My personal connection to the sea came via my maternal grandfather. With a small clinker built boat, oars and a small outboard, he would catch lobsters, crabs and the whole gamut of fish.
He and his brothers were part of the fishing community in Wyke, between Portland and Weymouth in the UK. All of our summers were spent there. As children we would sit on the stairs as the grown ups talked about lives lost and lives rescued, particularly on the notorious Chesil Bank.
From childhood, I lived by the sea in Southsea, part of Portsmouth. As a civil servant, I worked in the naval base and we were always acutely aware what an unpredictable element the sea is.
Here in the South of France, where I have been based for 14 years, so very many people depend on the jobs and revenues created by the maritime leisure industry, myself as an onboard chef. There are the yachts of all sizes, with their crews and all the numerous support industries.
For all of us who use the sea and know others who do also, we are able to do so safe in the knowledge that there are those who are prepared to put their lives at risk in order to save ours.
The charity Royal National Lifeboat Institute – RNLI – is well known by UK expats for saving lives at sea. Funded ONLY by charitable donations, RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews have saved at least 140,000 lives at sea since 1824 at a cost of 600 volunteers. “Let not the deep swallow me up” is their slogan.
Here in the France we have SNSM – the Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer, a French voluntary organisation founded in 1967 by merging the Société Centrale de Sauvetage des Naufragés (1865) and the Hospitaliers Sauveteurs Bretons (1873). The SNSM –with the motto “Pour que l’eau salée n’ai jamais le goût des larmes” (so that salt water never tastes of tears) – is responsible for about half of all sea rescue operations, and in one year saved 5,400 lives in 2,816 call-outs and assisted 2,140 boats in distress. Sixty-five percent of funding comes from the public with 35% stemming from national government, departments and local communities.
I recently read with great enthusiasm that the RNLI is organising “a fish supper” fundraiser across the UK (www.fishsupper.rnli.org) and thought why not here? So, on Sunday October 4th, 2015, I’m proposing to host a fish lunch in my garden for as many or as few wish to turn up, for a flat fee of €25, but you’ll need to bring your own wine. There will be an all fish menu: apéro, starter, main, and unfishy desert, but if anyone is a vegetarian or has allergies to shellfish I would be happy to provide an alternative. After only the basic costs of ingredients has been deducted, the funds raised will be split between RNLI and SNSM.