I went to a fish and chip restaurant earlier today. There was a huge globe with two fish swimming round in it.
“That’s cruel,” I said to a friend who was munching his chips alongside me.
He thought I meant it was cruel to keep fish in a bowl. We were looking at it through a frosted glass screen. Every so often, a fish shape would emerge from the whiteness, float by and disappear again as it turned the corner and swam away.
“Those fish may be smaller than they seem,” he suggested. “Maybe the glass is magnifying them.”
But I wasn’t talking about the relative size of fish to bowl. What seemed cruel to me was that live fish were being kept right beside the place where battered ones were being fried.
He was logical.
“It’s no different,” he said, “from us seeing lamb stew. Those fish won’t identify with cod any more than most of us identify with mammals other than humans while they are being cooked.”
I floundered around by saying I wouldn’t like to be in the same room as a chimpanzee being roasted but he was right. I was guilty of an ‘ism’. All fish, to me, are fish. Just fish. I know they have different names and different attributes but I’ve tended to think of these differences in about the same way as I see differences in skin shade or hair colour. Humans are humans. Fish are fish. But it isn’t like that.
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It’s an odd thing, watching the same spot each autumn to see whether particular fungi return.
|Probably a Phellinus|
Fungi and lichen are peculiar enough as life-forms - and I haven’t managed to grasp why, when red seaweeds are algae, green seaweeds aren’t. They look much the same. But brown seaweeds aren’t even plants. They seem to be something all on their own! And I’ve been looking at diagrams about how Bladder Wrack reproduces (a brown seaweed which looks green to me when I see it lying around on the beach) - and there are sperms and eggs! What! I thought sperms and eggs were reserved for . . . I’m losing my way . . . for . . . for non-plants! Oh. But they aren’t plants. But they look like plants!
(probably Ascidiella aspersa)
|Sea Squirt |
(probably Ascidiella aspersa)
(According to this article sea-squirts may give us a good idea of what our early human ancestors looked like. Brilliant!)
Here’s an oyster thief. It got its name because if it attaches itself to oysters instead of to rocks, being hollow inside, it floats away with them. It is an alga. Whatever that is. And I am alga/algae challenged. When is it an ‘it’ and when is it a ‘they’?
|An Oyster Thief - Colpomenia peregrina|
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I mentioned in my last post that I had joined Ispot. Until I posted an Oyster Thief picture there, I thought it was probably an empty egg case from some kind of big fish. Wrong! Now I know. But more than that, another of the Ispotters (Mike Kendall) gave me a link to an extract from the Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information (Royal Gardens, Kew) 1911 where the arrival of the Oyster Thief along the southern coasts of Britain is described. (He told me not to worry about the slight discrepancy in naming.) Not only that, the very stretch of small coves where I found this one is noted as the place chosen by scientists in 1908 as suitable for observing these olive globes, one reason being ease of access from London. London really is a very long way away from here. In an age of steam trains, it must have seemed even further. However, there was a branch line along here. Local lore has it that there was an informal halt very close to the Oyster Thief Beach (my name) where vegetables from a market garden were loaded onto trains. I’ve not yet been able to find out when this stop operated but there was, none the less, a larger station, closer into town, where scientists could arrive and be within walking distance of their site of interest and in April 1909 another halt was opened as the next stop along. London was far - but the beach was accessible.
However, in the January of 1909, there had been a significant landslide along this bit of coast. I don’t know whether this had an impact on the project or whether scientists continued with their observations regardless. The extract from the Kew Bulletin is but a fragment. You have to ‘belong’ to read further.
It was a busy time for people building and maintaining the railways. It still is. The tracks have long been lifted but nearly all the platforms are still there. The biggest of these is in a cutting and at one end of the old station there’s a road bridge joining the banks. Between one of the platforms and the bridge are the toadstools; at least that’s where they were - for it’s here the workers have arrived to mend and strengthen the bridge and they’ve strimmed the undergrowth to make a place for their machines.
Toadstools and Oyster Thieves have their places in railway history. Sea squirts, washed up with the Oyster Thieves near the old line show us what we might have looked like if we’d been born a bit earlier. Odd that. Not many people will have noticed the toadstools. Who beyond very few have heard of Oyster Thieves, let alone handled them? And how many know the significance of sea-squirts?
Isn’t history odd!
This post is included in Circus of the Spineless.