Friday, January 23, 2009

The creek and the mallets

Georgia and summer-time by the creek is as close to heaven as it gets in my book.

One day last summer, as we visited our favourite spot along the creek, Georgia's sharp little eyes spotted something moving in the shallow water. When I, too, saw them I thought my eyes were deceiving me but, yes, there were indeed little fish swimming there. Dozens of them and all in one little area. They seemed to hide in the deeper water and when we stood still and quietly, out they would come over the stony bottom of the shallow water where, once you were used to spotting them, they were clearly visible. None of them was as long as my hand and they had silvery undersides.

"What are they, Granny?" Georgia kept asking. "What are they?" But I had no answer. "Let's just call them our special fish babies", I suggested and she was happy with that.

We spent hours there that first day we discovered them. We walked out on the stones, scaring them away, until we were ankle deep and stood there, hand in hand, patiently waiting for them to get used to our "monster" feet and return. The enchanted look on her face! For a pair of chatters we were surpriseingly silent as they swam around our feet. We stayed there until our feet felt like blocks of ice. Mine, anyway, she is much tougher!

The following week when I called up to Danny and Heather's after work Georgia came running up excitedly announcing, "They are mallets, Granny. They're mallets!"

Mallets? What's a mallet? I'm accustomed to interpreting Georgia's words (and she does love to use a new word) but this one had me stumped. I had no idea she was talking about the fish in the creek and even if I had, I still wouldn't have put two and two together.

Danny came around the corner while she was still babbling about mallets, grinned and said, "Mullet. The fish in the creek are mullet." He'd asked around the neighbours and been told they were mullet. I've looked up mullet breeding habits since and am not convinced. So I am happy to share Georgia's name for them, they are mallets.

As summer progressed we watched them grow until they were 6 to 8 inches long, brown, sleek and beautiful (and not as silver bellied) and on two occasions saw an adult fish, I think Georgia's explanation that they were mother fish coming to see how the babies were doing is quite feasible.

Then one day when we visited, they were gone! We waited and waited but no sign of them. Georgia was very sad, shed a little tear which she brushed away with the back of her hand and plonked herself on the grass, all dejected, her little shoulders slumping the way they do when she's disappointed. I sat beside her and explained how babies grow up and become adults and go off to see the wonderful world, that fish were just the same. "Sometimes they come back?", she asked.

"Yes, sometimes they come back. These babies might come back next year when they are mothers and leave their babies here in a safe place, too."

Until then we visit our Mallet Place and wait.

A lovely place for children to play!


  1. Lovely story Ma! She's a funny kid. Post the All Blacks story!

  2. Just another wonderful post by my favourite blogger.

    Hmmmmmm, Mallets! Do we have to wait until next year and see if they return? Like the swallows of Capistrano? Don't think I have the patience to wait that long.


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