The Starfish Thrower (2)

(And now, at last, you get to know exactly why these posts have such a bizarre title…..)

There is a second beach at St Ives in western Cornwall, just north of the pier. It is to the west of the Coast Guard (CG) Lookout and the Chapel of St Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen.  On the map, it is the yellow area between the two words ‘brothers’ and ‘(w)ater’:

Here’s a general view from the chapel:

A closer view shows you the huge concrete monolith of the Tate St Ives Gallery. To the right is Porthmeor Cemetery which holds the grave of St Ives greatest artist, Alfred Wallis.

Which brings me back to the Art Gallery theme. More about it in a moment. In the meantime, here is St Ives’ most ironic hairdresser…

Last time, I gave you a brief introduction to St Ives. Its seals and its gulls and its main beach.
One day I strolled nonchalantly into an art gallery, looking for a picture with dogs in it because I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like. I was looking in particular for that picture where the dogs are all playing cards and they have cigars and shades over their eyes. Here is a map with the Orange Arrow marking the place:

I actually found a painting with a story written on the canvas. The story was obviously designed to be uplifting:

Now normally I don’t really go in a great deal for the bumper sticker wisdom you can find on many sites on the Internet. If Life were that easy, we’d all be perfect (inadvertently, I’ve just created one. Sorry about that).
I don’t think you’ll be able to read the story off the photograph, so I’ve copied it out.
I know it’s probably been printed and reprinted a thousand times over, but I had never seen it before, and I can still remember the effect it had on me the very first time I ever saw it:

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.  He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.  One day he was walking along the shore.
As he looked down the beach,  he saw a human figure moving like a dancer.  He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day.  He began to walk faster to catch up.  As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore,  picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
He called out, “Good morning! What are you doing? ”
The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
I suppose that I should have asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean? ”
” The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”
“But young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it.

You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. “It made a difference for that one ! “



Filed under Cornwall, History, Humour, Personal

22 responses to “The Starfish Thrower (2)

  1. I have heard the story before but it’s worth being reminded.

    • Yes, it’s rather like what a colleague said once at a staff meeting “You can always find a reason for doing nothing”. I think it’s what got me feeding the birds. I can’t combat all the greedy farmers and their agribusiness, but at least I can help the 20 or so birds in out garden.

  2. Chris Waller

    A good story and one which I had not seen before although I have seen stories expressing a similar sentiment. It helps to lessen the feeling of futility. As one who still writes letters to newspapers and even letters to my MP (which really is a waste of time) I often feel overwhelmed. Nonetheless, every now and then I do manage to get a positive response and feel that a small victory has been achieved. It might be a drop in the ocean but it was water that carved out the Grand Canyon.

    • Good point! I think that there is quite a role for online petitions as they are something that puts the wind up complacent politicians. The latter do ignore individual voices but when it comes from 400,000 people it tends to concentrate their minds wonderfully.

  3. I see why the story affected you. To be honest, now I don’t think I’ll forget it either.

    • The only thing I would say is that the story does imply that direct action is required. Over here, we tend to collect money and once we’ve handed it over, that’s the end of the problem. I would have thought that the starfish in the story would have preferred a helping hand rather than a handful of small change!

  4. Such a memorable, profound, philosophy

  5. I love shit like that, great stuff John.

  6. Very profound John. Each small action adds up to one big action, helping one starfish becomes two and before you know it the whole beach is cleared. It also reminds me of the converse, ignore the small action and before you know it, the world is in a state. The 1930s spring to mind!

    • Absolutely. So many big events hinge on tiny details. I’ve just been writing about the death of Leslie Howard the film star who was killed over the Bay of Biscay in 1943. His plane left from Lisbon and was shot down by Ju88s. Apparently, if he hadn’t delayed the take off by going to buy some silk stockings for a “female friend”, they would have left ten minutes earlier and would not have been intercepted. It’s all to do with “How far does a DC-3 fly in ten minutes at a cruising speed of 209 mph?

  7. Love that story, John. In the face of great odds – and, by golly, we face immense ones in our times – every small act counts.

    • Absolutely. As I was once told “You can always find a reason for doing nothing”. You just need to do something positive, no matter how small. In our recent very bad weather I’ve been feeding the birds, and most of them seem to have survived because of it. (Not that I’ve had any chirped thanks, of course.)

  8. A story we should always remember. Hair by Frank is a nice name 🙂 When we were in London three years ago I used to enjoy reading the names of pubs .

  9. In a similar vein, I am just off to put some old clothes in the Salvation Army bin. It won’t solve the problems of the world but one or two people will feel warmer as a result. of course, they will need to be substantial people with a fashion sense rooted in the 1980s…

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