Call Me Ishmael

I occasionally get obsessed with things.

Actually, that’s playing it down. I frequently get obsessed with things. Those things are occasionally animals. I like the weird ones. For example, when I volunteered at London Zoo I was a compelling mixture of fascinated and grossed out by the armadillos we used to take out and show to kids, especially after we were warned never to drop one or it would literally explode. They also had an excellent line in cave fish, which have evolved without eyes, because the world is a terrible place with evil everywhere and it’s just easier not to see it. Also (and, indeed, mainly) they live in pitch black caves and they don’t need them. When I went to Newquay over the summer for surfing lessons I haven’t yet written about because I haven’t found adequate words to describe my lack of ability, I spent a full hour watching the cuttlefish change colour because, well, they changed colour. They were like living screensavers. Basically, show me a freaky animal and I’m yours.

Imagine my delight, then, when Porguese Man of War (men of war? mans of war? man of wars?) started washing up on Cornish beaches. They’re also known as bluebottles if you, like I, watch absurd amounts of Bondi Rescue every day after work. If you’re an employee of the Daily Mail or other exaggerating-to-the-point-of-lying news sources, they might also go by DEADLY JELLYFISH. The all caps are very important.

They’re brightly coloured, alien-looking things. They have super-long, bright blue tentacles that’ll sting like a bitch. But here’s the kicker: They’re not one animal. They’re four different kinds of animal living together in a venomous, aquatic flatshare situation. As soon as I found that out, I headed down to the beach to find one.

And then I waited for weeks and weeks. They were basically my Moby Dick. The thing is, the sea in Falmouth Bay is incredibly calm. I’m not complaining about that at all, since it means it’s incredibly clear and great for paddleboarding and Instagramming. But it’s not so great for bringing in rogue wildlife that directly relies on being pushed around by the wind. They were only coming to the north coast.

After standing on the coast road staring out to sea for so long some coach parties probably assumed I was waiting for Poldark to come back from rabble rousing wherever he rabble rouses, I sort of gave up.

Then hurricane Ophelia hit, and while she was busy turning the sky further north yellow, and causing genuine havoc in other places, Falmouth enjoyed a sunny day with some actual surf.

I decided to walk the long way home so I could see what the people who can actually surf were getting up to, and that’s when I saw it. Nestled in the sand, beside all kinds of other weird sea stuff that had been tossed up by the storm, was the pink and blue alien I’d been waiting to see.

My recently-acquired lifelong dream to see a Man of War for myself had come to an end, and in quite anticlimactic style. I wish I could say there was more to it, but once I’d got as close as I could without getting blue tentacles stuck to my face I Instagrammed the object of my obsession, thereby capturing its soul forever, and went home for sausage and mash.

And then I went to bed.

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