Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Surface tension is fascinating. Everybody remembers rolling up their grey school trousers and dipping their toes into a muddy stream when they were a kid, messing about with a net collecting insects in jam jars and trying push the freckly kid from down the road into the mud. For hours I used to watch the river boatmen and other crazy creatures zip across the pond as another summer leapt into action and the tradition continued of little boys collecting as much frogspawn as possible to put down the back of Simon Streeter's vest. From thereon in, playing around with water was always going to be an obsession and given the opportunity, Lego men were taped to papier mache hovercrafts, boats, submarines, bath toys and other weird and wonderful contraptions. Damming the local stream with big sticks was always a popular activity of Huck Finn style adventures. As ring leader of the naughty bunch of Beavers - yes Beavers (little Scouts), I would often protest a good telling off by the estate owner whose land we fucked about on with our excuse of just 'Beaver-ing' about but might have lost our 'woggle' in the process. Having learnt to swim pretty early on outside of school, swimming lessons were often spent on the bottom of the pool with a rubber brick and a soggy plaster looking up at the silhouettes of older girls in their swimming suits thrashing around at the surface. I was the kid who volunteered to pull back the pool cover and stay in the pool as long as possible messing about with really wrinkly fingers in the deep end whilst the others got themselves tangled up in putting their pants on.
Summer holidays were either spent down at the local outside pool with games that involved as many kids as possible chaining floats together, the occasional birthday water flume trip or at the beach hurling stones at seagulls. French camping holidays extended dam building skills to extensive raft building operations and in between splashing about in rock pools with Jellies on and filling the dingy up with as many foreign creatures as possible there was still time to explore the seabed with the local French kids and go on adventures of a Gerald Durrell ilk. Many jam sandwiches later I pinched the old Uncle's perished 1970's James Bond stylie mask and was off exploring sea grasses with a homemade spear, hunting for all things familiar that I'd seen on the seafood platters of typical French beach restaurants. The warm waters of the Med at night were equally interesting, calm and flat with only a handful of tourists leaving the squeeky silicone sand and water to reflect the bay's lights and the night sky.
In my teen years, a child's curiosity turned to more of expression in art/ design than ecology as I sat at the back of the biology lab next to Doc P's tank of fresh water Mexican Axolotls. Between the brown and grey shades of physics there were also some creatively colourful moments when studying waves both in light, sound and matter. I snuck in to the technicians lab one day and snapped these cool wave formations balancing above a 100 year old 'wave machine'. Art kinda collided with science after that. I spent the next few years hanging around scrap yards bending metal, pouring oil into water tanks, painting drift wood and taking photos of barnicles on boats at the marina. I also got my hands on a couple of dispossible cameras and cracked out some murky shots of a girlfriend jumping into the deep end of the school pool with various organic things floating on the surface. A trip to the Caribbean soon followed and I got my first taste of scuba diving and snorkelling in super high viz tropical water.