LOVE WILL TEAR US APART
IT WAS ALL GOING TO END I TEARS, and I should have known better. But love has this way of blinding you to the bog-obvious.
The sea was a brown colour. That's not right, is it? Any rational person would have taken that as a bit of a clue of what was to come. The signs were all there, but I chose to ignore them.
The skipper put the ladder over the side of the boat and the submerged rungs disappeared. "Just a bit of surface muck," I told myself.
All I could think about was the seductive allure of launching myself from the boat, slipping beneath the surface and losing myself in the vastness of the sea. I really needed a dive.
I'm practically head-butting the buoy, but I can't see the shotline. Worse, I can't see my buddy, and he is barely an arm's length away, wearing a large bright yellow box. I press my nose against the line and can make out my gloved hand clinging on. Result!
Trying to explain the attraction of UK diving to non-divers is a bit like watching Wife Swap and trying to explain why one perfectly pleasant, industrious person (usually a woman) is prepared to put up with what she does from the revolting blob that she's chosen as a partner. Love is inexplicable and it can make us do stupid things.
Maybe some UK divers just have a strong dive-drive and we're prepared to put up with less than the ideal to get satisfaction. Maybe some of us think a bit of muck makes the experience more exciting. Even when we end up disappointed, we keep coming back for more.
So I'd like to report that UK divers are a passionate, impetuous bunch, and that getting on a dive boat is like stepping into the sea-going equivalent of Wuthering Heights, but it isn't so. We are a perfectly ordinary, unremarkable bunch. I hate to admit it, but our drive to dive is possibly caused by a lack of self-fulfilment elsewhere.
When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low, perhaps we need to experience something extraordinary in order to feel alive. Perhaps diving is so addictive because modern life is so rubbish.
Diving is a much-romanticised sport, full of charming images of couples swimming hand in hand through stunning coral landscapes.
But even in such pristine conditions, what that image doesn't reveal is the earlier screaming match about the correct positioning of that octopus holder; the finger-jabbing row about which direction to take; and the post-dive recriminations about whose clumsy antics frightened that baby moray eel back inside a hole before a photo could be taken.
Even in clear waters, diving always has a dark side. On this occasion I hit it at barely 6m. The lights went out. Switching on my torch simply illuminated the swirling, soup-like quality of the sea around me. Love is surely blind, because I couldn't see a thing.
But then, this is Dover, just around the corner from the Thames estuary. I'm diving in churned-up water that has swept through one of the most densely populated cities in the world, collecting all manner of unmentionable yuk along the way.
This part of the coast is famous for what a friend once described as "five-clang" diving. You feel your way along the seabed, hoping to find the wreck... clang! Your cylinder has just hit it. So you move backwards... clang! Yes, definitely something metallic. You move left... clang! You move right... clang! Hmmm. You move upwards... clang!
At the fifth clang, the inside of your drysuit is likely to resemble the conditions in which you're diving. On this occasion, I decided to love it and leave it. Perhaps, as David Bellamy would say, I was just going through the motions. It wouldn't be the first time that following my heart has landed me in the shit.