Thursday 5 July 2012

Long-Forgotten Shrimp

Fishing has been a dead loss between the cold weather and high winds. The final straw was clinging to my favourite "mark" – a rocky promontory sticking out into St Bride’s Bay - and trying to thread a very angry rag-worm onto my hook. You can’t blame them for being annoyed but they can bite you hard using their sinister 360 degree jaw.

Suddenly I am reminded how much this creature resembles a similar (but much larger) one encountered by Prof Farnsworth’s parcel delivery team in a recent broadcast of excellent sci-fi satire Futurama. For a split second I hesitate and sure enough it takes its opportunity to give me a fierce nip. And at that very moment a massive wave hits the rocks and completely soaks me. This is beginning to feel like something out of "Trawlermen" rather than a leisurely afternoon’s fishing so I give up and concentrate on walking the coast instead.

On the beach the only other person out in the rain is a serious-looking student with a clip-board. He tells me he is a palaeobiologist. You mean a "palaeontologist"? No, apparently this is a new science trying to make fossils (that’s what we’re talking about here) more exciting by associating dusty old trilobites etc with "earth sciences" (no, I don't know what they are either). Anyway, surely slim pickings here (on the south coast of St David’s peninsula)? Not if you are keen – he shows me some tiny holes in the rock made by some long-forgotten shrimp. We agree that there is more amateur fun to be had at Abereiddi (north side of the city) where there are loads of quite large fossils high up the beach.

He patiently and perhaps not wholly approvingly hears me out describing my expedition a couple of years ago to Lyme Regis (a mecca for fossil-hunters; of some interest to palaeontologists; but probably nothing special to a serious palaeobiologist) where I bagged a 50 lb ammonite and carried it triumphantly over a mile back to the car. It now sits by my fireplace, a million year old snail turned to stone or, if you prefer, a six thousand year old false trail planted by the Devil - nobody can say this Blog is not strictly neutral.