Posted: June 27, 2014 in Photographs, Short stories, starts & writing, Travel writing
Image: Shane Bolitho 2014

Image: Shane Bolitho 2014

Born and bred an inland lad, the idea of the ocean and all things in it are as far removed from normality as anything my psyche has had to deal with over the years.
Fish were things you caught out of rivers or lakes (if you were lucky), or were battered or crumbed wedges of oily deep-fried goodness from the fish’n’chip shop down the road.
We found crabs at the fish’n’chip shop too. But, rather than scuttling creatures with nippers and stalky eyes, they were sticks of seafood-extender in salty batter.
The sandiness of a day at the beach was such a foreign, unimaginable thing, a million miles away from the sunburnt days spent in the manicured and concreted surrounds of the local pool, with its uniform straight lines and the inviting blue of its chlorinated water.
The closest we ever came to sharing our swims with non-human animals was if a bug fell in the pool. True, once or twice we had to get out of the way while a red-bellied black snake crossed the river, and there were undoubtedly unseen fish and yabbies scooting about below us when we plunged into a dam or river or lake. But, snakes aside, freshwater fish and yabbies can’t kill you. Heart-attack from the sudden shock of the cold water, or skewering yourself on a submerged tree and otherwise drowning are about as bad as it gets in inland waters.
The ocean, though, is full of all kinds of things poisonous and vicious and just plain deadly. Here in Java one also has Nyai Roro Kidul to contend with, not to mention rubbish, mountainous surf, a steep drop-off and huge undertow trying to drag you under.
Even now, despite innumerable beach holidays, snorkeling trips, and island get-aways, while it absolutely fascinates me, the sea still intimidates, exhilarates and just plain terrifies me.

  1. Suzanne says:

    Have ye no’ forgo’ the invisible menace of the leech, boyo? There was n’er s’feresome bitie as the leech when we were wee’uns in the channel and trod the wa’er s’fast in belief they’d n’er catch on te us only te find one was fast te our slender thighs and we had te yell fer our Da’ like the banshees in th’mists. Endless depths of silky mud could be traps. We strove for some smooth sand, never finding it. Pugged mud hoofprints were our only help in evacuation. Their anchoring aid giving leverage to get that nearly lost limb behind up, up and out. Quick- Quick! Dad-Dad! Get-it-off!! Jittery, almost sobbing with panic but intent on gaining the bank. There’s terror for ye.

    • shanebolitho says:

      Ah, yes. But leeches have been used throughout the ages for healthcare and I’ve never heard of a fatal leech attack.

      • Suzanne says:

        From the youngsters’ points of view the health benefits of the black leech are a very quaint idea of the middle ages, sucking out the bad humours, sucking, sucking. Bad humours we were told were another name for ignorance. Why, the leeches would be used until the patient died! This did not seem a good idea. If the patient didn’t look good the wise leecher made a few little cuts to Bleed the patient into bowls to hasten the bad humours away. Death was imminent.
        Then there were the gangrenous war wounds before good medicine was discovered when the only help was the assistance of lots of leeches to nibble away the bad flesh.
        Oh, No, wrong nasty. That was the other Great Horror, the Maggot. Much to say about The Maggot.
        Anyway, snakes can’t bite you in the river. Nah! Not unless they get on top of you and get the chance to strike. Huh!

  2. Suzanne says:

    And before The Leech raised his sucker in our minds was the Cramp and Drown. How many hours had we to wait after a meal before it was safe enough to go into the Dam with our raft made from an old drum and boards. Yes, we counted down three hours. Our little brains were full of the long ago boys who got the Cramp and Drowned in the Dam because they didn’t wait long enough after eating. Is it time yet? Can we go?
    Still waters…..

  3. Suzanne says:

    Not to forget The Current….And The Edge of the Sandbar. Always head Upstream. Don’t let the Current take you down to the end of the Sandbar where you will drown if you can’t float. How to instill Seeds of Anxiety in your Child in one easy lesson. A fear bordering on screaming panic when, attention diverted by fun, the foot looses sand and there is nothing below it. How mad is the scrabbling for a tiny toehold in drifting sand when you haven’t learned to swim because the current is too strong and you need to gain purchase on land that is being swept from under you.
    There’s madness for ye.
    Wot larks, Pip!

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