THE LAST STING OF THE DEAD JELLYFISH

A couple argue. He or she looks back as he or she leaves the room and says something sparkling with a four letter dash of venom. That is the last sting of the dead jellyfish. Two men fight. One knocks the other to the ground and puts the boot in. That is the last sting of the dead jellyfish.

Deadly jellyfish illustrate the last sting of the dead jellyfish.

Edward James, the surrealist collector who commissioned Salvador Dalí to make the lobster telephone, had four nieces and a nephew, Angus James. When Edward decided to build a castle and his own Garden of Eden in the Las Pozas tropical rainforest in Mexico, Angus left Eton to become his uncle’s amanuensis. The childless Edward told Angus he was his sole heir and would leave him everything.

In a surrealist gesture, Edward wrote a will to be read by his lawyer after his death. In it he left cash sums to his four nieces in order of their prettiness: £20,000, £10,000, £5,000 and £2,000. Angus did not receive a penny and the multimillion pound fortune went into a trust to maintain Edward’s country estate as a museum for his surrealist collection.

For Angus, it was the last sting of the dead jellyfish, a knife in the back from which he never fully recovered. He fed his rage shooting pigeons and with a deadly forehand smash in table tennis that made the celluloid shriek like a rat in a bag.

In 1444, Barbary coast pirates sacked the village of Cadaqués in Spain. They killed the men defending the church and packed the women and children into galleys to be sold as slaves in Tripolitania. After burning everything that would burn, the pirates calmly took down the church stone by stone. It was an act of spite and humiliation, the last sting of the dead jellyfish.

Revenge of the Dead Jellyfish

More than revenge or reprisal, that nip from the invertebrate sea jelly extinguished on the sand or sliced in two by a careless speedboat is steeped in schadenfreude, that cruel pleasure and satisfaction that comes from witnessing the troubles, failures, pain, suffering and humiliation of another. Schadenfreude – epicaricacy is the little used term in English – is often the refuge of those with low self-esteem, according to psychologists, but if, say, a vile politician has tripped over his own ego and landed face down in a mound of dung, we can forgive ourselves a wry smile.

Jellyfishmedusas, Portuguese man o’ war, Australian boxare generally free-swimming marine creatures propelled by their umbrella-shaped bells and armed with trailing tentacles for capturing prey, warding off predators and stinging the unwary swimmer just for the hell of it.

There is only one way to switch the tables on a jellyfish and that is to eat it. They are a delicacy in some countries where the bite disappears in preparation and the translucent gelatine wobbling on your plate will remind you of the last sting of the dead jellyfish by being odourless, flavourless, tasteless and thoroughly unpleasant.  

You might enjoy THE SMELL OF DEAD DREAMS

 

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. With elections in the air talk here in France has turned to national identities.
    What is an Englishman. Here is my answer.

    A Tale of Six Englishmen

    I’ve travelled a lot in my job making TV programmes and have always been fascinated by the world’s perception of “the Englishman”, but it has become too frequently an image of an increasingly cruel, ill-informed and anachronistic character. In looking for the true Englishman a half dozen examples stick in my mind. Terry, Bertie, Jack, Rupert, James and A.N.Other.

    The most lovable and enviable stereotype was the Terry Thomas/Bertie Wooster slightly incompetent but harmless simpleton with grand manners and plans. The bowler hat, the suede loafers, the banana skin gaffes and hopeless schemes. Terry-Thomas told me that he got inside the characters he played once he had worked out where they would have bought their clothes, “Bounders always shopped at Austin Reid, absolute showers at Cecil Gee” he confided. He also accurately described his oh-so-English character in “Carlton Brown of the F.O.” as “rubble from the nostrils up”. But both the characters he played and the heroes that P.G.Wodehouse wrote could always be relied upon to “do the right thing” when push came to shove. I made a short film about TT but was unable to place it. For the BBC Arts department he was not a serious actor and for ITV the fact that he shook with Parkinson’s was not what the public wanted to see. I disagree. As we stood on the beach watching the sailing boats skim by I asked him if he knew much about sailing. “I know how to spell yacht” was his reply. Undeniably a great man.

    I encountered my next candidate, Simon Hatchard, on the streets of Hong Kong where I worked with the rightful poet laureate Pam Ayres and the army on an LWT Christmas Special as the sun slowly sank and the end of empire finally became a reality. This British army officer (all nicknamed “Ruperts” by the squaddies) had an admirable sense of fairness and purpose, he was well informed (to my surprise there were as many Guardians on display over officer’s mess breakfast as Telegraphs) He was polite to everyone and seemed to me to exemplify the Englishman as international citizen. I went back to visit him again the following year.

    My third Englishman was England World Cup (1966) star footballer Jack Charlton. As an ex public schoolboy uninterested in football I was nervous when we started work on a series for Tyne Tees entitled “Big Jacks British” but I needn’t have worried. We got on famously and eventually made 13 half hour films together on everything from his days in the Household Cavalry to catching salmon in the Tay in Dunkeld. He was totally at ease with everyone from those in the Seahouses bars who wanted to talk through old touch line dramas to tea-taking in the drawing room of the Duke of Buccleuch who he referred to affectionately as ”his dukiness”. Jack seemed the Everyman that the English should aspire to be. Without malice (though he did keep a black book of those who had crossed him on the pitch) caring, compassionate and well informed. The last time I saw him I stopped off at his home in Barnsley for the night en route Scotland and stood with his wife Pat in the kitchen as she cooked supper and he played football in the garden with my two young children. As dusk deepened I asked Pat when they would come in. “When Jack’s winning” she replied. Admirable.

    Then there is James Bond. A mixed blessing. It’s great entertainment, great business for the film industry and publicity for the UK tourist industry but I believe that too many people still think we have the clout, relevance and importance that 007 enjoyed and can “punch above our weight”. Spoiler alert. Bond is not a real person! I was reared on films of wartime derring-do and not so derring-do from “The Dam Busters” (by age 12 I almost knew the script verbatim) to the lighter camper borders of Noel Coward’s “In Which we Serve” but while I appreciate that these films were necessary and effective morale raisers and boosters during and just after the 1939-1945 World war, surely it is time we moved on? The war was over 70 years ago, we didn’t “stand alone” in that struggle and we need to engage with the world of 2024 and its realities and new allies. We were part of something bigger then and need to be now. Mr Johnson’s puerile sabre-rattling dispatch of an aircraft carrier into the south China seas to remind the Chinese of our existence seemed to epitomise this delusional attitude. I bet they were quaking in their boots from Bejing to Kowloon!

    Today it is harder to spot the admirable Englishman. The drawbridge seems to have been pulled up. Those above seem to be outnumbered by the two-sided Tory; with a front in crested blue blazer and bowling club tie and a back in red-wall colours of envy and whatever is the opposite of compassion. Or the Uber Tory Farage with his beer and skittles nationalism who with the fulsome support of the right wing press has carried out the classic manoeuvre of making people scared and then convincing them that only he can make them safe again. (Modi in India is also a good example of this populist deceit). Meanwhile the self-appointed saloon bar armchair “Englishmen” who have (temporarily) hijacked the Union Jack and the memory of those who served and died in world wars, thrive on hatred, ignorance of the world and meanness – a far cry from the Englishness of Jack, the Hong Kong army officer or that paragon of British virtue, Bertie Wooster.

    So who is the final English man on my list? Well that would be me. The bowling club bore who has eaten and digested the hatred and lies of the Daily Mail (and possibly the paper itself) is no more English than I am. I too can represent my country to the world and ever fearless I have often even summoned up the courage to leave England to do it. So next week you will find me at a quiet roadside in France where four members of the resistance were shot by the Germans in 1944. I shall clear the grass and lay a wreath to their sacrifice and bravery. They were fighting for democracy and that fight continues – they were like me as European as they were French and I am English. In my mind Terry Thomas, Jack Charlton and my army Hong Kong liaison officer will be standing beside me, heads bowed. They were the best of us – we must reclaim their spirit.

    Alan Ravenscroft is the author of “From Here To Infirmity – A Beginners Guide to Retirement”(available on Amazon)

  2. Good reply Alan – your tentacles have spread far and wide.

    These days the English gent is in retreat and more likely to found languishing in France or Spain, or holed-up on their tax haven island.

    Thankfully I haven’t been stung by a jellyfish but apparently they can still sting when washed up on the beach so do take care when scooping it up and taking it back to the kitchen.

    Jellyfish and custard, anyone?

  3. Fear not simply the last sting of the jellyfish.

    “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite the claws that catch. Beware the Jubjub bird and shun the frumious Bandersnatch.”

    And should you swim with the jellyfish, don’t forget to always have on hand a container of meat tenderizer if you care to lessen the sting.

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