Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Jellyfish - what's the wobbly?

Jellyfish, a deceptively innocuous name for a rather vicious blobby bit of skeleton-less, skinless cartilage. The Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest mean that, in the absence of a heart and brain, the jellyfish had to evolve something with which to defend itself. This it did with aplomb – by lining up its cells into long strips of incredibly stingy tentacles. I am very, very afraid of these tentacles. The mere sight of a jelly in the waters turns my inside to custard.

My swim will see me invade the territory of the rather nasty Mauve Stingersas well as the tellingly named Lion’s Manevarieties. And, thanks to the USA’s repeated demonstrations of what happens following a territorial invasion, I am primed to expect a little bit of backlash from the gelatinous inhabitants of the Northern Channel.

Margaret, someone who previously attempted the swim, shared her experience with me. She discussed the enormous challenges presented by the cold and the tides and the weather. And the *drumroll* jellyfish. In her words: “A mega problem”. Life threatening in fact. A few weeks ago on Dover beach, Kevin Murphy, a seasoned channel swimmer type, buoyed my spirits by advising that if I did get stung, modern medicine and a short stay in hospital under sedation should see me recover, provided I am timeously transported. He knows because he’s got the proverbial t-shirt three times already. And then finally, just yesterday Diana Nyad said she’d had enough of interacting with jellyfish .

I refuse to be swayed off course by something with no sentient thought processes. And so I put my faith in Paul and Jon who will be my jellyfish spotters. And medivac if necessary. In the end, I’m really hoping that Dr Jonathan D R Houghton’s years of studying jellyfish give credence to his opinion that the Mauve Stingers aren’t out in full force and that the Lion’s Manes appear to be on their last legs (tentacles?) and are dying off rapidly.

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Wayne likes pork pies and Guinness. He likes routine and predictability. He loves his family. He's 40+, short(ish), balding and battling with waistline expansion. He's been known to occasionally play a good round of golf, likes to tinker with 'stuff' and has rescued a group of friends from the African wild by fixing a Land Rover with a jellybaby.

He's never been a great fan of physical exertion. In short (apart from the jellybaby incident), Wayne is an ordinary person. And he's about to do something really amazingly, astoundingly and astonishingly extra-ordinary. He's going to swim the the treacherous, never-been-swum-before channel between Kintyre (Scotland) and Ballycastle (Ireland). For charity. This is his story.