I went for a swim today. As in, I went with the intention of having a swim. Got to the beach, dumped my gear, strolled down to the water – to be greeted by clumps of basking bluebottles waving their tentacles at their mates still frolicking in the waves.
I don’t worry about sharks. I know they’re out there – but they’re out there, far closer to the fearless board riders dangling tasty arms and legs in the water as they wait for the perfect wave, than they are to humble body-surfers like me. And you’re far more likely to come to grief crossing the road…etc.
Bluebottles, though… Bluebottles are nasty, devious little bastards that float about pretending to be harmless bubbles glittering in the sun, but underneath, they trail a vicious tentacle just waiting to wrap itself around you and hang on like a lost child finding its mum, and sting you with fierce, fiery intensity. And you can’t just brush it off. Oh no! No rubbing sand on it, either, however tempting. There have been lots of popular treatments over the years, but the current favourite is hot water, which may well be fantastic but isn’t easy to come by at the beach.
I’ve had countless bluebottle stings in my life. As my son told one of his daughters, stung for the first time this summer, it’s pretty much a rite of passage for Ozzie kids on summer holidays. But I don’t knowingly consort with bluebottles given a choice, so came home unswum.
And disgruntled. Oh yes indeedy, very disgruntled.
The wind’s from the northeast.
Shiny blue bubbles drifting and bobbing,
riding the swell and the rising chop
innocent as sun-kissed babies.
with smiling faces and vicious tails
that wrap themselves round tender human flesh
and cling like lovers, leaving
weals of fiercely burning bites
in the secrecy of the tumbling, salty sea.
Piss off, you little buggers.
You’re stuffing my day.