7pm and the sun is still hot on my back. I’m sitting on the causeway just down from the Thai Dicq Shack in Havre des Pas. The tide has been going out for an hour or two now, so it’s still at the foot of the causeway but retreating fast. Oyster catchers and herring gulls nip around the wake in quest of morsels left by the retreating waves. Crap Portuguese dance music blasts from the beachside pub and over the crowds of shirtless evening diners waiting at the outside tables. I’m waiting too for my spicy noodles. I’ve been playing in the rockpools while I wait.
Rockpools were one of the principal joys of my childhood. Every day the tide refills and empties them, and every day it deposits new life to be trapped in them alive until the moon brings the water back to rescue them. It hasn’t been stormy, so the likelihood is there’ll be nothing really weird trapped in them today. Sometimes you’d find a fish almost as big as the pool, just sitting there wondering how the heck that suddenly happened. Nothing so dramatic on a calmer day, but still, lift a rock and you’ll see a shower of guppies, or an angry crab. There’ll be winkles and hermit crabs and whelks. Occasional anemone and always the limpets. My dad taught me how to knock off limpets. You have to get things right first time. You’ll never do it if they’re expecting you. I didn’t knock any off today though, as the birds are on the hunt. It’ll never end well for the limpet if I mess with its survival mechanism.
My knees are soaked and I’ve got nothing to show for it, but it’s been fun. My parents never understood the appeal of finding strange living things just to look at them, but I guess that’s the result of growing up with an older brother like Max – the natural historian. It made everywhere that much more interesting, to consider the possibilities of the crickets shouting in the garden, to immediately wonder if the flying creature at dinner is somehow unusual, to wonder about the markings on the wasp your friend wants to hit with a shoe.
Last night at about this time I lost almost an hour watching a spider making a web. I recommend it to anybody. My interest in nature was normalised at such an early age that now it makes little sense to me when people aren’t fascinated by that sort of thing. How the hell does it stay on those strands in the wind? How can it pull that stuff out of its bum like that? I’m perfectly happy to lose an hour contemplating that sort of thing on a warm evening. I was sad to leave and take my table before the web was finished. I had so many questions. “Where is it going to hide itself?” “What if it catches something before it’s fully made?”
The summer is finally here it seems after all the false starts. Long may it last.