The strand

I'll be in London at the weekend so I might conceivably find myself at a very different Strand. This one at a small local bay was empty apart from myself on this May Day afternoon.

I'm reading a very interesting book called Strands, A Year of Discoveries on the Beach by Jean Sprackland, a poet. It's a series of meditations on the things she finds on her local beach during the course of a year, the revelations and transformations that occur with the changing seasons and weather. Her stretch of beach is very different to mine: a long flat strand where the tide goes way out exposing all sorts of beached items and comes in bringing all manner of flotsam both natural and human-made. Here by contrast there isn't much to be found save seaweed, pebbles and mussels. Even the ubiquitous plastic debris only appears in limited amounts.

One of the subjects Sprackland muses upon is the discovery that drug residues, specifically from fluoxetine (Prozac), have been building up in rivers and oceans as a result of excreted traces getting into the water supply. It's not known what effect, if any, this will have upon us human beings but it has already been found to have implications for fish and crustaceans whose behaviour is being changed by the impact of mood-altering substances. Shrimps in particular have been found to be more reckless, over-confident one might say, as a result of anti-depressant contamination and instead of keeping to the shadowy areas of the sea they swim towards the light where they are easily picked off by birds and fish. The result is a drop in the overall population of shrimps which is likely to have a knock-on effect on the food chain of which they are part. Happy shrimps do not make a healthy ecosystem.

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