Saturday, 28 November 2009


When we lived in a waterside cottage, where occasionally the tide came uninvited to our threshold, we would come down in the morning or whenever to find a multitude of sandhoppers dancing about on the kitchen floor. Their dancing is remarkable. It beats the Royal Ballet. They spring in all directions and in such a fine, demoniac frenzy that it seemed a pity to take the sweeping brush to them. These sandhoppers were refugees fleeing the tide because, like some of our neighbours, although they liked living by the water, they did ot want to drown and had no wish to venture away from the firm land.

Normally the sandhoppers try to hide away but they are to be found everywhere in the Estuary's sands and shingles and can be discovered beneath stones and within bunches of seaweed. They are related to the shrimps and the lobsters and should therefore be good to eat if enough of them were collected. It sounds like something that the Japanese ought to know about.

I imagine they must form an essential link in some creatures' foodchains. It must be sandhoppers that bring the crows and starlings to the shingle although the former also relish the carrion of the tideline. Sandhoppers are said to be 'amphipods' which means they have feet on both sides, whatever that might mean. Both sides of what? They hop, says my AA Book of the Countryside, "by using the abdomen and last three pairs of legs as a spring."

Bless you little amphipod
How prettily you're prancing
To use your abdomen is odd!
Could this be belly dancing?

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