Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Isla the mermaid......

No blogs for five months, then two in three days. I'm on fire (not literally, although if I was and had the kind of cool, British phlegm to let the emergency services know via my blog, then that probably indicates that I'm made of the right stuff).

Anyway, speaking of the right stuff, I wrote this blog a year ago in a moment of hormonally deranged pride on the arrival of my new wee lass. It was originally for a magazine column but never saw the light of day as the mag went into administration (they still owe me £450 I hasten to add). So here it is - still makes me smile.


Well, hello Isla Grace,

Like most of us after a good long dive, when you finally had to surface I must say you looked fairly annoyed it was all over. Having had nine months suspended in a liquid world, muffled and weightless, to finally emerge to a place of bright lights and bustling figures must have been quite a shock.

But a long dive requires a long ascent and you made several stops on the way, all of which proved somewhat emotional for your mum. But emerge you finally did, and were instantly the most fabulous and beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The fact that you actually looked quite a lot like a furious, ginger Winston Churchill seems to have passed me by. You were perfect in every way, a veritable supermodel, albeit a rather petulant one who howled in outrage at the indignity of it all.

But you’re a good strong Cornish lass, and you soon got over it. The county of your birth has a boundary that is 80% coastline, so you entered this world surrounded by the sea and that’s the way I hope you’ll live your life.

So, where to begin? You are born an islander, with the blood of ocean voyagers in your veins. Your ancient ancestors almost certainly arrived with the crunch of a bow on a shingle beach, and the vast majority of your people appeared from beneath the horizon sailing on fickle currents under a temperate breeze. Your nation is a lump of rock moored at the eastern edge of a vast ocean, and at the western edge of a continent. Your relationship with the sea is already as strong as anyone in Europe, it’s in your blood. The whisper of the waves is the backing track of your life. It’s your heritage and your identity.

And so I can’t wait to wrap you up warm and carry you down the steep cliff path that leads from my door. I can’t wait to show you the sea, to watch you take that first deep breath of ozone, and to listen with you to the percussive explosions of breakers exploding on the rocks of the Lizard Peninsula beneath our feet.

You’ll grow up with sand between your toes, and I’ll watch over you as you venture further and further from shore. I’ll show you your first crab in a rockpool, like some armoured monster from another world and better than any Hollywood movie. Your first fish I’m sure will be a real event, one that will make you run shrieking through the shallows as it explodes like quicksilver before you. You’ll never have seen anything move so fast, they leave vapour trails of bubbles. We’ll take our first breath together underwater, and I’ll hold your hand as your eyes widen at the wonder of it all. And then Isla Grace, when you return to your liquid world, that’s when the fun will really start.

We’ll explore shipwrecks, heeling time-capsules emerging from the fog of the sea floor. We’ll hover together off the isolated volcanic rock of Roca Partida, five kilometres of water beneath our fin tips, and watch manta rays pirouette up from the deep blue to meet us. They are the size of vast, black dragons, two hundred times your weight, and yet they’ll sweep so close to you that all you will feel is a soft sirocco of water as they pass. They’re so gentle that you’ll never want them to leave. We’ll slip off the back of a boat in Tonga and scull towards humpbacks as they sing a melody so powerful you’ll feel it in your marrow. It’s a tune that has echo’d along thermoclines since long before our time, with lyrics we still don’t understand. Then we’ll hang in a cage in the Killing Zone beside the bedlam of Dyer Island, and watch the most impressive animal on planet earth materialize out of the gloom before us with a half smile of predatory intent.

By the time you’re a fully-fledged, adult diver, I wonder where technology would have taken you? You’ll look back on us now with our twin cylinders and boxy rebreathers and you’ll laugh. But I suspect you’ll also be a bit jealous, because we are still savouring the great adventure of a sport that is still so young, one that even today requires a whiff of the pioneering spirit. When you’re my (considerable) age, I suspect going for a dive will be like a walk in the park – all silent computers and oxygen rich gels.  

You’ll grow up in an uncertain world, with the oceans broken and beaten by those that have gone before. But for all the pessimism there is also real hope, and signs that with the right people and a little bit of precious time, perhaps your generation can halt the damage that’s been done by mine.

I’ll travel with you for the rest of my life, tracing the blue curve of the earth, and together we’ll follow the shadows in the sea.

Can’t wait.

Lots of love, Dad xxx

Friday, 4 January 2013

I'm back!

It appears to be five months since I last did a blog. This is ridiculous, akin to some weird flexing of normal time that means a week or so suddenly extends from July to January. So sorry to anyone who happened to be following the blogs - it's been a busy old few months I must say. We've moved house, Isla has quadrupled in size, the business has boomed in what can only be described as an alarming manner, we've acquired three ducks, and I've had a new tv series commissioned. In fact, it's just dawned on me that the reason I haven't had time to write a blog is that we've moved house, Isla has quadrupled in size, the business etc etc - all great bloggery material ironically. I shall do my best to summarise....

First off - and randomly - the Olympics. Slightly late to point this out I know, but blimey they were good. I laughed, I wept, I leapt off the sofa and punched the air, I even thought One Direction were quite good in the opening ceremony. By the time the paralympics had finished I was a husk of a man, emotionally wrung out but needing soaring highs and lows just to get me through an evening. Thankfully I was saved by The Great British Bake Off (Brendan, you were robbed), which provided the type of mainlining, amphetamine style range of sensations I now required.

Anyway - the new house. Lovely old barn conversion with - slightly dauntingly - a bit of land attached neatly divided into paddocks and pens. It's daunting because although I have a mental image of myself hauling up turnips the size of basketballs, of course you have to do a fair amount of work to make that sort of thing a reality. I've been saved by the rain, which turned it all into the sort of quagmire seen only      at Ypres. No point in planting anything of course, but come the Spring I shall be a man possessed. As it's been such fine weather for ducks, we've now acquired three - Baron Greenback, Betty, and Long Distance Clara. They're Indian Runner ducks, and are greater natural comics than even Ed Miliband, although they do have a similar permanently baffled expression. Here's a piccie of the land and the ducks....

You may notice that I have a person on my back. That's Isla, two stone of sleek muscle and extensive flatulence. There are low pressure systems over Fastnet that generate less wind than my daughter. I am - of course - completely besotted with her, and much of this stems from the fact that although she's only one, she's as strong as an ox. She chinned another baby in the ball pool at Ikea the other day, and outside of no rules Mixed Martial Arts cage fighting, I've seldom seen a punch like it. The other parent glanced round at me to see me beaming in pride, before delivering a telling off to Isla that at best could be described as half hearted. Getting her into her cot nowadays is approaching a fair fight all round, a situation that I imagine will only get worse over time. She's a legend, and although not quite walking yet has learned to hang onto Reubs with pudgy fists of steel, and basically goes wherever he does. Here's a piccie....

The business has boomed. Nothing to do with me I hasten to add - I've been very lucky to employ Rach, Alana, and Sophie who essentially have entirely taken charge and run it with military precision. I roll up in the morning - well, some mornings, I'm on the road so much nowadays it's ridiculous - and am sat in a deck chair like some addled pensioner and told what's happening that day. It's great. Removing me from the administrative process means that we've had a great year, and the girls continue to come up with al sorts of bright ideas. I am essentially a walking cash point and boat driver. Lots and lots to come this summer, but I'll be telling you about that in my regular and pithy blog. Here's us all at Christmas dinner........

And finally (for now) the new series. It's a set of projects this year to seek out the mysteries in the oceans around the world - top banana. Much of the diving is technical stuff, and I always had a slight feeling that my bum isn't quite hairy enough for this sort of thing. I've been training hard though (not on the bum hair bit, turns out this is just one of those things you can't change and mine remains resolutely peachy), and am thoroughly enjoying the challenge. More to come on this, but here's a shot of me trying not to look baffled in some fairly Gucci diving gear.
 Oh, and we went diving in South Africa too.....brilliant and very sharky.....

Right, that's it for now. MUCH more to come. Hope you had a wonderful New Year, and here's to a fat, dumb, happy, blog filled 2013.

All the best, Monty