Read the first page from the story below:
Is it a disco light show, an aurora, or am I now fuzzy in the head? Is it just another moment of ever more frequent absent mindedness, the slip of the ageing mind where my brain skids on a banana skin, dumping me somewhere new, somewhere unexpected? Is that where I am, imagining this bioluminescence? Am I living a waking dream, transporting me to the giddy days of childhood, when the reef was ablaze? I give myself a mental pinch, to jolt myself to reality, but the lights are still here, not as bright as the extinguished lights of my youth, but they are here, nonetheless. I marvel at the oceanic fireflies, a seabed 5th of November. If it is a dream, then let me sleep forever.
Corals are very old animals, and when I say old, I don’t mean creaky boned. Press a shiny coin into your hands granny old; I mean, beyond the limits of our imagination, old. Think of The Colossus of Rhodes or the Pyramids. They are a great deal older than gran. 4,650 years old; now multiply that roughly 200,000 times and that’s what I mean by old. That is when coral first appeared in our oceans, creeping, colonising, along with their wobbly, transparent cousins jellyfish. They are neon light show pleasing, or rather the animals that inhabit the coral, radiating blues, purples, greens, reds and pinks, a gay rainbow of ocean fauna. Little animals with the appearance of nettles, hedgehog backs, bathroom sponges and dermatitis, these polyps terraform the ocean floor.
In my childhood coral was abundant, perhaps 500 types if I counted them all, plentiful loaves and fishes. Talking of fishes the coral sustained maybe a 1,000 reef fish, though I was barely conscious of their darting, skulking or marauding presence. I swam, I dived, I harvested, and they were there, ubiquitous. I didn’t bat an eyelid. This array of life and colour was the backdrop to my youth, its permanence unquestioned.Matthew Hanson-Kahn ‘The Caretaker’.
Meet the author: Matthew Hanson-Kahn
Matthew Hanson-Kahn is of Chinese and English parents, and lives in Brighton, U.K. He worked for 25 years on equalities and social care, in both the public and voluntary sectors. He has a partner and two grown up kids. In his early twenties, he undertook voluntary work in a tribal village in India for two years and contracted hepatitis as a result! He has backpacked around the world and loves travelling. He and his partner have travelled with their kids to India, Cambodia and Albania. He has now given up work to concentrate on writing. Matthew’s other passion is music and since retiring has formed a band Brighton Strangler, which features in a video game. www.brightonstrangler.com