I wouldn’t like to be a crab; not because they are incapable of walking forwards, or backwards for that matter; I suppose I would eventually get used to the idea of turning away from my intended destination in order to reach it plus having to periodically stop and turn to make sure I was still heading in the right direction; and not because their table manners are not up to scratch, the way they shovel their food in with both pincers makes my son’s table manners look positively perfect.
No, it’s nothing to do with their biological make-up but more to do with the extraordinary attraction they hold for the human race, usually but not always, confined to the younger generation.
I speak of course of that wonderful seaside pastime…
Now this particular leisure time pursuit was something that vaguely intrigued me as I wandered alongside a harbour wall or similar, and there would be a group of excited children with their buckets full of a writhing mass of crusted exoskeletoned creatures frantically climbing on top of each other as they scramble about in the bucket trying to escape their plastic prison.
I would always have a peek in the pail, making appropriate adult noises of surprise at how many were clunking about in there, and if I had my sons with me, I’d encourage them have a look. But it was never something I did myself, partly because I didn’t really see the point and dare I say, I felt rather sorry for the captive cramped crustaceans.
But having lived near the coast for 10 years and with one son who has now grown far too old for such trivial behaviour (he’s 14), I decided it was high time to have a go before my younger son reached the age of no return.
Of course I soon realised it’s not just about the catch but the anticipation of the catch, and hearing the whoops of delight from other well seasoned crabbers who know what they are doing and seem to catch everything that squirms, scurries or wriggles on the seabed; you tell yourself that you too will soon have a writhing mass of side-scuttling sea creatures in your bucket of pea-green sea water.
Initially you are yanking the net up every other minute but that gets a bit tedious and you end up splattering yourself in smelly sea water.
Of course it doesn’t matter that it’s not a crab, the mere fact you have caught something other than seaweed is a bonus.
So you lower the net again and wait…again
There’s always the hope you’ll catch another or perhaps something even bigger and better like your neighbour has, but even just one crab is better than nothing and at least he can hurtle himself round in never ending circles as he tries to side-step his way out of his confines.
What have I learned from my crabbing experience? That everyone is interested in looking in your bucket even if it’s empty (I’m still intrigued by the lady who stood staring at our empty bucket for a good 2 minutes) and forget about the packet of rubber fish, bacon is definitely the crabs’ plait du jour!