When I was about 12, my most treasured possession was my little blow-up dinghy. A give-away from a mosquito spray company, it transported me across the coral reef of the Caribbean in front of my house to the deep azure waters beyond. In it, I could avoid the treacherous sharp coral, and more importantly, the black, spiny sea-urchins. If you were unlucky or clumsy enough to tread on one, the black needles would poison before you could call for help and you would die a hideously painful, though mercifully swift, death.
I would skim across the reef, stiff as a board, with my toes pointed into the front, paddling furiously to keep as much of the bottom flat as possible. My snorkel and mask were permanently welded to my head.
It was a strange song I heard diving out from the reef; the tuneful froth from my mouth as I dove, the scratching hiss of sand and broken shell moving rhythmically far below me, the squeak and hum in my ears as I sank deep below the water.
I took my little plastic oar with me to poke about and move things - we were not so ecologically careful in those days. Or perhaps it was the innocent cruelty of childhood that led me to shove my oar, quite literally, into a dark hole.
It stuck and I pulled hard, my flippered feet swelling me urgently back and forth. My breath blew like thunder. It came free with a brown thing attached - I thought it seaweed, and brushed at it with annoyance. It was the rubbery, prehistoric spiral of an octopus that followed angrily out and we hung eye to eye in the turquoise water as I realised what it was. I had already lost an oar to casual beach thieves so my priority was to keep this one.
Lucky for me, the beast cared more about his privacy and huffily billowed back into the gloom, while I shot, bubbles rattling from my open mouth, back to the surface.
This week, I have written off a car, celebrated a birthday and negotiated a sticky, tricky conversation.
I'm whizzing back up to the sun now. I think I've still got an oar about me. And I know the urchins will only sting, not kill.