Romance at bath time?

Bath SITW

Shark Attack

shark tail

I should have known better than to have swum at dusk.

hilton-island-727110_1920I should have known better than to have swum in a deep channel between two islands off the coast of Florida, the shark attack capital of the world[1].

I should have known better than to have swum twenty minutes after the tide turned, flushing the little fish out to sea. Because where there are little fish, there are predators. Big predators.

file4701246219194I was nineteen at the time. Adventurous, optimistic…and old enough to remember freezing with fear when I saw the movie, Jaws.

If you’ve ever swum late in the day, you’ll know how dark the water looks when you look down. Then you wonder what you can’t see…what’s looking up at you.

I was treading water mid-channel, and the surface was flat like polished ebony, sliding away to the gnarled mangrove roots fifty yards distant that bordered the beach I was aiming for.

And then everything around me turned grey.

shark-670021_1920A great sweeping flank of grey, topped by a slicing dorsal fin broke the surface. Eight feet behind that fin, a scimitar tail beat as three-quarters of a ton of hungry muscle, sixteen feet of apex-predator circled me…

file0002076921195A fact or two about sharks had sunk in when sipping Margaritas with the scuba team in Fingerless Joe’s Hurricane Shack. Even as a primordial trigger tripped an alarm in my unconscious, I knew there was only one shark in these waters that reached that size…manoeuvred with such athleticism. The Great Hammerhead.sharks-266014_1920

Another fact I knew, was not to panic. Not to try and swim for it because my distress would only excite the shark. What else did I know?

rays-525236_1920Well, that this shark usually fed on stingrays buried in the sand[2]. Sharks contain sensory pits on their snouts called the Ampullae of Lorenzini[3] – that detect the electrical discharges given off by muscles. So burying itself doesn’t protect a stingray. A shark can tell if you’re a prey item, just by swimming past. fish-plaice-1510303-1278x782

The question on my mind was would this shark confuse my flat feet for flat fish?

Between 1958 and 2014, there were 548[4] recorded shark attach fatalities worldwide. That’s an average of ten per year. Was I about to be number 11?

hippo-783522_1920But consider this – in Africa, hippos, Cape Buffalo, and lions all kill hundreds of people a year. Elephants kill around 2,000 annually. Worldwide, crocodiles kill over 5,000 people every year. Then there’s the North African death stalker scorpion, responsible for 50,000 deaths a year[5]. And I haven’t mentioned my cooking…

earth-ii-1475811-1279x913But one statistic worth considering is that if you laid those ten unfortunate shark attack victims end to end, they’d stretch across a room.

shark-674867_1920If you laid all the sharks killed by humans each year end to end, they’d stretch…four times around the planet. Ten versus…one hundred million[6].

And this has been going on for decades, such that scientists now estimate 90% of the large fish, including sharks, are gone[7].

ramen-1167506_1920Why are so many killed? Three words. Three very sad words: shark…fin…soup. A gelatinous delicacy popular in SE Asia, especially at times of celebrations such as marriages.

Now you may think a shark-free ocean would be a good thing – and I confess that as this giant hammerhead circled me, that thought crossed my mind! But let me explain a theory that suggests it wouldn’t.

whale-shark-281498_1920Sharks eat the middle-sized and smaller fish that dine on phytoplankton. Phytoplankton – or plant plankton as opposed to animal plankton. They photosynthesize half to seventy percent of the planet’s CO2, turning it into oxygen – yes, that’s as much or more than all the land-based plants combined. The theory goes that if we remove the sharks, the herbivorous fish population will explode…and most of the phytoplankton will disappear.

No more CO2 capture, no more oxygen production. Hello irreversible global warming[8].

file000783834896So next time you’re dining in the Peking Palace in Pekham, or in Chomping Chopsticks in Chiswick and your eyes scroll down the menu to shark fin soup, please keep going. I’ve heard the black sesame soup is rather tasty.

Oh, and that great hammerhead? There was one more fact I forgot to mention: no fatal attack on a human has ever been attributed to a hammerhead shark[9]. And I knew that…as I watched this magnificent creature, whose ancestors and relatives have populated the oceans for 450 million years[10].

Then it circled once more and headed out to sea.

In search, no doubt, of sweet and sour stingray.

hammerhead-shark-763343_1280

hammerhead Ben art

More Ben-isms: February Round Up

gold watch

For a while I thought time had stood still for me. Then I realised I needed a new watch battery.

I have solved my London summer waking at 4am problem! Moving to the Eastern Seaboard of the USA (which is 5 hours behind). Anyone have a spare room?

I have discovered an easy way to make $1,000. If you send me $1,000 I’ll share my secret.

I don’t know that I know that I don’t know that I know.

Today is set to be the hottest day of the year in the UK. Depends on your definition of “hot”.

The headache and breathing problems caused by the chlorine/chloramines in my local swimming pool have been joined by another, potentially more serious symptom. Now my bath is clogged.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: No one is interested in my thought of the day.

I had my hair cut today by a man aged 72 who said he had been cutting hair for 54 years. There are 100,000 follicles on the head – let’s say he cuts 1/2 inch off on average, 10 times a day, 220 days a year. If you laid the cut hair end-to-end, that would make approx. 90,000 miles of hair – or enough to wrap around the equator 3.6 times. (Note to self: get a life)

I wish my smoke alarm would learn to recognize my cooking skills.

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Ben-isms: January Round Up

starfish morgue

I am technologically befuddled – I can’t add apps to my phone. Does this make me appathetic?

Tautology of the Day: I just don’t care that I am ambivalent about ambivalence because it just doesn’t matter.

People are only entitled to their opinions in direct proportion to their knowledge of the subject under discussion. This rule applies in all instances except when they are agreeing with me.

New Year’s Resolution Update: My fast is going slow.

Is it just me, or do crosswords make other people angry?

Homonym/heteronym sentence of the day: John recorded the fact that the band went on record stating they had booked a studio to record what they hoped would be a record-breaking record.

I landed on Planet Sensible, but lacking gravity, I bounced right off.

Something in the Water is beginning to make waves.

If you can’t do it in slow motion, you can’t do it at full speed. And that means you can’t teach it.

Marine Joke of the Day: What did the starfish say to the depressed seahorse? “You’re a neigh-sayer.”

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Ben-isms: New Round Up

sussex_m

View in Sussex

Only when, with open arms, I welcomed fear into my life…did it choose to leave.

Conundrum of the day: Socrates said that the only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing. But if you know you know nothing, then you know something and cannot have true wisdom.

No one was ever conned by someone they disliked.

It upsets me the way people use clichés like they’re going out of fashion.

The time has finally come – I am going to have a sex change!! I am moving from Wessex to Sussex.

I have reached that point in life when I have more answers than questions. The problem is, the most common answer is, “Don’t bother asking questions as there is no answer.”

Bought one of those forehead thermometers. Followed the instructions. Nothing happened – no temperature reading. Tried again. No reading. Adjusted it. No reading. If you don’t hear from me again…

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Ben-isms: November Round Up

ice cream_morgue

What is it with rhetorical questions?

It said in the paper today that people who nap for 1 hour every day live 7 yrs longer. I have worked out how I can live to 206 yrs old!!

I’ll gladly rip off my fingernails, bruise my knuckles and sprain my wrists before I let an unopened pistachio escape.

Can someone please come round here pronto with ice cream? Preferably double nougat chocolate chip banana ripple cookie dough Oreo Grand Marnier espresso Cornish cream autumn strawberry toffee nougat octopus ink vegan four seasons surprise with monkey dandruff sprinkles? Or vanilla, if Ben & Jerry’s are playing the “we discontinued that flavor due to lack of demand” excuse.

Homophonic observation of the day: When you sneeze, you go “a-tissue” (“a-tissue, a-tissue, we all fall down”). Then you reach for…a tissue. Perhaps the former is an unconscious plea for the latter.

As a writer, I frequently bemoan the relatively few words in the English language. So I am going to start inventing some in restinence to the oquibatory combustulon of semtopular rogulism.

These is only one logical explanation: My chess computer cheats.

man > kind > humankind > inhuman > unkind > inhumankind > inhumanunkind > ?

Microwaved potato with redcurrant jelly, washed down with tap water. I feel a recipe book coming on.

Someone said, whatever you do, never discuss paradoxical injunction. So there I was, wondering what to talk about when I had this great idea but –

Apparently my smartphone has 1m times more RAM and processes 800 times faster that the guidance computer on Apollo 11. At least that rocket survived a 240,000 mile journey and landed men on a hostile rock in space. My phone didn’t survive a two foot fall from my table to the floor.

IT’S NOT EVERY DAY YOU BEAT A GRANDMASTER AT CHESS!!! (and today wasn’t one of them. But I did manage a “Z” as a triple word score in Scrabble. The irony was, the word was “zero”.)

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Ben-isms: September Round Up

Sept 2015 Benisms post morgue

Feeling philosophical on a crisp Fall walk…

I have written the 1st word of my new short story. It took all morning but I think I nailed it! Here it is (subject to structural and copy editing): “Daniel?”

So THAT’S why people have been giving me strange looks all day: I had my shirt on inside out. Suppose that’s what mirrors are for.

There are none so deaf as those who will not see. There are none so blind as those who will not listen. There are none so charitable as those who think this means something.

Today is set to be the hottest day of the year in the UK. Depends on your definition of “hot”.

Faraday paradox: Diluted nitric acid will corrode steel, while concentrated nitric acid doesn’t.

Our family get-togethers are more clamourations (American: clamorations) than murmurations.

I have used the definitive article 5,209 times in my new novel. I have a gnawing intuition this is three times too many.

Close family is a relative term.

Okay – time for levitation practice. I’ll be back down in a couple of hours, thermal uplifts permitting.

More than half our planet’s covered by water more than two miles deep.

Cool French word of the day: époustouflant (meaning: breathtaking/amazing/surprising)

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