LET'S PUT THE MUSIC BACK INTO DIVING
YOUR CORRESPONDENT NOTES WITH huge satisfaction that he is now able to listen to his Busted Sing The Best Of The Nolans album under water.
The launch of a submersible MP3 player has, I know, attracted the almost universal scorn of our community. But, to my mind, it represents the single greatest advance in scuba technology since Alf Qualung's ground-breaking invention.
Diving, you see, is in crisis. The sport is facing its nemesis: tedium.
Diving in UK waters? Move along now, there's nothing to see here. Whatever it was divers used to look at, we ate.
If it wasn't big enough to eat, we caught it anyway, waited for it to die, then threw it back. Then, if anything remained to disturb the perfect tranquillity of the marine environment, we poisoned it.
At the other end of the biological spectrum, there's the coral reef. Here, the problem is the opposite one: no shortage of things to look at, but like over-hasty strippers they flaunt themselves so brazenly that after five minutes of dive one you've seen all you're going to see.
There's no mystery, no romance. Just a frantic gang bang in which only the blind and the hopelessly stupid could fail to tick off every page in their I-Spy Coral Reefs books.
In the Red Sea, the novice is the one who hasn't swum with the whale shark. And as for the bit of sea between Land's End and Eilat, forget it. No real marine life has ever marred its stunning banality.
Worse, as diving has become ever more mind-numbingly dull, so technology has enabled us to dive more and more often and to spend longer and longer under water.
And so it was inevitable that we should cast about for new ways of entertaining ourselves in an environment that lurches between lifeless desert and the zoological equivalent of Stringfellows.
The MP3 player will prove to be the first of many such diversions. News has reached Diver of a new underwater sport that is attracting followers in the Plymouth area and involves defusing unstable ammunition against the clock.
The sub-aqua division of a leading toy manufacturer, Fishy Price, will launch the first fully-submersible lap-top in time for Christmas. Divers will be able to view digitally-generated images of extinct marine life.
Every computer will come with a free pair of digital shears in case the user becomes enmeshed in the Net.
Meanwhile, the world's first underwater wedding chapel has opened in Truk Lagoon. American divers are flocking to conduct their nuptials on the bridge of a designated Japanese war grave, or beside the remains of a kamikaze pilot in the cockpit of his Zero.
Guests are treated to a DIY wedding breakfast where they're provided with vacuum cleaners and invited to 'go suck up some sushi'.
It's just this sort of cheerful ingenuity that promises to be the salvation of the sport.
Indeed, the major retail chains are already expressing interest in the submarine environment. There are plans for a chain of coffee shops, provisionally called Starfishbucks, in the waters off Grand Cayman.
And in our own Scilly Isles, a supermarket called Tresco is selling organically-reared shellfish to trolley-pushing divers.
For the more adventurous, Bends is a yoga studio situated 80 metres beneath the North Sea in Yorkshire.
So take heart. Thanks to the endless energy of such pioneers, our sport will soon be reinvested with at least a feeble echo of the fascination it once held for its loyal aficionados.
Deeper with Blackford
by Andy Blackford
£7.95 plus P&P, A5 format, 156 pages, paperback
Special offer - buy online at £8.95 inc. UK surface p&p
From Swanage Bay to the Redcar sewage treatment plant; from Bovisand Harbour to the wreck of the Wigan Shopping Trolley - Andy Blackford has been there, dived it, and recalls the experiences in this new collection of 36 of his best stories. Illustrated by Rico.
P&P UK £2, overseas surface £3.