Warning – This is a very lengthy article
‘A tribute to a late good friend’
I first started ‘dabbling’ with Koi in 1972 when there were very few Koi keepers around and I opened the first ‘Koi Only’ premises outside of Japan in 1982. Soon, later that year, we were selling our Koi and dry goods to both dealers and enthusiasts all over the UK.
Two particular regular visitors were the Douglas Brothers who owned a garden centre near to Gateshead and ‘Stan Senior’ and ‘Stan Junior’ seriously started to build up a professional Koi business to their garden centre as an added attraction.
Soon afterwards they brought down one of their customers with them who was looking for a much higher grade of Koi and we supplied him accordingly.
This man always asked question after question after question and, in 1983, built the first real Koi pond I had ever seen in the UK – concrete block waterproofed by glass fibre and ample bottom drains – it was superb and were invited to go and see it once fully completed.
This man was one of the very first true ‘Koi Kichi’ persons I had ever met and his search for advice and information was insatiable.
HIS NAME WAS ALAN LEVINGTON WHO UNFORTUNATELY PASSED AWAY IN 2007.
Back in the early 1980’s Alan owned a very successful chain of fish and chip shops in the surrounding areas and he and his wife Jean were also building up and caring for their young family.
Alan also had a wicked sense of humour but the subject we were discussing always seemed to return to Koi.
After the late 1980’s I lost touch with Alan presuming he had taken up another interest but in the mid – 1990’s he rang me again to say he had sold his house and businesses and moved near to Middlesborough to a country house which had more than enough land to design and build several top class fishing lakes.
I asked Alan what he knew about fishing lakes and he replied by saying he had recently taken many intense week-long lectures on the subject and also had all the diplomas to prove it – when Alan did something he did it properly!
I asked him as to the water-retaining properties on the land and he said that it would be perfect for holding large areas of water. He then mentioned that, after the lakes were built he would allow no fish stocks to be added until they had ‘matured’ for three full years. I mentioned to Alan that I had no idea of wild fish and fisheries management but wished him the very best of luck in his new venture. I cannot exactly remember all the varieties of fish he would be stocking but Chub; Roach; Perch; Carp and Dace were definitely included.
We once again lost touch for several years until the early 2000’s when he casually strolled into Infiltration and came over to shake my hand. He then told me that he had designed and excavated his fishing ponds to perfection an had no end of anglers making advance bookings to fish his lakes and had made very strict rules as to litter on the banks and, I beleve, only using barbless hooks to fish with.
He then told me that someone had offered him a substantial amount of money to purchase the fishing lakes and the land from him and that CEFAS or DEFRA had analysed his lake water and found it to be as near perfect as possible for the fish and plant life.
He then dropped another bombshell by saying that he was alteady building an indoor Koi retail outlet! He also asked me to come up with a new name for the outlet. He then told me that he had never lost his passion for Nishikigoi, he then walked into our shop and studied our stocks very closely – then the questions followed:-
What variety is that then?
Is that a damage or just the pattern?
Who is the breeder of the Koi in this pond?
How old are these Koi?
If I buy Koi from you today can you keep them in a separate pond until my new ponds are ready and then deliver them to me?
I told him we could hold the Koi for him until his ponds were ready and then Alan started selecting. He must have bought half of my stocks that day, and insisted I photograph and list all the breeders of the Koi he had purchased.
I then explained to Alan that our new stocks from the autumn harvest would soon arrive and that I would give him a firm date as soon as I knew and he would then return to purchase more. Alan then asked me again to come up with a unique name for his Koi business.
From that day onwards, Alan and I would have daily one-hour telephone conversations covering just about every Koi subject imaginable.
In 2004 Alan came with me to Japan for the first time and enjoyed his visit to the full, he also asked many more questions to myself and the breeders. Fortunately Alan just missed the earthquake by one day!
As to Alan’s expertise in treating and repairing damaged Nishikigoi, he was one of the best in the business and gained a very high reputation throughout the North East for his talents and successes.
After a few weeks of sleepless nights I came up with the name ‘WATER COLOURS – completely Koi’ which Alan liked very much and so the company was launched.
About a month before Alan passed away he told me that he had been working hard on a Koi book which showed some of the more technical aspects of keeping both Koi and water aimed specifically at Koi keepers at all stages of the hobby and asked me if I would go through all the text and give my opinions as to format and contents. I told him it would be an honour so he emailed the entire book to me and said I could do with it as I wished.
I apologise for the lack of photographs and sketches but these were not included in the original email – please use your own imagination.
Days followed where we discussed the book in great detail and I pointed out one or two errors made about the Japanese breeders which Alan amended accordingly.
Also, we did not get around to giving a title for the book and I simply refer to it as ‘ALAN’S BOOK’. I also apologise for the length of the book which is very detailed, for those of you who find the book helpful I suggest you print it off page by page to insert into a large folder which you can then refer to chapter by chapter.
Whilst there are some areas in the book I do not entirely agree with (many avid Koi keepers agree to disagree – and Alan and I had many disagreements!) I am sure that the valuable information will be MOST helpful for many Koi keepers all over the world.
Below is the entire book as written by Alan himself – I have made no changes whatsoever but I strongly believe that the book could help answer some questions that may be puzzles to many serious Koi keepers.
More than this, I strongly believe that this book should be available to Koi keepers all around the world.
Here’s to the memory of a wonderful man and a superb and a VERY talented Koi keeper!
PETER WADDINGTON, July 2008.