I’m sure we are all inspired by different people at different stages in our life. As a geeky teenager, I thought Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus were where it was at as I trotted off to study French at university. I read everything I could get my hands on, in French of course. Can I speak French now? Of course not. As a young marine biologist I thought Sylvia Earle was just wonderful, and parts of me still do. But her image became tarnished when I heard her speak at a conference. She was “Me, me me!”, ran over her time by half an hour or more and then handed over to her photographer for another hour. Bad chairmanship of course, but I don’t think inspirational figures should really let on that they think they’re wonderful as well. It should be a one-sided affair.
Somewhere between Sartre and Earle, I met Monsieur Edwards, or maybe Edwardes – I don’t know the spelling and can’t remember his first name. We were staying in Sombra, a cottage near Port Antonio, on the north coast of Jamaica. It was an idyllic spot with its own little beach, Continue reading →
I’m sure we all have friends hovering on the periphery of our consciousness. Friends who have been important in a particular stage of our life but with whom we may have lost touch. Even so, we think about them often and know that if we were to meet up, we would pick up just where we left off all those years ago. Julia was one of those friends. We were at University together in Durham, mainstays of the diving club. Every weekend we all piled into the university minibus and headed off up the old A1 to St Abbs where we dived off the shore, either at Petticowick or outside the Harbour. Petticowick was a slog; a steep, grassy slope down with the gear and, of course, back up at the end of the dive.
My first dive in Britain was at Petticowick, after learning to dive during a gap year in Jamaica. I vividly remember my introduction to the cold, greenish murk of a November kelp forest, shivering in a too big borrowed wetsuit with a piece of orange canvas that purported to be a life jacket around my neck. “Wasn’t that wonderful!” proclaimed my buddy, Tim, later of Eden Project fame, as we staggered out of the water. “Drifting down through the kelp, in that beautiful clear water!” He clearly hadn’t been on the same dive as me. Still, I perservered and learned to like, if not love, kelp forests. The following year Julia and Chas arrived in Durham and joined me in the diving club while I switched subjects and joined them in Zoology lectures. We became firm friends within a wider group Continue reading →
If it’s not raining in Shetland, it’s “not a bad day”. If you can see across the voe “it’s clearing up nicely”. Perhaps, then, it’s not too surprising that the lead article on the front of the Shetland Times when I was there recently was marvelling at the heat wave, with July temperatures reaching 20.8º C. Yes, that’s right – a meltingly hot 20.8º C. I can vouch for these scorching conditions as I went for a walk across the Muckle Roe moors in shorts and t-shirt without so much as a waterproof in my bag. We made the most of the lovely conditions for our first few days of rocky shore surveys in Sullom Voe; if you have to be out on the shore at 5 am to catch low water, good weather certainly helps. Still, weather can be so fickle and normal service resumed later in the week. The wind veered back to the north west, the temperature plummeted to a more seasonal 12- 15º C, and “it wasn’t a bad day, clearing up nicely”.
But all good things have a downside, do they not? Warm, calm weather in Shetland is midge nirvana. The irritating midges on our holiday in Co Donegal the previous week were novice apprentices Continue reading →