BRACE yourselves for some devastating news: James Pond, Bubble-0-7, is missing presumed dead.

As explained in my last column, James was one of the nine goldfish in our new garden pond and he was given his star-studded name after an appeal on Facebook. But, a fortnight down the line, all the evidence points to him having been silently eliminated by a mysterious enemy. Taken, not heard.

There’s been no sign of him for more than a week so there’s no chance that he might be hiding behind a rock or a plant. No, he’s definitely been fishnapped.

An investigation has been launched but, at this stage, we don’t know the identity of the villain who was licensed to kill. The Goldfinger of suspicion is pointing at a whopping great heron who’s been caught red-handed, taking much bigger fish from a pond round the corner.

That said, it might also be the brazen ginger cat who keeps sneaking into our garden, killing birds, and dumping their sad little bodies on the grass. And we’ve also considered the possibility that it might be the big fat rat, spotted scurrying backwards and forwards from the foliage behind the pond. We’ve never seen a rat in the garden before, but measures have been taken to ensure he won’t be around for long.

Whoever is responsible for this truly heinous crime, the bottom line is that we only have eight fish left. We’ve counted them at feeding time, when they behave like ravenous little sharks, and there can be no hiding from the truth. James Pond – the brightest orange of them all – has gone to 0-0-heaven.

We have to console ourselves in the knowledge that it is simply the way of the wild and while God takes with one hand, he gives with the other. In the same week that James Pond vanished, a little frog appeared, peeping out from behind the water lilies before taking the plunge under the waterfall with his new friends, the eight remaining fish. It has to be said, they all appear to be getting along swimmingly.

He needed a good name so, naturally, I made another appeal on Facebook and the response was just as enthusiastic. Hop-rah Winfrey had its merits and I was tempted by Tom Scaly, in recognition of his impeccable diving technique.

In the end, however, a James Bond theme again rose to the surface. Jenny Peat, of Boldron, is to be commended for weighing in with Spawn Connery. But Saul Kennedy, of Newton Aycliffe – the man responsible for naming the ill-fated James Pond – again took the naming rights with “Froger Moore”.

So soon after his passing, it seems an appropriate tribute to the suave actor regarded as one of the greatest James Bonds. Take a bow, Mr Kennedy. You are indeed The Man With The Golden Pun.

The things they say

ISN’T it funny how things stick from when kids are small?

Antonia Brindle, of Whitley Bay, got in touch to say that whenever pets die, her six-year-old nephew Toby would always say: “They’ve gone to Kevin.”

“It’s now become a family saying,” said Antonia.

MEANWHILE, Steve Rose, of Darlington, called to tell me about his colleague, James, who’s three-year-old son, Sam, was very upset about an earthquake in Pakistan. When his mum and dad wanted to get rid of his cot and dummies, they told Sam they were being sent to help the people in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, Sam saw the cot being carried up to the loft. Ever since, he’s been convinced that the way to get to Pakistan is through the loft.

FINALLY, thank you to Keith Cummings, of Newton Aycliffe, who recalled the time he was on a drive with his grandson. The little boy was misbehaving so Keith used the age-old threat: “Are you going to be good, or do I turn round and take you back to your mother?”

There was silence so Keith demanded an answer: “You’d better tell me whether you’re going to be good or if we’re going back!”

There was a pause before the reply finally came: “Grandad, I’m thinking about it.”