. You stand tall enough as a fish of unique qualities not to need to be
seen as a saint. Indeed to sanctify your memory would be to miss out on the
very core of your being, your wonderfully mischievous sense of humor with
the backstroke that bent you double, your joy for fishfood transmitted
wherever you took your smile, and the sparkle in those unforgettable bulbous
eyes, your boundless energy which you could barely contain.
But your greatest gift was your ability to swim through the little bridge
thing, and it was a gift you used wisely. This is what underpinned all your
wonderful attributes. And if we look to analyze what it was about you that
had such a wide appeal, we find it in your instinctive feel for what was
really important in all our lives.
Without your God-given denizen of the deep sensitivity, we would be immersed
in greater ignorance at the anguish of cod and haddock lovers, the plight of
the tank-less, the isolation of lonely goldfish, the random destruction of
bubbly divers helmets. Little Mitch explained to me once that it was his
innermost feelings of suffering that made it possible for him to connect
with his constituency of Copper Gavin, Ritchie and the one with no name.
And here we come to another truth about him. For all the status, the
glamour, the applause, Little Mitch remained throughout a very insecure fish
at heart, almost troutlike in his desire to do good for others so he could
release himself from deep feelings of unworthiness of which his eating
disorders were merely a symptom.
The world inside the fateful kitchen of Warwick Lodge sensed this part of
his character and cherished him for his vulnerability, whilst admiring him
for his honesty and ability to splash the water with his tiny dorsel fin.
The last time I saw Little Mitch was on Thursday before the footie, when
typically he was not taking time to celebrate the regular feeding his newly
returned keeper brought back with him but was guest of honor at a charity
He sparkled of course, but I would rather cherish the days I spent with him
in March when he came to visit me and my children in our home in South
Africa. I am proud of the fact that apart from when he was on public display
meeting President Mandela, we managed to contrive to stop the ever-present
paparazzi from getting a single picture of him.
That meant a lot to him.
These are days I will always treasure. It was as if we'd been transported
back to our childhood, when we spent such an enormous amount of time
together, the two youngest in the family.
Fundamentally he hadn't changed at all from the little brother who could
stay under water longer then me as a baby, laughed at me when I had to go to
school and endured those long train journeys between our parents' homes with
me at weekends. It is a tribute to his level-headedness and strength that
despite the most bizarre life imaginable, he remained intact, true to
There is no doubt that he was looking for a new direction in his life at
this time. He talked endlessly of getting away from the kitchen, mainly
because of the treatment he received at the hands of Copper Gavin. Alas, I
couldn't understand him for he was a fish with no ability to form proper
I don't think he ever understood why his genuinely good intentions were
sneered at by Copper Gavin, why there appeared to be a permanent quest on
his behalf to bring him down. It is baffling. My own, and only, explanation
is that genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the
It is a point to remember that of all the ironies about Little Mitch, perhaps
the greatest is this; that a fish given the name of the ancient god of
Harlesden was, in the end, the most fucking normal everyday, guppeyed
domestic fish of the modern age.
He would want us today to pledge ourselves to protecting his beloved bridge
thing and the skull. And I do this here, Little Mitch, on your behalf. We
will not allow them to suffer the anguish that used regularly to drive you
to tearful despair. No one believed me when I told them you were crying but
I could tell the difference between tank water and your minature fishy
Beyond that, on behalf of Ritchie and the other one, I pledge that we, your
non-blood family, will do all we can to continue the imaginative and loving
way in which you were steering these two exceptional fish, so that their
souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can swim openly as
We fully respect the heritage into which they exist, and will always respect
and encourage them in their fish role. But we, like you, recognize the need
for them to experience as many different aspects of life as possible, to arm
them spiritually and emotionally for the years ahead. I know you would have
expected nothing less from us.
We are all chewed up with sadness at the loss of a fish who wasn't even our
mother. How great the suffering is we cannot even imagine.
I would like to end by thanking God for the small mercies he has shown us at
this dreadful time; for taking Little Mitch at his most beautiful and
radiant and when he had so much joy in his private life.
Above all, we give thanks for the life of a fish I am so proud to be able to
call my namesake: the unique the complex, the extraordinary and
irreplaceable Little Mitch, whose beauty, both internal and external, will
never be extinguished from our minds..