HOW TO MAKE DIVERS SOUND INTELLIGENT
HELP ME, I'M DROWNING - foundering in a tidal wave of technology.
Far away, I can still make out the familiar island that is my spiritual diving home - one of horse-collar Fenzys, dive tables and wrist-worn depth gauges. But it's shrinking rapidly as I'm swept away by a deluge of nitrox, rebreather sets and ergonomically designed gas-analysers.
If I am to have the faintest chance of staying afloat in these treacherous waters, I will need the mental agility of a Faraday, not to mention the bank balance of Bill Gates.
For there isn't an issue of Diver goes by without news of some extraordinary invention that is poised to change the sport forever. The trouble is, I wouldn't give two old pence for any of them.
The inventions that would really enhance the diving experience haven't been invented yet.
Take the TWAT, for instance - the Tropical Water Adjustment Thermostat. This will control a network of electrical elements, buried in shallow trenches running from Cape Wrath to Land's End. At the flick of a switch - albeit a very big switch, situated in Sellafield - the water temperature will be raised to that of the Caribbean, effectively extending the British diving season by 11 months.
If that sounds a tad ambitious, what about polystyrene weights? It has always amazed me that the civilisation that put a man on the moon can't come up with something a little more jolly to hang on our weightbelts. Lead is so awfully grey and heavy, darlings. Whereas polystyrene is so cheery and frivolous and gay.
On a different note, I've never recovered from the disappointment of learning that Jet Fins were nothing of the sort. I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority. As I told them, your true "jet fin" would render all that irksome leg-waggling redundant overnight.
It would be diving's answer to the motorised golf buggy. The sport would be opened instantly to septuagenarians with heart conditions. Pringle drysuits would be de rigeur and our shores would be thronged with Bing Crosby look-alikes on the brink of senile dementia, wandering aimlessly and losing their dentures in the sand.
The promise of verbal communication under water has been dangled enticingly before us since a diver first wrote in longhand on a slate with a Chinagraph pencil: "Excuse me, but I wonder if you'd be so good as to lend me a hand? I'm afraid I'm rather out of air."
Thanks to helmets like goldfish bowls, the dream is now a reality. Buddy can chat to buddy at 30m. But as I always suspected, the quality of conversation has consistently failed to live up to the technology:
DAVE: Blimey, it's a bit parky, eh mate?
COLIN: Brass bloody monkeys. 'Ere, was that a coelacanth or a Blenkinsop's polymog?
DAVE: Search me. Was it brass or phosphor-bronze?
A cracking invention would be an underwater communication system that made divers sound intelligent - that filtered out all references to non-ferrous metals and bodily functions and replaced them with dialogues on the microbiology of polyps and the ethical implications of the war graves controversy.
However, perhaps my most far-fetched fantasy, the Pluto in my solar system of the feasible, is the Boat Radio. This device would enable the cox'n of a dive boat to communicate with the shore while at sea. Don't laugh - I know it's absurd.
But I foresee a time when such an innovation will replace the heavy, costly contraptions into which frustrated boat drivers have mumbled for 30 years, without the faintest expectation of a reply.