Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Unwanted Rescue

As mentioned in a previous entry, I've been doing a lot of sea swimming.

And having kept it up all summer, I'm now what is referred to as a 'strong swimmer.' I was out on one of my regular routes the other day, out to the buoy at the mouth of Ballyholme Bay, over to the edge of the reef at Ballmacormick Point and back to shore,
in triangular fashion.

The whole journey is about a kilometre and a bit and takes me about an hour.

As I was nearing the beach on my return, I could see a big orange speedboat heading straight for me from the west, out of the corner of my eye. I thought it might be one of the rib-boats the yacht club uses to lay its buoys, but my worst fears were confirmed as it closed on me.

It was filled with around a dozen serious-faced folks in yellow helmets and fluorescent life jackets. They were obviously bent on intercepting me.

Some bastid fool had called the Coastguard.

They came to a halt about ten foot away and bobbed in the water. The one at the prow took off her helmet and yelled "Are you alright?"

By this stage, I was nearly back at shore and swimming in about three feet of water. So I stood stock upright on my hind legs from the waves and answered,

"Yeah, I'm alright."

"It's just someone rang us about you, they said they lost sight of you in the water."

"I'm not in any trouble," I replied.

I think that was obvious.

I apologised profusely for wasting their time and putting them to this bother.

'Oh no no no,' she assured me. 'Better to be safe than sorry.'

Then the lifeguards sat in the boat with the engine idling.

I stood in the water.

For some little time.

To break the awkwardness, I said my goodbyes and swam back to shore.

They turned their craft around and sped off in the direction of Bangor.

At the beach, two more coastguards were waiting for me. They were middle aged, portly fellows who didn't look like they'd be much use at striding into the surf and plucking drownees to safety.

Once again, I was very apologetic, and once again they said no harm done, better safe than sorry, blah blah blah.

One produced a notepad and took my name, address and phone number. In retrospect, I should have told him to eff away off, but I meekly volunteered this information. Fool that I am.

Then they gave me their number. They told me to ring them EVERY TIME I go in and out of the water.

'Every time?' I queried.


Every beach?'

'Yes. Just to be on the safe side,' they said.

Well, I took the number and lost it. I'm not ringing them every time I go in and out of the water! It's still a free country, innit? We may as well chisel caves out of the White Cliffs of Dover and let the Talibans camp there like bearded puffins.

As I made my way home, an old man beckoned me over. He told me I'd drowned in the sea three months previous.

He'd seen it all: I'd suffered some sort of attack in the water and sank beneath the waves; a man in a kayak reached me and dragged me to shore, but too late; the ambulance crew arrived quickly but their efforts were in vain. He'd even seen my family scatter my ashes there, some days afterwards.

'That's why those people lost sight of you,' he said. 'You're a ghost now. Insubstantial. You blend in and out of the white surf and it scares people.

'Those weren't coastguard, they weren spirit watchers. They're here to keep an eye on you. They want you to stop going in the water and frightening the living.'

'Are you a spirit too?' I asked.

'I died the day I was born,' he laughed. 'I was a baby komodo dragon that got eaten by a seabird. It's taken me four thousand years to evolve into this form.'

'But you've evolved much quicker.'

Food for thought. I flew home, eating a starling I caught on the way.

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