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Thursday, June 13, 2024
Laterally SpeakingPredictable Waves

Predictable Waves

I would say it’s been a pretty good one. Compared to previous summers when tempests raged and hail hammered on the garage roof, this summer of 2014 has been warmly received.  But don’t get carried away… it hasn’t exactly been record breaking—only the eighth hottest summer since 1910 according to official records. So, if you were to judge climate patterns the same way as exam results, I’d award this summer a sort of B Plus or a straight A. Certainly not an A Star which an ever increasing number of students seem to achieve nowadays.

Back in my schooldays (1960s), nobody had even heard of an A Star exam grade so I never got the chance to apply for one let alone try to get one. Very unfair! If I recall correctly, our A level results back then were mostly Bs and Cs with the occasional ‘D’ thrown in for poor measure. These were judged at that time to be perfectly OK as ‘A’ grades were only for swots. I do recall that Jenkins in the Upper Sixth once got an ‘A’ in something or other (possibly chemistry), but he was always a bit of a weirdo and was unpopular at school because his mother was GERMAN and therefore obviously must have been an enemy spy in the war. Children can be so cruel…

I suppose it’s inevitable, as the world gets cleverer (or exams get easier), that we now have to invent new levels of achievement. I wonder what we’ll do for next year’s exams since by then an A Star may have become so passé? Perhaps top A level students may be awarded an A with a smart little crown on top (Grade A Coronet with Fleur-de-Lys) or an A with a cherry on top (A Fairy Cup Cake Grade)? Anyway, I digress…

Weather patterns (like many other things) come in waves. England has always had a reputation for having changeable weather. As a country we can have fog in the morning, a hot lazy sunny afternoon followed by a tropical downpour in the evening and gale force winds at night. Don’t complain—at least this varied wave pattern keeps you on your toes. How thrilling… how surprising! Remember last month’s Bank Holiday weekend—waves of sunshine suddenly followed by a wave of unseasonal freezing rain for several days. How unexpected! How very English to have your weekend barbeque drenched so completely! I think we should be grateful to have such stimulating weather. Just compare all this excitement with California where you get virtually a 12 month endless wave of hot & dry sunshine. How tedious… how boringly predictable!

Apart from water from the skies or from the sea, something else arrived suddenly in waves last month (quite literally). Mackerel. It must have been three or more years since I last witnessed the extraordinary sight of whitebait throwing themselves in panic up and onto Chesil beach in large quantities when pursued by shoals of mackerel. You could have hoovered up bucket loads of the little fry as they lay flapping pitifully on the pebbles. And the mackerel were so crowded just five feet off shore that the sea took on a swirling dark blue-black colour. Normally, if I take my rod down to the beach, I can stand about pretending to fish for hours without the merest hint of a nibble. But this time there were so many fish, nobody could miss. My brother-in-law’s dog got so excited that he plunged into the waves, caught a mackerel and swallowed it. He even filleted it expertly beforehand with paws and jaws—remarkable animal behaviour although anything that involves food can turn labradors into crazed gobbling machines. So many mackerel… almost like it used to be in the olden days and so unexpected for the 21st century…
Just as the mackerel came swarming to our beaches, so too did waves of our summertime tourists. In fact, the two can be quite similar in their habits. Both are attracted to the sea shore (although admittedly arriving at it from different directions) where they cluster in groups to feed. In West Bay, Charmouth, Lyme Regis and Seaton this feeding frenzy mostly involves queuing for fish and chips. Mackerel do the same (though without the chips). And then—with breathtaking suddenness—the next morning they’re all gone. Where to? Nobody really knows… back to Whitehaven, Whitby or Whitstable while the fish drift back to France or Frimpton-on-sea. Or perhaps that’s the other way round?

How predictably unpredictable! The emptiness of the beaches left behind is quite startling! Come back everyone! Summer can’t be over yet. I’ve still got my shorts and sandals on.

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