They say that, if you have had a stressful day, a stiff gin and tonic could be just the medicine for you. My mum thinks this and so I think it must be true too. So, after work today, I dropped in to the nearest Mercadona to pick up a couple of essentials. When the checkout assistant looked over at what I had added to the conveyor he gave me a knowing look. Behind the rigid screen separating my purchases from the customer in front were my essentials: one litre of tonic, one litre of Larios gin and a kilo or two of ice cubes.

As you may know, I teach Science for a living and one of the things that I do each year is organise some Science trips for some of our younger students. All told, about 100 youngsters participate over three days and so I am keen for the trips to go smoothly.

This year we wanted to take them out to sea in pursuit of dolphins and then to a butterfly park to learn something about the biology of butterflies and to take part in a photography competition.

Full disclosure: I have already started into the G&T and so if this article becomes a rambling, incoherent morass…..well, you can just put two and two together.

So out we go on the boat. The kids are high as kites. As the boat rises and dips with the swells the kids are jumping up and down in unison. Yahoo! Out to sea we go. What could possibly go wrong?

Where to start? First up, some of the kids get sick. There are two decks on this boat and a further underwater viewing gallery in each of the twin hulls of this catamaran. The kids, to their credit, manage to puke at every level!

Listen, I´m not going to criticise these kids. They were great sports. Nobody complained. They felt like death but they never moaned (well, actually they did but not in the sense of complaining). At one point we wanted to gather the students for a group photo. I rounded them up. It seemed, on the top deck, that I had stumbled into a battlefield and that casualties were prostrate on every bench. They were drained of colour and energy, bless them. So I just shook them and told them to assemble at the front of the boat. Sportingly, they walked or crawled or slithered to the bows where we propped them up and told them to smile. Cheese!

What about the dolphins? How many did we see? If you think these are sensible questions you have an entirely misguided sense of how the day went, or why this glass now needs a refill.

We didn´t see any dolphins.

And whose fault was that? Sardines apparently.

I had a chance with one of the crew of the boat. He was a very nice guy and, like the rest of the crew, was genuinely keen to find them. We have both seen how dolphins delight everyone, and kids especially. They are swimming joy dispensers.

But it was the sardines to blame. And not just sardines, mackerel had a hand in this and so too another pelagic species that I know of only by their Spanish name: boquerones.

It turns out that these fish collectively make up the doplhins´menu and they tend to wander close to the shore at times, and at other times, unreasonably and selfishly, they head out into the blue yonder. And the dolphins, of course, duly follow.

Interestingly, the way this boat finds dolphins is to share intelligence with boats heading out from different ports. Our boat and two others went out of Benalmádena but four went out of Fuengirola, a little way further west. Nobody saw anything.

And there were no fishing boats around. It´s hard to see dolphins in the distance but easy to see fishing boats. Of course those boats are chasing the same fish as the dolphins and so dolphins may be near. And another thing, the boats often chuck bycatch overboard and Flipper and his pals are likely to be there hoovering it up.

You may think that none of this warrants a shopping trip to Mercadona. Fair enough! The stress came later with bus breakdowns, delays, and finally a rescuing bus driver driving us off confidently – to the wrong school!

C´est la vie!


Damn! I forgot to get a lemon