Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Toast of the week - pragmatic Darwinism

As ever, the bank holiday weekend sees the start of the coastal Darwin Award season, as landlubbers seek ever more ingenious ways of removing themselves from the gene pool only to be thwarted by the tireless efforts of the Coastguard and the RNLI.

Early aspirants include the two intrepid anglers blown out to sea from Humberside in a child's toy dinghy, together with the usual assortment of clueless jetskiers and overconfident swimmers, 130 of whom had to be fished out of the North Sea when organisers launched a two-mile open-water race in unseasonably cold water and a current so fast the hapless swimmers were travelling backwards.

And, of course, there are always the latter-day Cnuts, who have apparently failed to grasp the essential fact that the sea level around our coasts goes up and down twice a day.

An elderly couple had to be rescued by the rather nifty Hunstanton Hovercraft (if you ever wondered what the RNLI buy with donations, check it out) when their 4x4 was stranded in a foot or so of water, but this is small beer compared to the experience of taxi driver Kryxdztof Tomaszek (H/T JuliaM, via comments).

The unfortunate Mr Tomaszek parked on Brean Beach (complete with pay-and-display ticket) and set off for a pleasant Sunday evening stroll along the sands, blissfully unaware that the car park was of a somewhat impermanent nature and there was a spring tide on the way.
'I managed to get in and tried to drive it away but the engine kept cutting out and two guys helped me out of the car by opening the driver's door and getting some belongings out.'
Despite the Mail's valiant attempts to create a life-or-death drama, there appears to have been little risk to life and limb; not really Darwin territory at all. It could, however, have been a very different story in Dorset, where teenagers have been seen climbing on the precarious piles of rubble that recently fell from the cliffs near Durdle Door.

A local resident reports that boys were clambering about high up on the stones, ignoring the fact that the rocks they dislodged were falling onto people below:
"Their reply was they are not throwing them so it's not their fault."
That sort of attitude has come to be associated with 'vulnerable' youngsters who need to be protected from themselves, so you might imagine that the Nanny State would have swung into action, ensuring everything is expensively fenced off. But no, they make 'em tougher than that in Dorset:
A spokeswoman for Portland Coastguard said the advice to people was not to climb on the rock, to act sensibly and to stay away from the landslip debris. 
"That's our advice, if they ignore it that's up to them," she added.
Well said: Madam, your very good health!


  1. "Well said: Madam, your very good health!"

    Oh, seconded! How refreshing!

  2. Julia, by coincidence, 'refreshing' was the first word that sprang to mind when I read the story, though it didn't make it into the final version.

    Thank goodness at least one person out there still recognizes the notion of individual responsibility; I only hope she isn't subsequently hauled over the coals by some progressive line manager.

  3. Whenever there's an offshore wind you get children blown out to sea on these inflatable things you can buy in toyshops.

    If it's an easterly you can count on it: "Any vessel in the vicinity of Ardrossan, this is Clyde Coastguard..." etc etc.

    It must be terrifying for the children but you do think maybe the parents would eventually get wise. Sadly it seems they don't.

  4. WY, it would be interesting to know how many of those parents drive their children to school because they don't think they are safe walking there.

    In gloomier moments, I'm inclined to agree with Stanford's Professor Crabtree that we are past our best as a species: "the need for intelligence was reduced as we began to live in supportive societies that made up for lapses of judgment or failures of comprehension."


  5. as landlubbers seek ever more ingenious ways of removing themselves from the gene pool

    Mind you, it's a wonderful self-actualizing process nature provides.

  6. Very true, JH; there's a pleasing symmetry in this particular manifestation, given our distant ancestral connection with the oceans.


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