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.
Lots of love, Dad xxx