Sunday, 11 December 2016

Creatures of the Deep (and apologies for going a little off topic)

17:15:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , No comments
When I was a child there was a programme on TV called The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. Initially, I remember watching it, as much for Cousteau's sexy French accent as for anything to do with the undersea world, but as time went on I became fascinated by the creatures who led these secret slow motion lives, hiding, stalking and preying on each other in this strange, silent, watery world.

In fact I became so fascinated that I wonder if watching Jacques and his adventures was the catalyst for the fear of water I began to develop at about that time.

It started with the Brownie Swimming Gala, an annual event and one that I'd somehow managed to avoid in previous years, probably due to the fact that I was smaller than all the other Brownies and able to duck down and hide when volunteers were called for. It wasn't that I was actually afraid of water, more that I was afraid of the effects of that water if it went up my nose.  The last time I'd gone underwater without holding my nose (in fact, the last time in my life I EVER did this) I'd felt as though my head was going to explode. I'm sure it was something to do with my sinuses but the pain was so intense I was nearly physically sick when I dragged myself up out of the water. 

So, volunteering for the Brownie Swimming Gala was not on my list of 'must do' activities. What I hadn't reckoned on was Brown Owl's persistence. Was there a badge for this, I wonder? For each excuse I managed to muster Brown Owl had the answer, until eventually I was so worn down that I heard myself agreeing to take part. I went home, told my mum and dad, who did that typical parent thing of trying to persuade me that not only would it be OK but it would be a great opportunity - and then, when I continued to moan, 'whether you want to do it or not, you're committed now, so you're doing it.'  I cried for a week, then, reluctantly packed up my swimsuit and hat and headed to the Gala. 

My race was announced, I lined up with my fellow swimmers, the whistle was blown and either side of me bodies leaned forward, stretched out their arms and dived into the pool.  I held my nose, walked to the edge and jumped in. When I surfaced the divers were crawling energetically through the water - and practically at the finish line.  As the only stroke I had mastered (and I use the word loosely) was breast stroke, I set off, head down, in somewhat of a panic.  Through my skin tight swimming cap I registered the clapping and cheering as the first swimmer touched the edge.  Determinedly I ploughed on as, one by one, the other swimmers swung themselves out of the pool, to the sound of applause, and stood waiting by the side. Those final few minutes were the longest of my life. Like the loser I was I finally reached the edge and scrambled out.  There were a few sympathetic staccato claps. My shame and embarrassment knew no bounds.

This was the first of many mishaps with water: mishaps that included being violently seasick in charge of a bicycle on a rocking ferry in the middle of the Aegian Sea; being similarly ill in a tiny shared cabin between Hull and Zeebrugge; and worst of all, the near drowning of a friend of my son's as the Blackpool sea crept around the back of the four year olds and left them literally high and dry on an ever diminishing island on the beach.  By the time I realised what was happening they were too far away to hear me shouting and I ran, as if in a nightmare towards the deepening water.  Eventually, they turn round, realised the danger and, panicking, waded their way back, up to their necks in swirling sea.  As we had only recently moved to the area and hardly knew Dan's friend or his family I was desperate to play the event down.  I rushed the boys back to our house and changed them both into dry clothes, laughing with false jollity at what had occurred.  On the way to return the friend to his mother I continued to minimise the danger they had been in.  The boys trailed behind me in an assortment of mismatching clothes, and just as we reached the gate Dan piped up in a loud voice, "Are you going to tell Craig's mummy he nearly drowned?"

I'm pleased to report that nearly thirty years later the two little boys and their friendship had survived so well that the story was mentioned at both their weddings - where they were each Best Man for the other.  For once a happy ending to a deep water tale...

I think I might have had a similar expression as I swam my heart out in the Brownie Gala

I'm more than happy to stare at the sea, and even tiptoe along the water's edge - just don't expect me to venture in any further. 

Sea Fever
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John Masefield (from Salt-Water Ballads, 1902)
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I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down go to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.


Thanks for reading,   Jill
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