The new abnormal

WE’VE STARTED TO EMERGE. The desperate dash for a dive is on – but where and how? What is our new diving normal? How much has altered over these past 16 or so months. I headed south-west to investigate.

If the extended traffic jam where the M4 meets the M5 is anything to go by, nothing much has changed.

It’s horribly familiar, yet somehow my mind had blanked that experience out. I was simply dazzled by the excitement of getting away to go diving.

Gordano service station is usually the point in the journey where I realise that the torch-charger cable is back home in the kitchen-drawer. No change there!

With Covid restricting our travel abroad, most of England has now decided that Cornwall is the ultimate holiday destination. So if you’re considering a dive out of Cornwall in 2021, I’m afraid it’s full.

Yes, I know the locals have been saying this for 23 years, but this time it’s patently obvious to all. Every last stitch of accommodation has been booked up until September (earliest). And that’s September 2022. No hope of a dive at Hope Cove any time soon.

To many people living in Cornwall, tourism is a necessary evil.

To the rest, it’s just evil.

Divers are an extra-specially irritating species of tourist. We manage to be annoying on both land and sea at the same time!

Our over-sized vehicles and rubber boats on trailers obstruct the narrow lanes. We faff about on slipways, cause chaos in the harbour and constantly demonstrate our maritime ineptitude.

Parking space in Cornwall is under more pressure than the West End of London. No wonder the locals roll their eyes and curse when an armada of dive-club vehicles turns up at their tiny local harbour.

Devon, on the other hand is merely 95% booked – largely because it’s such a laidback place that few businesses bother to answer their phones. It’s also 75% under-staffed.

Those businesses that have managed to re-open have barely enough staff to unlock the doors and turn you away because it’s a Tuesday. Those notices pinned to the restaurant windows are not copies of the menu. They’re a roll-call of recruitment needs.

So everything that was contentious and tricky before Covid has become doubly difficult. It’s the new abnormal.

DIVER July 2021

THE SOUTH-WEST is a victim of its own gorgeousness. We can’t give up on so much that is wonderful. Jewel anemones. Wrecks. Drop-offs. Great vis. Basking sharks. Lundy! Seals.

So what is a diver to do? The patience that’s needed to complete your stops is the same patience you’ll need with people who are dealing with a tsunami of pent-up demand.

Self-reliance is a virtue, and diving teaches you about redundancy. A back-up Pot Noodle for those emergency “out of food” incidents never goes amiss. Most of all, do not panic. In the midst of strife, maintain a sense of humour.

Respect the unique qualities of the places you visit and the creatures who inhabit those environments. Even when those creatures are refusing to sell you a bag of crisps because all the tables inside the pub are taken, and “we don’t serve food outside”.

Just breathe. Regain control.

Join the queue for fish and chips instead.