The relationship between humanity and the ocean which surrounds us has always fascinated me. As a little girl I was afraid of the sea – stood at the edge of the beach, the precipice between the safety of the golden sands and the comparative danger of the dark, swirling waters. They weren’t of course, dark and swirling, but green and bathed in sunlight and cool and calm and alive with seaweed and tiny fish. I wasn’t to know that then though, to me the sea was a monster rolling up the beach towards me. I would squeal as I ran away from it, desperate that not even the tiniest drop of water should touch my toes. It was only as I grew older and began to appreciate the sea for what it really was – a blissful escape from anything and everything – that I started to learn about it, to understand it, to love it. I love the sea.
Although some people may rarely give it a second thought, the various stretches of water that surround this little island, this ‘United Kingdom’, are essential to us. We need them. For imports, exports, food, power supplies, employment, entertainment and enjoyment. Generations of families have worked as fishermen in their communities and rely on the sea for their source of income – often risking their lives on treacherous seas to bring in a decent catch. I only really realised the dangerous that these trawlermen were facing after watching the BBC2 documentary series ‘Trawlermen’ which first aired in 2006 and highlighted the difficulties of such a job such as working in gale force conditions, getting perhaps only two hours sleep in twenty-four, having to make snap decisions about whether to leave behind thousands of pounds worth if nets if they had become caught on the sea bed and the possibility of getting caught in machinery or falling overboard and being lost at sea. The tag line for the programme was always, “these men have one of the most dangerous jobs in Britain” – and I really believe that they do.
It is from these fleets of faithful fishermen that our nation developed a key part of British culture – fish and chips, the ‘British’ take away food. Nothing can compare to a portion of fresh from the sea fish with chip shop chips, everyone knows that. But there lies a problem – we are getting increasingly low on fish stocks, cod in particular. It appears that the balancing act of supply and demand has faltered – falling down heavily on the side of the demand. It is obviously a struggle to try to accommodate the needs of the fishing industry who need to take home a wage for their catch whilst attempting to employ and new ‘sustainable fishing’ plan and I can only hope that the people with the power know what they’re doing and will come up with a viable solution to the problem.
If you were to ask someone who the most well-known British watersports athletes were they would probably say Rebecca Adlington (the Olympic gold medallist) or Tom Daley (the diver). I would say Ellen McArthur – the sailor with so many achievements and awards to her name that you’ll just have to have a good read through her biography to find out about them. I read her first autobiography “Ellen McArthur: Taking On The World” – appalled at the difficulties she faced in her attempts to sail single-handedly round the world but with admiration for her perseverance to do the thing she loved – sailing. But it wasn’t only sailing she loved, it was the ocean. She has the respect for the sea that so many people don’t have – the people who dump their litter in it because they think it’s an open sewer, or the people who are careless and spill oil all over the Gulf of Mexico (although I know that the spill wasn’t intentional – BP have hugely impacted the lives of the people and wildlife in the surrounding areas very much for the worse), or the North Sea for that matter.
The other types of people who don’t respect the sea are the people who think they can beat it – the people who do stupid things like trying to cross the Atlantic in a dinghy and then need to be rescued by the Lifeboat. The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) volunteers have to be some of the bravest, most selfless men and women on the planet. They are our fourth emergency service and yet they have to rely on charitable donations to stay afloat in both senses of the word. Absolute Madness, especially when the crew aren’t even paid (apart from the mechanic) – hence being volunteers. Without the RNLI many British seaside holidays would have ended in tears and serious injuries, possibly even death.
I’ve just started a book called ‘Waterlog’ by Roger Deakin documenting “A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain”. I’ve only read the first chapter but already I feel completely in tune with what the author is trying to say. Two lines in particular jumped out at me: “When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking-glass surface and enter a new world, in which survival, not ambition or desire, is the dominant aim”. The line that follows fits perfectly with my thoughts above about respect the sea and not trying to beat it; “The lifeguards at the pool or the beach remind you of the thin line between waving and drowning”. I think that last line sums up my feelings about the sea – yes, it is beautiful and essential and we should respect it – but it is also dangerous and shouldn’t be messed with.
Penultimately, the outfit I’m wearing is a real mix up of items. The top was from Cow Vintage, the shorts from Warehouse (which also appear here) and the scarf I’m wearing as a belt was charity shopped and can also be seen in my second ever blog post. The black sandals are Clarks (again see them here), the beret brought back as a present from France and the bag, from a craft stall somewhere many years ago has been languishing in my wardrobe for quite some time until I finally realised that it was a) made in a rather lovely mix of sea colours and b) rather practically being a cross-body bag and all.
I’ll leave you with a link to Jill’s lovely post ‘Swimming in the rain’ and a collaboration of comments that I’ve left on her swimming themed posts of the past couple of weeks:
“I’ve been swimming all week too and I love to swim in the rain – it is possibly the only time when rain doesn’t ‘dampen’ an activity, but enhance one’s enjoyment of it! Also, hardly anyone else wants to swim when it rains so quite often I feel like I have the Atlantic Ocean all to myself. I think that swimming is the ultimate freedom – I feel so privileged that I can swim, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t”.