Archive for the ‘Ocean’ Category

“Dear Heloise…”, er, I mean, “Dear Crabby…”

July 16, 2008

Oh, but we are a world of seekers after information, on how to or not do things, always on the hunt for new, novel or tried and true solutions for our many questions. Having access to a computer is a contemporary equivalent of being in possession of an encyclopaedia set for loftier bits of knowledge, of owning a book on household hints or consulting the “Dear Abby” column in the morning newspaper.

Why, just the other day, I googled some new/old knowledge on how to make my own laundry soap, whipped up a simple concoction of three ingredients and now am happily laundering away with nary a phosphate in the wake of such domestic activity. Can an old dog learn new tricks? You betcha! Especially when having a PC, an electronic oracle, to consult.

To my surprised delight, while perusing the search engine terms used to find my blogs for morning amusement, I find I have now joined, like many other blogger beavering away in obscurity, the illustrious company of “Dear Ann…Dear Abby, Dear Heloise… and er, Dear Martha”. It seems that some of my trove of lore and wisdom is sought after by a few innocents pounding away on their computer keyboards.

How have they stumbled upon my blog? Naturally, via search engine terms, which are the efficient substitute to flipping through volumes of encyclopaedias. As a giving sort of person, I shall humbly attempt to oblige these seekers. But first, I need to have a catchy ‘nom de plume’. Aha! Shall it be “Dear Crabby”? Sort of suits my persona rather well, according to Rumpole and other intimates. So “Dear Crabby” it shall be. Has a ring to it, a famous sort of ring?

First question I shall address is:  “how to avoid chafing armpits in ocean” ?????

Dear Sun, Surf and Sex;

Your question caused me to give a vigorous scratch to my scalp. Even though I search my memory, back, back into the mists of time, I cannot recall an occasion when I ever chafed my armpits in the ocean. But, of course, I am not in the habit of trying to remove armpit hair-growth by rubbing up against coral reefs, which I am told by knowledgeable sources is not a recommended method of depilation. Besides possibly hurting, this action might cause one to develop a severe infection, if perhaps the blood released into the ocean by chafing did not at first attract the attention of man-eating sharks. I suggest you don’t expose your armpits to chafing whilst playing in or near the ocean. Please exercise caution if you want to avoid unnecessary drama in your life.


The second question, even more baffling, is : “cigarette ash for facials”….????

Dear Ex-Smoker;

Please give up on the idea that cigarette ash is an ingredient in facial unguents. The “friend” who gave you the recipe is not your friend, but a hardened enemy. She was perhaps likening your complexion to the surface of a walnut dining-room table which has been besmirched by numerous white water rings and spots. This is definitely hostility being aimed at you. You may not know that one can get rid of white water rings on varnished wood surfaces by mixing a salve comprised of butter and cigarette ash. However, delicate human skin cannot well survive the application of such concoction and I highly recommend against it. Suck it up, and carry on with whatever resulting skin condition has been gifted you by a lifetime of smoking the evil weed.


Anyone else needing me to dispense with hard-won wisdom, delivered without holding back, please address your questions to “Dear Crabby”.


October 4, 2007

This coming Thanksgiving weekend, Renaissance Man and his friend, Pete, are going surfing on the west coast of Vancouver Island, leaving behind wives, children and family, home and work obligations, to play in the water and sand. They don’t care whether the forecast is for sun or rain.  They just hope for good waves.

I have seen pictures of numbers of these young men of varied ages dragging and piling beach refuse into huge piles behind which to take refuge from the westerly winds punishing this shore. Their multicoloured surf-boards are erected like menhirs in Brittany, aligned, waiting for the perfect waves, the magic condition for their deployment. These worshippers of the surf are all garbed in severe black neoprene skin-suits, huddled, waiting behind their windbreak.

When he first announced his intention to go surfing in this inclement weather, my gut reaction was instant fear for his safety.  I greeted his announcement in frozen silence. Holding back from uttering a motherly caution, I wondered if this fear for my child, who is no longer a child, but a man with a family and good common sense, would ever cease in my lifetime. I marvelled at how even as a young child he was fascinated by contrasting elements; water acting on sand and gravel, piles of different things disarranged by an applied force acting on them.

At first, when he was about 16 months old, Renaissance Man was partial to outings to the sand-pit in the park across the street from our basement apartment. He didn’t particularly like the feel of sand after he had a faceful flung at him by another young child. Yet, he liked to slog through the sand on his sturdy little legs. He studied the marks behind him made by his feet as he laboured along making parallel v-shaped grooves behind him.

A year later, we were living up north where great snowfalls reigned in the wintertime. Bundled up like a spaceman in his winter gear, he waddled around in the snow, whenever he was not ensconced in his little sled with me pulling him like a plow horse. Whenever I had to dig out the car from drifts, he stayed near, patting the piles created by digging into a semblance of order with  his mittened hands.

Indoors, during the spring before he turned three, he played with his Christmas present, a yellow Tonka dump-truck. I bought a good supply of cube sugar which was his to play with, to load, dump and reload. He made piles of sugar cubes, built strange lines of several rows  meandering on the green indoor-outdoor carpet of the living room. He shrieked with frustration when he attempted to create discrete piles out of these white granular squares. They did not make tidy mounds. As they gradually lost sharp corners and edges, became rounded, they rolled down the incline of the pile in unpredictable ways.

One day we went to the central depot for our bulk provisions of flour, granular sugar, oat flakes, nuts, beans and wheat germ. He watched in earnest as I ladelled my allotted quantities of consumables into separate old cotton pillowcases. Once home with this bounty, he carefully observed transfer of these goods into large jars, cans and cartons. He ran his hands through each type of substance, feeling textures. I wondered what was going through his young mind as he did this.

A couple of days later, the results of his thought processes manifested itself, in a quite surprising way. In the middle of the night, truck-sound splutterings and roars filtered into my unconscious.  I lay in bed, disoriented, until the nature of the sounds registered on my sleepy brain.  It was Renaissance Man, playing and making noises in the kitchen. I stumbled out of the bedroom to find lights on in the kitchen. RM was crawling along, operating his yellow dump truck and spilling dark brown mounds onto the carpeted floor. He was one with his machine, providing the sound-effects of growling diesel engines. There were shallow ribbons of road-ways connecting these mounds. These had a hard glistening surface like fresh ashphalt. He had created the miniature world of a construction materials depot.

“Mom, look!” he gleefully waved muck-encrusted little hands at me.

I looked. There were separate mounds of coffee grounds, wheat germ, beans and oatmeal joined by roads composed of jam, peanut butter and brown sugar. These roads snaked around the whole kitchen floor. RM looked extremely proud of what he had made.

I grabbed him up and took him into the bathroom to clean him of sticky and gritty substances. Although he had used up food supplies so carefully laid in with what little money we had, I didn’t have the heart to chide him.

“You know, that is all stuff we eat that you used to make your construction yard,” I muttered, wiping crud from his hands. ” but we will have to clean all the roads up from the floor before they harden.”

“Can we sleep first?” he asked as he yawned.

“Yes, we’ll clean up in the morning,” I replied, carting him, now clean, to his bedroom.

Back in my own bed, I resolved to make him his own sand-box in the back-yard as soon as the spring melt ended.

Came Spring –  sunny, windy days, aspens broke into their tender green. The muddy ground dried and we cleared an area in the background of grass, and dug down to provide a pit to contain sand. We went off in the car to one of the local lakes which was our sandy swimmming hole in summertime. There we shovelled sand into garbage can, and buckets and took them home to deposit into our sand pit. We made several trips to get enough sand to make a decent play area. RM enjoyed having a part in creating his play space. He collected rocks and pebbles, and built up a supply of various sized gravel mountains that he carefully separated by size of unit components. He spent time in this outdoor play zone and built himself a complex world where he moved stuff about, constructing, dismantling and reconstructing as his imagination prompted. He collected twigs and sticks to augment his little world.

One dinner-time as we were feasting on broccoli, his little face lit up with a realization of discovery. Of a new idea.

“Mom, we are really eating trees right now,” he announced, brandishing a broccoli spear in his hand. “Can I have some fresh ones to plant in my city?”

“You are right, these do look like trees. But this is food, hard to come by. Maybe we can go and look for stuff in the yard that might make good trees,” I told him.

The following summer, we travelled to Vancouver to visit family and friends, go to the beach, hike in the woods and visit parks. A university friend had an installation showing at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Also being exhibited was an American Minimalist’s work, labelled “PILES”. Renaissance Man was my gallery companion to this exposition. I figured it was never too early to introduce him to gallery experiences, and model some appropriate gallery behaviours. His questions about new experiences he encountered were pointed, and his reactions fresh and surprising.

So, on a sunny afternoon, before hitting the sands of Second Beach to play and frolic in the sea and sand, we took a brief side-trip to see this exhibition. The main gallery held “PILES”. Grabbing Renaissance Man firmly by the hand, I hefted the heavy gallery door open. He swiftly squeezed through ahead of me, disengaged his hand from mine and simply stood there in silence taking in the various piles of gravel, gravel drawings in the floor.

“Oh, Wow!  Piles!” he chirped, took off at a run before I could grab him, made a bee-line for the nearest gravel mound and flung himself on top of it. He lay there, working his little hands in the gravel. He was grinning with pleasure. I grabbed him up, just as the irate gallery guard materialized from his station somewhere in the gallery.

“Madam, you have to have better control of your child.” he ordered in a stentorian voice. “Look, he has wrecked an exhibit!”

What did Renaissance Man care about the fact that the various piles were examples of the concept of “The angle of repose”? Or of possible methodology of placing precised edged drawings  composed of gravel lines on the gallery’s floor? He simply reacted, directly and honestly from his particular experience and appreciation of the materials thus displayed. To him, these piles of different quality of gravels represented a potential to manipulate and create with of an imagined end that he had in his own mind. These piles called to him with an irresistible and unheard siren call of “handle me, use me, make a world with me!!!”

With red face, I clung firmly to his hand and we walked around the exhibit, talking about where the piles of stuff came from, how they were brought into this place, and how possibly they had been created.

He expressed surprise that a grown man had made this display of stuff he himself was so familiar moving about.

“Dads really do this? They still play with gravel and sand?” he asked, mystified.

So, I wonder, will he, perhaps, remember his early play with earthen materials, as he plants his surf-board in the sand, shifts logs and beach debris to make a shelter from the winds, dig his toes into the sand and watch the water shift the shoreline as he waits for the perfect waves to form?

Casting off… Lesson 1

July 15, 2007

My friend Carol laughed when she heard we had decided to take up sailing.  She said that we could probably duplicate the whole experience without paying out large sums of money or expending much time and effort. “Just put on your warmest clothes, your rubber boots and stand under a cold shower in the bathtub. While there, rip up a number of $100 dollar bills”, she directed in a sarcastic tone. There was some wisdom in her suggestion.

On a bitter March morning, rain poured. I assembled my foul-weather gear, loaded up the Datsun and drove to Granville Island for the first on-board lesson.  On the way there I kept my hopes up for a minor change in the weather, but the rain didn’t let up.  This was not exactly an auspicious start to sailing lessons.

On the island, it was unusually easy to find parking near the Market, a short walk to the docks. The weather kept shoppers at home. On the grey wooden walkways to the docks seagulls huddled, miserable, balanced on one webbed foot, their necks hunched down into their bodies.  They couldn’t be bothered to move as I squeaked by in my loud yellow slicker, bibbed overalls and flashy gumboots, trailing rivulets of water in my wake. Up ahead, my fellow students – the lady pathologist, turned out in a fashionable red outfit, and the gay couple, natty in blue one piece rain gear – were gathered, dripping, near a white fiberglass sailboat moored at the dock.  Somehow it was appropriate that the four of us were clothed in the Primary colours –  red, blue and yellow, for our lessons in mastering the basics of sailing.  We introduced ourselves and chatted in a low-key fashion , and getting even wetter while waiting for our instructor to show up.

Shortly, a young chap bounded down the dock toward us.  He seemed totally at home in the rain. ” Hi! I’m Bob!” he called out. “Let’s get going.”  He unshackled the lifeline near the cockpit and ushered us aboard the boat. (Good! I thought. He is going to take us down into the cabin and get us out of the rain.) He took a seat at the tiller and invited us to sit on the lazarettes. (What? He’s got to be kidding!) So he began to quiz us about the various parts of the boat, pointing here and there and asking how the designated part functioned.  (My glasses kept getting fogged up; rain was making steady inroads through my slicker and down my neck. I knew exactly how those wet seagulls felt – discouraged, miserable, soggy!)

After quiz time Bob unlocked the cabin, reached inside and hauled out four white fenders.  Handing one to each of us, he instructed us to check out how the fenders had been attached to the side of the boat next to the edge of the dock.  He then had us attach our fenders using the correct knot and obtaining the right height to keep the edge of the boat from chafing the dock. We squelched our way to our positions trying not to slip on the wet deck, grasping onto the lifeline. Bob was not satisfied that we could do this little chore adequately until we had repeated the task over and over numerous times.  The rain didn’t let up.  We might as well have jumped into the water because we were as wet abovedecks as we would have been were we fullly immersed in the ocean.  The fenders sure looked clean and glossy white, being as they were slick with rain! (My sweater under the slicker was getting wet near the armpit area – yuk! The lady pathologist looked quite comfortable and she didn’t squeak every time she moved, unlike me.  The gay couple looked quite snug.  They also didn’t squeak.  I wondered if their armpits were getting soggy yet.  Nah! But I didn’t dare complain!)

Next, we climbed back into the cockpit. Bob showed us how to start up the inboard motor and explained the mechanism of the tiller. ” Now go and pull in the fenders and we’ll practice leaving the dock,”  he announced as he stepped off the boat to unmoor.  We each had to take turns undoing the mooring lines on the dock and handing them in to boatmates, then step back onto the boat.  This looks easy, but to someone with balance issues this can be slightly problematic.  I absolutely hated to get on and off the boat, while my boat-mates seemed not at all tentative in doing so.  When it came to my turn to cast off and hop aboard, I did so very awkwardly and caught the red and blue sailors rolling their eyes.

Then Bob steered the boat out of the dock area and took us into False Creek where he had us practice turning the boat, steering, slowing down, stopping, backing up.  There were not many boats out on the water so we had ample room to manoeuvre and even got our chance to bring the boat into a dock on the other side of the inlet.  We practiced coming into dock at the correct angle and speed, took turns reattaching the fenders, stepping off and tying the mooring lines correctly.  I really liked to bring the boat in, using the tiller and feathering the engine, but the stepping off part continued to be problematic.  (In fact, standing up in the boat was a problem for me as I couldn’t manage to stay upright and would bash into the winches whenever not creeping about on deck like an octogenerian – a wet one!)

Our lesson for the day was soon over and we headed back to our berth.  Here we got opportunity to practice, yet again, proper docking procedure.  Bob bid us goodbye and bounded away from us into the misty reaches of the dock. My fellow students expessed a desire to repair to the Granville Island Pub to decompress, dry off and bond with each other.  My sweater, by this time had become wet right down to the waist at front and back, and the prospect of being sociable while sitting in soaked clothes was not particularly attractive, so, expressing my regrets and need to go home and dry off thoroughly I bid my companions in fun and misery goodbye. 

On the drive home it was difficult to keep the truck windows from misting up in spite of the heater going full blast.  My glasses also kept fogging up, but at least the rain was outside where it belonged. It occurred to me that learning sailing on a day like this dreary, unrelentingly wet one was a special form of Hell. But at least I didn’t rip up any $100 bills.

Neophyte sailors 1…

July 14, 2007

Back in 199o, Renaissance Man returned to live at home with us after a year up north at college. Rumpole and I had already moved to the Lower mainland that early spring, and we spent much of our leisure time wandering the many docks, looking at boats and ships of all types.  Rumpole loves the things of the sea, most particularly the conveyances that ply the waters moving goods and people about.  I love the character of the waters, their luminosity, reflectiveness and many moods.

In 1991 in anticipation of his birthday, Rumpole requested that we all take sailing lessons as his birthday gift. RM was delighted, but I was not too thrilled. Water is  an essential and marvellous material, but I do not necessarily like to be on it!

We signed up for sailing lessons comprised of two months of classroom theory and three months of actual sailing practice.  Off we went to buy the textbooks and sailing gear – yellow plasticized weather gear and gumboots.  We took out many books from the library on sailing, read and discussed them after dinners, whenever RM took time out from his studies to relax with us. These two men christened me “Landlubber” for my known love of solid footing on land, I called Rumpole “Ahab” and Renaissance Man as “Boy”.

Sailing classroom studies in theory and sailing nomenclature were once a week in the dark of winter evenings.  Along with a group of other eager learners we listened, made notes, tried to ask not terribly stupid questions. In amongst the motley group of classmates there was much competition to learn in theory what we would soon have to put into practice in a couple of months.  There were only two women in our class, myself and a pathologist form the local big hospital; the male students tended to curl their lips at us, as if we just would never, ever, cut the mustard as sailors.

“You’r hopeless,” Rumpole would remind me. “You’d better study hard to pass the exam, Landlubber.” I read my notes carefully, constructing elaborate scenarios of sailing down a channel and trying to remember the sailing “rules of road”, what various channel markers indicated.  Mentally I hoisted sails, read the tell-tales, tacked and jibed without getting swept overboard, being beheaded by the boom or ever being caught in that dreaded situation of “inadvertent jibe”.  I studied the problems of lee-shores and how to stay well clear of them, how to read charts to avoid shoals and hidden by the tide rock outcrops that would sink the unwary sailor.

Rumpole and Renaissance Man, snug in their conviction of male superiority in matters pertaining to conveyances, largely ingnored me and went about their learning after their own fashion.  They bet that of the three of us I would have the lowest score on the final exam.  That was sure like waving a red flag under a bull’s nose – I redoubled my study efforts!

Came exam time.  We travelled in the dark of a February night down to the classroom near the marina downtown.  On the way there, Rumpole and Renaissance Man quizzed each other and would lob the occasional tough question to me.  I felt serene and sure of what I had managed to learn.  Nothing they could throw at me would phase me.  After all I had played competitive tennis during my teens and knew full well the psychological games played prior to matches. And, this was no match among the three of us, I was just trying to pass the damned exam so I could get out  on the water on a sailboat!

The exam was a long one, very thorough, taken very seriously by all the examinees.  Rumpole sat next to me and kept his non-writing arm protectively around his exam papers, much like a dog-in-the-manger would protect his food bowl.  As if I’d stoop to cheating?! Renaissance Man had his cute smug look while tackling the various questions. We wrote for well over two hours and then handed in our exam papers.

The following week we were to attend class once more to receive our marks and our practical lesson schedules.  I was merely hoping to pass!

We attended the final class eager to hear how we did on the exam.  We were also curious as to how we would be grouped for the practical lessons on boats.

I got the highest theory marks of the three of us, second from the top of the whole class.  The lady pathologist got the highest marks of the group.  She and I and a gay couple were slated to be boat mates for the sailing lessons on actual sail boats.  Rumpole and Renaissance Man were really irritated by my test results.

“Good thing the four of you are together for the actual sailing,” grumbled Rumpole.  “There is a lot more to sailing a boat than theory, Landlubber!”

This fact I was soon to find out, for myself.

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch…”

May 27, 2007

Yesterday, the blues and rock garage band of which Rumpole and Renaissance Man are members did a gig at the local Legion hall as a favour for newly married friends for their post-wedding reception. Rumpole plays a mean bass guitar, and has kept up weekly lessons since 1992 when I gave him a months worth of lessons for his birthday gift with a guitar teacher who had played with Ike and Tina Turner’s back-up band and really knew his stuff.

Having missed a chance to be a chick-magnet during his earlier years as a “rock musician” because he was thoroughly engrossed in things scientific and academic, he was thrilled to get a second chance ( by now, to attract late-middle aged women, I assume) to try for rock and roll fame, of sorts.

He had gone off earlier in the day to help set up, which took a number of hours. He returned home late in the afternoon, sore and tired from hefting heavy amps, and immediately retired to the bathroom for a long soak in an epsom salt bath. After the bath he requested a thorough massage with A535, a somewhat malodorous substance, not exacly an attractive scent, and one which I am convinced that those aging Rolling Stone band members would not allow anywhere on their persons – I mean, they would reek of decrepit old athlete! I obliged, by massaging his ageing and acheing neck and shoulders, after which he sauntered off to put on his cool band duds. On the way out the door, he grabbed his peaked black hat with the added false grey pony-tail (he unfailingly wears this to gigs because as he puts it, “it keeps my bald head from competeing with the shine of disco balls.”)

After he left, I did the required drops into my eye, taped on my raffish aluminum patch and repaired to bed to read.  That did not last long,  and I lay there musing about Rumpole and the amazing colour and verve he had brought to my life. What a fortuitous stroke of luck to have shared years of living with him!

How did we end up together?

“Ardent Feminazi” and I formed a fast friendship during our University Design course, where we commiserated about the unfair evaluations given both of us by “Mrs. Redbrick” our demanding, menopausal design professor.  We were the only two young women in that class who also were raising a young child while studying for a degree.  “Ardent Feminazi” was married to “Man of Science” who was at the time working on his Marine Biology master’s degree. Their young son “Junior Entomologist” was 3 years old, while “Renaissance Man” was two; they played together quite happily while “AF” and I spent long hours working on our course papers and projects. I considered “AF” and “MoS” the prefect modern couple. They considered me a completely inept young woman, and “AF”, keen on projects took me on as one.  She embarked on a three year plan to bring me up to snuff as a “good catch” in the marriage market.

The makeover sessions addressed my appearance, which so obviously lacked in any come-hither appeal to young men. “Man of Science” victimized a number of his academic compatriots as test subjects to assess my painfully slowly growing aptitude and attributes as  an attractive female specimen. (After numerous attempts to mold me as a presentable, marriageable young woman, Mother and Father had long ago washed their hands of the whole business.  Thank God!) “Feminazi”, after energetic efforts, also gave up, somewhat to my relief, and “Man of Science” quite bored with this mania of his beloved mate, finally threw in the towel also.

We all were granted our degrees and dispersed to our geographically distant new careers and lives. For years we spent long holidays with each other, and our children happily grew in friendship. The matchmaking pressure had eased, until one fateful summer, during which “Renaissance Man” and I had a two month stay at a seashore cabin in Metchosin, near “AF” and “MoS” country home.

“Man of Science” was working as a Pollution Control biologist for the Provincial Government. He and “Rumpole” were professional sidekicks;  part of their job, as a team, was to travel around the Island’s communities and test for sewer outfall pollution of coastal waters. “Ardent Feminazi” decided that, as a last ditch effort, she had to contrive to get “Rumpole” and me to meet, and then to let fate and the gods ( and her makeover skills) do their matchmaking magic.

She embarked on teaching me how to do my long hair with curlers and sprays so it would fall in enticing curls. I preferred the “au naturel” look, as in let the hair fall how it wants to, just keep it out of my eyes! She insisted that my clothes have a closer fit, in order to show off my feminine assets in a tasteful fashion. Makeover boot-camp was a total drag, and she harped on an on as mercilessly as a drill sargeant. After she felt assured that I could keep up appearances to her satisfaction, she and “MoS” decided on the occasion on which I would be presented to “Rumpole” for his consideration.

They plotted to have “AF” me, “JE” and “RM” embark on a long camping trip to Long Beach, where “Man of Science” and “Rumpole” were stationed for an extended study of two communities’ tidal basins. “Ardent Feminazi” and I outfitted and provisioned our small group and we loaded gear and young boys into the family LandRover for the long and hot drive to Long Beach. We arrived all bedraggled and bitchy and met up with the young scientists, after a grueling trip. “The catch”extricated herself from the vehicle, dusty, carefully set curls disarrayed and ratty and makeup melting to meet her match, her hyper 5 year old unleashed onto the campground and racing about suddenly freed from being cooped up for a long journey.

So much for a well-orchestrated and auspicious first introduction! Poor “Ardent Feminazi” had the best of intentions and brought all her knowledge and experience to this situation, but forgot that unlike God, a matchmaker cannot possibly predict unexpected influences nor completely have control of a given situation. What happened next surely had a little something to do with her subsequent bra-burning spree while muttering Wiccan curses, and her baptism by fire into her  “au naturel” make-up (and brassiere) free feminist persona.

The weather conspired against ideal matchmaking conditions. We emerged daily from within soggy tents and sleeping bags, cold, disheveled and disreputable-looking to labour over a weak campfire to cook up victuals for whining young boys, and camp-fire coffee, weak and full of grounds, for us adults.  The scientists squished away to their vehicle and their work-chores (and probably a full breakfast at a nearby greasy spoon) while “Ardent Feminazi”and I organized the days’ entertainments for the two boys. At days’ end the scientists returned to the sorry-looking, wet group huddled around a wispy campfire, trying to cook up a culinary treat for supper – mostly weiners roasted on sticks, by the juvenile sous-chefs, and delectable canned pork and beans carefully heated up by “the Catch”. We spent until bed-time each night huddled around the fire, miserable and unable to maintain interest in any kind of sustained conversation. We all smelled of wood-smoke, a pleasant scent sometimes, on infrequent occasions, but a smell not often associated with the matchmaking arts. Sleeping arrangements were scientists in one tent, women and children in another.  This was a good thing, because Rumpole complained in the mornings of the horrific snoring sounds from our tent, for which “Ardent Feminazi”, still in marginal matchmaker mode, admitted responsibility, claiming poor sinuses. We resembled Neanderthals on a camp-out in an old-growth rainforest.

The evening before the day we were to break camp and drive home to civilization, the skies cleared to reveal a gorgeous moonlit and starry night. After the children were tucked into their sleepingbags, the four of us adults gathered around  a more vigorous camp-fire and shared some wine and pleasant conversation.  At one point, during a lull, “Rumpole” asked me, “Have you ever seen phosphorescence?” Being a suburban woman, I had never heard the term and replied “No.  What is it?” “Come along, I’ll show you.” he said, grabbing a flashlight. “Ardent Feminazi” and “Man of Science” shot each other meaningful glances and looked very smug.

“Rumpole” and I picked our way through the undergrowth in the dark, and found our way down to the sandy beach.  He found a washed-up log for us to support our backs as we hunkered down on the sand. “Wait for your eyes to acclimatize to the dark, and then look at the breakers as they approach the shore – soon you’ll see the phosphorescence” he suggested.

The phosphorescent sea was magical and I was entranced. Rumpole dispelled the romantic mood by launching into a precise scientific explanation of the phenomenon. I found this charming and endearing as well as quite humorous, and told him so! He made a sarcastic comment about his lack of good romantic moves, chuckled and held my hand.

“The rest”, as the saying goes, ” is history!”