This baby porpoise was washed up on the beach at Westward Ho! on Friday.
One by one, people gathered, in consternation.
It was a rare sight, and, unusually early for baby porpoises (let alone dead ones).
The female passers-by were especially concerned, touched by the infant’s fate. I had a feeling of (unspoken) support passing from woman-to-woman: it is ok to feel concerned and want to do something about it.
So one of the women rung the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the police, to report the sighting. Then she gently pulled the porpoise to the dry rocks.
I could not help wondering if you could eat it.
Everyone wandered off and a lad in chef’s trousers appeared and crouched beside the porpoise. It was like a dream – the very person I needed to discuss the eating-merits of the beach-version of road-kill.
The young chef did not think it right to eat it but he did say (when I asked him) that porpoise might taste like tuna.
(He also said it was the third dead baby porpoise he’d seen this week, which was unusual and worrying. He thought they’d been caught in the huge nets beyond Lundy island, and discarded back to the sea, victims of unsustainable fishing.)
When the woman who had rung the RSPCA and the police returned, I tried to share my excitement of having a cheffy conversation just when I needed one.
She was shocked by my talk of eating the poor creature.
I felt I’d lost any compassion-points I’d previously gained. (Me and my big mouth. Literally.).
I had intended my foodie-interest in a respectful ceremonial hunter-gatherer sort-of-way. In my ignorance, if not my defence, I thought it was a fish. Now I know a porpoise is a mammal.
Plus, the unusually-early porpoise sighting had triggered apocalyptic-angst: what will we eat when the oil runs out?
I felt the baby porpoise needed honouring so suggested encircling it with stones. This would both give it protection until the police arrived, and a kind of ritual.
A pair of female walkers had now joined us, and one of them gave me confidence to carry out this concept.
“Good idea,” she said. “Do it!”
(I believe women sometimes need extra support to do female-centric acts in a world designed by men).
Thus encouraged, I set to work collecting stones. The other women, including the one whom I’d inadvertently shocked, joined in.
Mike then wrote in the sand: “Please do not touch. Police notified.”
(I observed he did not need to negotiate but just did it).
But the message interrupted the stones. Under my breath, I said: “I want to close the circle.”
The female walker overheard me. Again she encouraged me to follow my intuition. “Yes, close the circle,” she said.
When it was finished, I said: “Good team work.”
As she left, the woman who’d rung the RSPCA and the police called over her shoulder at me:
“Don’t eat it!”