Saturday, 11 September 2010

Signs of the times: Summer #17

More comparisons between the British countryside of today and that from 1959-1961 in the paintings of Charles Tunnicliffe in the Ladybird "What to look for..." series of books.


I go to the rockpool at the slack of the tide
to mind me what my poetry’s for.

It has its ventricles, just like us –
pumping brine, like bull’s blood, a syrupy flow.

It has its theatre –
hushed and plush.

It has its Little Shop of Horrors.
It has its crossed and dotted monsters.

It has its cross-eyed beetling Lear.
It has its billowing Monroe.

I go to the rock-pool at the slack of the tide
to mind me what my poetry’s for.

For monks, it has barnacles
to sweep the broth as it flows, with fans,
grooming every cubic millimetre.

It has its ebb, the easy heft of wrack from rock,
like plastered, feverish locks of hair.

It has its flodd.
It has its welling god
with puddled, podgy face and jaw.

It has its holy hiccup.
Its minute’s silence


I go to the rockpool at the slack of the tide
to mind me what my poetry’s for.”

by Jen Hadfield From Nigh-no-Place (Bloodaxe, 2008)

(Copyright: Ladybird Books)

Summer Picture 17
I am still at the seashore for this picture, but we are under the water in a rock pool – as the text says “At low spring tides, rock pools are formed, and in these we can see – in their living, underwater state – some of the creatures whose empty shells we saw in the last picture.” Quite. Much nicer alive aren’t they? In particular, the common sea urchin (Echinus esculentus) and the closely related common starfish (Asterias rubens) are on the bottom of the rock pool, along with a live shore crab (Carcinus maenas), some snakelock anemones (Anemonia viridis), which can stand up to 5 cm tall, but with tentacles up to 15cm long, and some small barnacles (described in the text as “acorn barnacles” - which could make it one of a few species – most probably the commonest one, Semibalanus balanoides – great Latin name! Barnacles are actually little crustaceans – shrimp relatives – which have effectively settled from the plankton and glued themselves onto a rock, protecting themselves with thick, interlocking plates. They feed by forming a net from appendages that were the legs of their mobile ancestors, flicking out and trapping floating organic material. But you probably already know that – and the inevitably amusing tale about having the relatively longest penis in the animal kingdom, maybe 40 times longer than their body... who says that size doesn’t matter?

There are two other species of sea anemones in this picture – top right, the blue-grey anemones are dahlia anemones (Urticina felina), the largest of the common sea anemone species of the British Isles. This species is more of a northern species, preferring cooler waters, although found around the whole British Isles coast. The little pink blobs in the top right, among the white limpet shells (not sure which species of limpet this is meant to be), are the most common sea anemone encountered while rock-pooling, the beadlet anemone, with the Latin name of Actinia equina. They may actually be red, brown, green or orange in colour. Individuals of this species are known to be aggressive to one another, using their stinging cells to drive off other anemones that encroach on their vicinity.

The only identifiable seaweed in the picture is the large brown wavy fronds growing across the picture – these look like a kelp species, commonly known as “sugar weed” or “sugar kelp”, what I grew up as a young marine biology student knowing as Laminaria saccharina, and what has been renamed by marine taxonomists (in 2006, I think) as Saccharina latissima. This has featured on our wild food menu at home – young plants, washed then air-dried, cut into approximately 2-3 cm squares and then deep-fried briefly in hot oil, will swell up to make a sweet, crispy, puffy snack. Slightly fishy and salty but actually quite nice!

Again, as in the last post, I am generally unable to comment on the trends in any of these species, a major problem with the monitoring undertaken of our marine life being that there isn’t systematic approach to tracking what is happening with the commoner marine species around our coasts. Again, though, I would refer you to the excellent information source on marine species and habitats that is the MARLIN (Marine Life Information Network) website, for ecological information on all of the species mentioned here, if you desire to know more (and who wouldn’t?).

So, apologies again for the lack of comparison with the time of publication of these books. I hope at least you enjoyed the picture!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment... much appreciated at this end! If you've enjoyed reading this post, why not sign up to follow this blog? I won't even make you wear a robe, cape, costume or anything, unless you insist.