Beachgoers share moment of wonder

A dolphin seen off the coast of Exmouth. Picture: Roger Jackson

A dolphin spotted off the coast of Exmouth in 2019 - Credit: Roger Jackson

As we used to say back in the 1970s, phew what a scorcher. For the last week we have been sweltering, each day ending with a glorious sunset before we throw the bedroom windows open and perspire beneath a single sheet.

People my age will bore anyone who will listen that this is not a patch on the epic summer of 1976 and the soundtrack that went with it. “Harvest for the World” by the Isley Brothers, competed with disco maestros the Bee Gees and “You Should be Dancing”. My secret musical vice, Status Quo were unashamedly be-jeaned on the cover of their album, “Blue for You” with “Rain” and “Mystery Song” pumping across sweaty youth club disco floors.

And Rod Stewart, out of nowhere, came up with “The Killing of Georgie Parts 1 and 2”, decades before its time a lament for a murdered gay man. In the heat, as a 14 year old, listening to Little Nicky Horne’s late evening Capital Radio show, “You’re Mother Wouldn’t Like It”, it felt like this was some kind of paradise.
Clearly this was not universally felt, because by the punk heatwave of 1977 the Queen’s Silver Jubilee was marked by The Sex Pistols singing “God save the queen/the fascist regime” etc. I was old enough then to see through the posturing of Malcolm Maclaren’s boys, but I really adored The Damned, and their “New Rose” subversion of rock ‘n roll.

In Europe, where I went for a family holiday to a tiny hotel in Switzerland, that hot summer soundtrack of ’77 was Donna Summer with Giorgio Moroder’s disco-synth masterpiece “I feel love”. I remember looking at the young Swiss, Germans and Italians, with their glowing health and tans, and thinking, what have they been eating since WW2 that was different to us?

I later discovered that it was Mediterranean tomatoes rather than British ones, local cheeses, red peppers, and a dozen types of salad. Meat and two veg was unknown. And somehow they seemed to be at one with the beauty of their environment. When they weren’t trekking and camping they were skiing and sailing. We Brits just seemed so ‘indoorsy’ by comparison.

Cut forward to 2021 and see what a summer brings now in East Devon. Everywhere I go there are walkers, sailors, paddleboarders, swimmers, kite-surfers, joggers, tennis players, and cricketers. And of course as ever footballers. And that is just in my bit of the lower Axe Valley.

It seems that as a generation the young and old now are more in touch with the outside world than they have been for many decades. Many parents showing their children a rock pool know about the micro-worlds that live there, and what ancient herbs grow in hedgerows. Trees are regarded as benevolent sustainers of the world’s atmosphere. People are awe-struck as we discover that trees really do communicate with each other through their deep root systems.

This makes me so worried for the minds of the young. They learn at school that 250 years of extracting fossil fuels and setting fire to them for energy has wreaked destruction across the face of their planet. This is terrifying to a conscientious 10-year-old.

Yet nature, despite how negligently we have treated her, still shares her wonders. Last weekend many on the coast from Exmouth to Weymouth will have seen about 40 stunning dolphins playing in the wake of boats and even putting on wonderful, acrobatic displays visible to the naked eye from the shore side.

It’s not often that one gets to see hordes of tourists stop dead sharing the wonder of such a sight. In their silence, you could feel that they were at one with nature for just a few minutes. The question is, how do we harness that innate love of the planet to change behaviour before it is too late?

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