Thursday, 1 February 2007

Of Death and Taxes…

But in this world nothing can be said to be certain,
except death and taxes.
Benjamin Franklin

Finally made it back to my blog. Sometimes so many things crowd around demanding time that there isn’t even the luxury of choosing between them! The end of January is the deadline for Tax Returns and every year I tell myself that I will file before Christmas but every year “Life” happens and I find myself, as the 31st looms, having to cross some more “t’s” and dot some more “i’s” before the whole nightmare is behind us. At times like this, I am so grateful for living in the computer age and being able to file our returns online. Interesting isn’t it, here we are escaping to the country, getting back to nature, leaving the rat race behind, downsizing (OK, enough clichĂ©s) and it’s the computer that’s making it all possible!

A while back, a neighbour left a comment on the blog to tell me some sad news about a dead Harbour Porpoise that had been washed ashore about a mile up from us. I know very little about marine life and even less about these gentle mammals so M and I went to have a look and found the body on the beach right up in the trees. Life and death go hand in hand and in the country it is not glossed over or hidden away; the remains stay where they are deposited until nature (via scavenger or time) removes them. One tends to forget that the extremes of weather and the dangers of mechanisation and machinery also affect those creatures, both seen and unseen, that share the environment with us. We are all familiar with the menace posed to badgers, hedgehogs and foxes by vehicles on terra firma. The water presents it's own threats; the propellers of fishing boats, outboard motors and the like, pose a danger to whales, dolphins, porpoises and other sea creatures. What caused the death of this porpoise is a mystery but what a graceful and beautiful creature and I came home to see what I could find out. Further research turned up a few basic facts: The Harbour Porpoise is one of six species of porpoise and occurs in the cool temperate and sub-polar waters of the Northern Hemisphere. They are very shy, only showing their backs and fins when breaking through the water but despite this, they are the most commonly seen and studied of all the porpoises. They can live as long as twenty years; however, the average lifespan is more like ten years with the adult females reaching about six feet in length and the adult males slightly less. Although they have few natural predators apart from the Killer Whale, they are at threat from gill net fishing, pollution, habitat degeneration and depletion of their food sources due to over fishing. We are very fortunate that the Northern waters of the UK provide one of the more stable habitats for these little porpoises; in the Baltic Sea, their numbers are very depleted and in the Mediterranean, they are nearly extinct. Even so around 10,000 porpoises die every year in UK waters as a result of being mistakenly caught in mono-filament gill nets. That's an awful lot of porpoises!


I hope this wasn't the result of a gill net.

And so as we head toward spring in this lovely place, another dimension, the sea, has entered our lives. I can (and do) go on and on about the beauty but you know what they say about beauty? Look below the surface and what you find may surprise you! The beauty continues but not without the reality... yet as I started, nothing is certain but death and taxes!


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