Crustaceans

The Caribbean holds Jack close to his father. How? Through crustaceans. Strange but true.

Jack’s dad loved lobsters. Some – perhaps a lot – of the reason he lived in Borth was to be close to them. And when I mean close, I mean he used to eat them. Cardigan Bay lobster is a delicious lobster to eat. Small – relative to the American variety and very sweet. It finds much of its market in Parisian restaurants.

Catching them was a favourite Ormerod activity. When I first met their family, they had a small boat in their complex, a number of lobster pots and a lobster license. Then Jack and I used to go scuba diving in the Cardigan Bay to hand catch them. I never did, but I’d watch Jack do it.You really didn’t want to get your hand stuck in those powerful blue claws. We’d come back with a bag of them… and the stories. His dad took a ton of pleasure in it all.

I remember the long conversations they had about the best way to prepare them. Grilled, barbecued, boiled and gulp – microwaved. Keeping frozen and then dipping into the boiling pot was deemed the most humane way of cooking. Ironically the water percolating through their shells used to make it sound as if they were screaming. I’m not judging. I still ate them.

No matter how they were prepared, they were always eaten the same – with homemade mayonnaise, lovely salad and soft bread. This meal is inextricably tied up with my own memories of Jack’s dad. It was exciting as well as tasty. A real celebration.

Now we are here – and it’s spiny lobster season. The Caribbean version of the Cardigan Bay lobster. They have no claws, but a huge tail.

Jack’s hand-caught a few spiny lobsters here – again, mostly by scuba diving. We’ve bought some as well. In Union Island, we walked past the spiny lobster processing plant. Jack got talking to the man in the apron and followed him in. He ended up buying four juicy tails. I swear when he went in, his dad popped up by his side. You could see them together.

Yesterday, we went snorkelling. We tried to go around the headland in Evil Edna to the wreck of the cruise ship, SS Antilles. The ship foundered on the northern reefs of Mustique in 1971. The waves were too big for Edna though, and we came back instead to the edge of the Cotton House, Mustique’ hotel.

We put the dinghy’s anchor down. Snorkelling stuff on, we jumped into the warm water. So far I’ve been struck by the sheer variety of coral around Mustique. Brain coral, stag horn, sheet, mountainous star and elkhorn coral – it’s the best accumulation I’ve seen in the Eastern Caribbean so far. Looks like rich people and coral health goes together pretty well.

Spiny lobster too – for at this moment, I managed to spot the biggest lobster I’ve ever seen. Its head poked out of a rock, maybe 15 feet down. I wheeled around to find Jack. I pointed it out and laughed at the words coming out of his snorkel. The lobster didn’t move at first either – until Lulu spotted it and went down to investigate. Then it swiftly retreated under the rock it was poking from. 

I heard Jack’s muffled yell. ‘Lulu!’ 

She realised what she did – too late. She’d saved the spiny beauty. All Jack ended up with was an antenna the size of his arm. And memories of course. Always memories.

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