It was three years ago, give or take a day or two, that I went down to St Abbs for the day to meet Jane and go diving. It was a beautiful day but it didn’t quite go to plan as you’ll realise if you read this. Little did I know that day that it was the start of a rather grim couple of years. A broken ankle was followed rather too swiftly for my liking by that cancer diagnosis and all that that entailed. It all seems slightly unreal now and it is with only a small amount of trepidation that I’m off to St Abbs again tomorrow to meet Jane, over for her annual visit. I’ve dusted down the diving gear and found a tank with some air in it. I suspect that this time there’ll be plenty of helping hands to steady my return to the boat. I’m looking forward to a lovely sunny day with puffins and guillemots and wolf fish and sea anemones.
And let’s hope that this really does mark the end of all that nasty stuff.
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 →