Just when Mark Dinning thought it was safe to go back into the water
Looking back, the dorsal fin may not have been the size we declared it to friends over dinner that night. But then, that’s the thing about hindsight: it doesn’t exist in the present, much less when you’re a hundred feet out to sea.
I’m somewhere off the coast of France and it’s the summer of 1993. I was on a post-A levels blowout with my mate Geoff. (For the record, I have changed his name. Not so much to protect the innocent – he’s far from it – but because it’s not fair to tell tales of grown men crying without their advance warning.) Lying on the beach, we’d spotted a large jetty floating 200 feet out to sea. On that jetty there appeared to be a lot of pretty ladies and assorted other folk having a mighty old time. Which we figured may as well include us.
The shark arrived as we were halfway there. I know that’s when it arrived because when I turned to look at Geoff (oh forget it, his name’s Chris Nicholl and he lives in Tonbridge in the UK), I saw what I can only describe as pure terror on his face.
If you’ve seen Jaws 2 you’ll know this face. It’s the one the blonde girl has when Chief Brody finds her hidden in a small compartment in her sailing boat, after she’s just seen Jaws eat her boyfriend. Her face is quivering uncontrollably, tears streaming down it. Eventually, she takes control of herself for just long enough to shriek a single word: SsshhhaaaAARRKKK! Which, funnily enough, is precisely what Chris did.
I’d like to tell you we stayed calm, didn’t make any noise or splash around, and poised ourselves to punch the beast on the snout. Then again, I’d like to tell you many things that aren’t true. But that’s not really the point of this page. So, instead, I can report that we actually started flailing around like two toddlers in a paddling pool, bawling our eyes out and crying for help.
And that’s precisely when the French ladies, having seen the fin themselves, started jumping off the jetty and swimming determinedly towards us. We were bewildered. And not a little unexcited ourselves at this present turn of events. At least until, aghast, they reached our snot-ravaged faces and swam straight past them to frolic with the beautiful dolphin that, it turned out, the fin actually belonged to.
We learned many things that day, me and Chris. One of the key ones being the name of that place in France, because we saw it on a sign, just after we’d dragged our sorry selves out of the surf. Le Port Du Dauphin it’s called. Funny that.
Mark Dinning is our editor. We think he needs to steer clear of open water to avoid any further embarrassment…