Everywhere across the UK, holiday providers are wringing their hands in desperation because Britons have decided to stay at home this summer. Thanks to our mega-heatwave and the promise of a 40 minute tube ride with forty other exposed armpits, Brits just don't want to go abroad. I applaud this sensible thinking. In my view holidays are overrated, and in fact downright dangerous. That's right. I know that, because I went on holiday last year and nearly died.
My grandad was in the Navy, he even had the Popeye tattoos to prove it. That's why I have always felt a little ashamed about my propensity for motion sickness and so-called 'unadventurous' ways. And probably why, when my friend Katy suggested we factor a three-day boat trip during our travels around Australia, I said: "Yes, I'd love that very much." And that's how I nearly died last summer.
We'd been on the boat a few hours. I was already feeling anxious.
"Are you diving this trip?" One of the diving instructors, Rebecca, levelled her Ray Bans at me in a way that I found to be very alpha female.
I looked up from my clasped hands briefly to say: "No."
"Oh no. Why's that?"
"Can't dive." I said. Muttered.
"What's that, sweetheart?" (Sweetheart?)
"I can't dive." I said, louder this time and firmly into my lap.
"Oh." Rebecca shuffled in the seat next to me while the boat lurched sideways. "Did you not even want to try?"
Actually as it turns out I didn't have to tell her about being scared of the dark and the sound of my own breathing. Apparently, if you've got a hearing problem, as I do, you need a doctor's note to get your scuba on. That's got to be the first time in my entire life that I have been grateful for my massive hearing aids.
"That is such a shame," I could see Rebecca mentally doing the figures in her head. Each dive was costing us $60 on top of the hundreds we'd already paid to be on the boat.
But she wasn't giving up that easily and suggested 'snorkelling?' instead.
My heart sank. All I really, really wanted to do, was sit up on deck and read. Alone, while everyone else plunged off the boat beautifully. But it was not to be because then everyone would know what a bah humbug I really am, and we'd only just met.
That's how, later that afternoon, I found myself crouched in a dinghy with the three other non-diving losers. We were dropped off by a shallow reef, which makes up coral formation known as the fringe reef. (The bit before the barrier). I jumped in, feeling the water smack up and into my baggy stinger suit. We'd all had to wear them. "Just in case," Rebecca had said earlier, her blonde locks caressed by the afternoon sunshine.
Well, as I blobbed around on the surface of the water, I believed her. I really did. Jellyfish season was ending, the water was tranquil, and there were some lovely coloured Nemos darting around.
But then I saw it. The small and amiable-looking box jelly, just an arm's-length away. Square-ish and white, this little fella loves the Australian waters.
It looks sweet, rather like a lady's handkerchief, but it is truly horrible. Box jellies are known to be one of the most venomous creatures in the world. We'd seen one a few days ago, floating off a pier in Palm Cove, Cairns. Almost immediately, I felt the desire to hum loudly. Not sure why.
Difficult to do underwater. Instead I had to swim over the thing, hearing nothing but the sound of, yes, you guessed it, my own breathing.
I broke the surface of the water and spluttered my alarm. To my consternation, NO ONE WAS BOTHERED. I don't understand Australians. Apparently, being close to death is a desirable pastime. Some of our party even returned from their deep dives waxing lyrical about seeing a shark.
"They're not the bitey kind," Rebecca explained, "so it's okay."
Right. Well, let me just be clear here, now that I am sat on a dry couch and mercifully on land -- it is never okay. As far as I am concerned, every shark may as well be the bitey kind. I mean, how close do you need to be to be able to tell that it isn't the bitey kind? And what do you do exactly, if after being circled by a fin while you calmly doggy paddle, you realise that it IS actually the bitey kind?
By then I suspect it would be rather too late to do much about it. And it does not placate me in the least when people say: "Oh no, the Great White only travels by the Great Barrier Reef, he doesn't like to swim in the shallows." Oh no? Have you spoken to them recently? Because most animals, as far as I can glean, do what the hell they like. This is much like somebody saying of me, "Amy won't drink her coffee black, always with milk." But the thing is, some days I DO drink it black. So that's what I am saying about sharks. Incidentally there are no sharks in Wales people, and not even that many in Cornwall.
So stay home this summer. Stay safe.
Amy Rowe is a frustrated, unpublished author working mostly on websites despite only getting a C for GCSE I.T. Her blog is in the middle of serious renovations but can you please follow her on Twitter @AmyLRowe.
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