Fourth Of July Cheer

This made me chuckle, hope none of my American friends are offended. We sit on the same family tree.

Families, eh?

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In our house, the 4th of July means only one thing: I watch my favourite film, Jaws, with my kids. I’ve been blogging a couple of years now, so I think this may have got a couple of mentions before.

It is Saturday morning here in England, and I was awoke by workmen mercilessly attacking the road outside with a pneumatic drill. Running up the white flag in my attempts to sleep, I came downstairs to get myself a drink, only to find that our kitchen ceiling has caved in.

Have a great weekend everyone.

We have had a water leak over the last few days, and though that has now been stopped, the bathroom, and now the kitchen, is a mess of brick and wood and pipes.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water-we’ve got no shower or bath.

But our current calamity won’t stop us watching Jaws. I will still be frightening the kids to get their feet up out of the water (the carpet) and going fishing with that bold trio of men Brody, Hooper and the doomed Quint. And all of the while, above that celebrated shark score, keeping an ear out for further things falling to the floor in the kitchen.

What we’ve got is a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.

Shark Bites. Eyes Water.

I have always felt an attraction for the coast, a pull towards the ocean. But I am aware of my limitations, and how actually being on or actually in the ocean reduces my ability to be in control. It is the untameable power of the ocean that makes me both nervous and conscious of my shortcomings, so I like to enjoy the ocean from the relative safety of the land.

What has created my from-a-distance love of the ocean? Is it purely a question of aesthetics, or something deeper? The Celtic meaning of my surname is ‘sea settlement’ or ‘settlement by the sea.’ Perhaps there is something there, genetically dormant, that occasionally surfaces like a memory without a reference point. Perhaps there is nothing in that whatsoever and I may as well be called Jones.

I have also long felt a fascination towards sharks. What is it that draws me (in a definite non-literal sense!) towards these creatures?

An anachronism more ancient than the dinosaurs, sharks, more than any other species on the planet, appear to be detached, remote, so emotionless that they are impossible to anthromorphise. Sharks really do seem to be something other. Unknowable and unreadable.

Speaking of being unreadable, an early influence for me must have been the film Jaws, even if it did portray sharks in an undeserved, negative light. From my first viewing of it in childhood, it remains my favourite film, which I tend to re-watch around the Fourth of July. Jaws time.

Despite it being my all-time favourite movie, for some reason I never got around to reading the novel that inspired the film. Maybe because I had seen the film so many times I didn’t think it would hold anything new for me. But then in a recent conversation I learned that the book was different to the movie (I’ve no idea why I never considered this before seeing as though I almost always prefer books to films) and so I decided that I would give it ago.

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I loved the book, and it was different, which helped me to read it as a stand alone novel without constantly comparing it to the film. Which wouldn’t be fair.

Although I do have to confess that I did picture the characters according to the actors who played them, and not according to Benchley’s descriptions of them.

In the novel Hooper (the likeable Richard Dreyfuss) has an affair with Chief Brody’s wife (the homely Lorraine Gary) who has a fantasy about being raped.

No. You don’t get that with Steven Spielberg.

One small pet hate was the way the author kept referring to the creature as the fish. Yes, technically it is a fish, of course, but that doesn’t sound anywhere as fearsome as SHARK! But on the whole the book was good, and the ending is very different from the ‘smile you son of a bitch’ film version.

Reading Jaws led to me buying the book that I am currently in the middle of:

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This is a great non-fiction book about these creatures and how their existence is imperilled by the gluttonous, greed-driven creature that is now at the apex of every food chain on the planet.

Yes, I’m talking about you. And me.

In considering how everything on earth is connected, in more ways than one, I have just read a passage about how an essential part of our anatomy originated in fish, and how people tend to be comfortable about being described as a primate or a mammal, but not so over the moon about being called a fish. Not even a cold fish, just a fish.

Neil Shubin, in his book Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into The 3.5-Billion-Year History Of The Human Body, talks of the evolutionary debt that we owe sharks, not only on genetic levels, but for things such as the bones of our inner ear and the lever system that we use to bite.

But there is one aspect that I am not particularly enamoured about. Shark gonads are nestled near the heart. In human males they are located in the scrotum to allow our sperm to remain at the right temperature. Creating a weak spot in the body wall, this trade off between our fish ancestry and mammal present accounts for men developing hernias.

But not only that, there were times, many times, believe me, when I used to play football, that I could have done with being a shark. And now that I’ve had a vasectomy, and have no need for regulated sperm control, is there any chance that I could put my gonads back where they have always belonged, please? Before my lad is old enough to take me for a kick about in the park.

Consider it on my bucket list: relocation of gonads.

Now, back to my shark book.

 

 

Fourth Of July-We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Blog

“You yell barracuda, and everyone says “Huh? What?” You yell shark we’ve got a panic on our hands on the fourth of July.”

The Fourth of July has always been the ideal day for me to watch my favourite film: Jaws. Although this time around I may have to do a little bit of juggling. It is World Cup quarter-final day after all.

I first saw the film when I was a child-I can’t remember just how young I was. The certificate was only a PG (on original release it was an A), which is surprising what with Quint being munched upon in glorious technicolour and all. Thirty seven years after its originaI  release it was upgraded to a 12A. I went to see it at the cinema-or the pictures, as we called it, this being long before the days of the multi-screen complexes. I went with my mum and my brother, he being eighteen months younger than me.

I think that age gap counted.

During the film, whenever he heard the music, you know the dum-dum, dum-dum, he would put his coat over his head. Writing dum-dum just doesn’t do John William’s score justice. Try watching it without the music. It is totally different. Totally tamer.

So, whenever he heard the music, which signified the shark’s approach and thus impending danger, he would hide beneath the safety of his coat. He would put it over his head until the sound of the screaming and threshing subsided, then he would emerge again much to my cruel amusement. This method served him well, until the scene where the head of Ben Gardner emerges from the hull of his battered boat without any dum-dum warning. From that point on he remained separated from the screen for the remainder of the movie. It was almost a comfort blanket.

Half-way through the film, the lady appeared down at the front, framed against  the screen, her small bulb above her tray signifying that she was selling drinks and ice-cream. Asked if he wanted an ice cream, his hand came up in a slow re-enactment of the buried Carrie, grasping the money. Next what followed was the comical sight of him walking down to the front of the cinema, head tilted at an angle so that he would not have to look at the screen. Then, clutching his cone, his careful manouvering of the steps in the dark gave way to a frantic run as that music suddenly started up again. Once more he slipped beneath the surface, eating his ice-cream in his shark-resistant parka.

It’s funny how Jaws has remained my favourite film. Perhaps there is something about us being impressionable at a young age. Some of my favourite things have come with me over the decades:

Favourite films: Jaws, Star Wars

Favourite actor: Richard Dreyfuss

Favourite group: The Beatles

Favourite book: To Kill A Mockingbird

No doubt there are others too-I will have to give it some thought. I fear I am starting to get a little self-indulgent again.

When talking of favourite films, I have often had the surprised reaction : “Jaws?!” But its not just the rubber fish eating people-its the study of the relationship between the three men who go out to catch it. The humour and the friction, the drunken scar one-upmanship, and who can forget that chilling  USS Indianapolis scene?

I stayed once at a hotel in the Orkney town of Stromness, where I was thrilled to discover that Robert Shaw had once stayed there. Also, George Mackey Brown used to drink in the bar. I could imagine the hard-drinking actor sharing a whisky or three in there with the writer, holed up from the Scottish storms.

Quint and the poet, both shaped by the sea.

So, today is the perfect summer day (in theory, if not weather) to watch Jaws.

To my friends over the pond, I hope you all have a great Fourth of July.

But remember-stay out of the water.