Five Point Update

First day of the kids being off school for a week.

We went to the library, where a woman breastfeeding was too much for my giggling five-year old son. He was whispering to his sister (not very quietly) “Millie!” while pointing at the woman, then having fits behind a bookcase.

I began writing a new poem called ‘Corvid’. Crows, woods, roadkill.

I started reading Capote’s In Cold Blood. The only novel of his left for me to read.

I watched a programme about sharks off the Cuban coast. Encountered one I’d never heard of before: the Silky shark.

Not a bad day at all.

And going to a concert tomorrow. More on that later.

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I Love Lucy

I love this photograph, taken by Dmitry Vasyanovich, of an encounter with Lucy, at Guadalupe, Mexico.

I will show this to my fifteen-year-old daughter, Courtney, for a bit of perspective. She won’t go in a room if there is a spider in it.

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I hope the diver learns to be more careful, though, or the next time he goes down he will be able to wear fingerless gloves. Or a sleeveless suit.

You Go In The Cage . . .

This is a video of a Great White shark attacking a cage, which I showed to my family. Of course my youngest kids loved it, while my fourteen year old daughter, Courtney, said that she would have reached out and touched it. This from the girl who screams when a fly lands on her arm.

After letting my wife view it, I suggested that we could both do this sometime in the future, maybe as an anniversary treat to ourselves. I think my timing was off.

Watch it with the sound on to listen to the screams of the people inside the cage.

Don’t put your hands outside of the bars.

Say Cheese

Dave Riggs was making a nature documentary off South Australia. Another crew member was crouched at water level, taking a photo at the back of the boat, when this 15 foot long Great White shark broke the surface.

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Despite the terrifying sight of those pointed teeth, the shark wasn’t attacking. She had just come up to have a nosey at what was going on. Just your everyday, female, net curtain-twitcher.

Rigg described these sharks as a last living relic of a bygone era, in effect the last dinosaurs, that need to be protected and preserved.

Although she looks aggressive here, Rigg points out:

“It’s like any top-of-the-line, apex predator, you grab a cat by the tail and give it a pull and see what happens…all animals are aggressive in their own way, and great whites just happen to have very sharp pointy teeth.”

Yes. We noticed.

I’ll stick with the cats. Or better still: kittens.

12.20am Snippet

As I clambered into bed, my half-asleep wife asked “What time is it?”

“It’s late, gone midnight.”

“What have you been doing?”

“I’ve been on the internet with Louise.”

“Louise?…who’s Louise?!”

“Louise from Africa.”

(Suddenly wide awake) “You’ve been up ’til gone midnight talking to a woman called Louise from Africa?!”

“Well, when I say from Africa, I mean from the coast of Africa. And she’s not a woman, she’s a shark.”

“A….shark?”

“Yeah-it’s that cool new site I’ve discovered where you can track sharks. Louise is a young Great White that has been hugging the coast of South Africa for months now. I’ve been following her route.”

“I really don’t think there is any hope for us.”

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.