My Mate The Octopus

Many years ago, I was working in Spain. Well, I say working; it was only for a few weeks. Helping out three friends, I suppose you might call it. The company paid for the flight, but did not pay me. I was more than happy, because the task in hand was well within my comfort zone, as was the May weather.

So, there we were, four happy water sporters, winching a speed boat out of the water and onto it’s trailer. I felt something all together wrong about my left ankle, which was under waist deep water. Puzzled by the sensation, I shook the offending leg and got on with my job. There was nothing see down there through the rippling water. It really felt odd; no pain, but a gentle, firm, tightening sensation and heavy. With each turn of the windlass the boat and I moved up the beach a little, which meant, it was soon possible to lift my foot clear of the water’s surface; as long as I did a full Tiller Girl. The only problem was, my leg felt so heavy that it would not lift above knee height. We all continued pushing, pulling and winching the boat up towards dry land, me steadying the back of the boat with my hands, whilst dragging my leaden foot along the sea bed. Now with the sea at upper shin depth, I called a halt to the winching for a moment. I needed to take an urgent look at the cause of my numbing, paralysis. Lifting my foot above the surface, the banter stopped abruptly. Laughing faces hardened into rictus grins. There, wrapped snuggly around my left ankle and lower calf was an adult octopus!

Drawing of a photo in a BBC article, Octopus:the thief of the deep: click image for link to BBC website.

Seeing it there, that was a shock, but the moment it caught my eye it took my breath away. It gave me a hard, fixed stare, let go of my leg and slipped back into the water.

It is not the only member of it’s family that I have met over the years. Where Weymouth meets Portland Bill in the lush, green county of Dorset, UK, there is a seaside cove with a pebble beach. Off this beach there can be so many cuttlefish in the sea that it boggles the mind. These alien creatures with their ability to change their skin colour, in waves, across their bodies, and their large eyes taking everything in, swim up to divers and snorkelers for a closer inspection. They are friendly and inquisitive and remarkable to spend time with. If you are lucky you might also bump into a Squid. Octopus, also want to check us out, but a swim at night with a decent torch is an important factor, as they are nocturnal and cannot resist checking out a light source after dark.

I love Cephalopods. They are beautiful and weird masters of their world. They hunt and are hunted.

In Spain, as with the rest of the Mediterranean, the relationship of people to this family of animals is very different to mine. Cephalopods simply are nothing more or less than food. Click here to take a look at the ancient skill of preparing Octopuses for air drying.

Now I bring you all we should know about my buddies, the Octopuses, in the hope you might think twice about scoffing them.


Ink sac not shown! (Info gleaned from this brilliant website Octopus body plan/how stuff works, click picture for a link)


Octopus’ have a large brain to body size, proportional to some birds and mammals

Octopus’ have a main brain which gives orders such as, catch that food, as well as a brain in each tentacle. The tentacles can get the job done autonomously. The main brain is then free to do other tasks.

Under laboratory conditions, octopus’ have been shown to have individual characters


Octopus’ imitate other marine lifeforms – matching shape, texture and colour

The upper surface of an octopus’ body is covered in three types of cell:-

Colour changing cells – chromatophores – each cell has has 3 colour packs to choose from

Light reflecting cells – iridophores – these mirror surrounding colours

And, papillae, like the fur on your tongue, can change size and shape to alter the texture of the skin


Octopus’ have very good eyesight, similar to humans

Octopus’ are mostly muscle

No bones, so Octopus’ can squeeze into small, tight and irregularly shaped spaces

Octopus’ have eight arms that are strong and flexible, with suckers for gripping

Each arm is autonomous, with it’s own nervous system, completing tasks as it sees fit

Octopus’ have a strong beak and a drill

Don’t forget that big brain

Octopus’ are adaptable thinkers

Octopus’ are jet propelled; forcing water through a tube (siphon) gives speeds of up to 25mph

Ink, held in a sac inside it’s body, can be deployed; to confuse the enemy, or for discrete escape

For a while ink ruins the enemy’s ability to taste and smell. It contains the chemical tyrosinase


Sperm is passed from male to female on his hectocotylus, a 1m long adapted tentacle. Sperm is placed either direct into the female, or the hectocotylus (arm) is snapped off and given to female to use at her leisure

The male lives for up to 2 months after mating

The female cares for her eggs until hatched.

The female stops eating after egg laying, dying just after the young hatch: 2 -10 months

Young put on 5% weight increase per day!

Adults weigh a third of the weight of all the food they have ever eaten.

Octopus’ live for 3-5 years

Octopus’ blood is blue – copper based, ours is iron based

Octopus’ often move home weekly.

Octopus’ are nocturnal.

Octopus’ are predatory and all have poison, one is very poisonous

There are about 300 different species of Octopus world wide

Please feel free to let us know what you think of my love of the Octopuppy and its cousins – simply jabber on using the reply box at the bottom of this page. We love to hear from you. Thank you from the Wandering Wallys.

The Gravity of Having a Bird Brain

The other morning, during the Tea Ceremony, I lazily stared out of the window, and noticed a gang of sparrows feasting on some crumbs we had thrown down. They scratched and rummaged through the gravel, garnering tasty morsels along the way. This is an everyday, rural scene, though one that is simply pleasing, I kept watching. I wondered who, apart from me, was top bird, and who was the bottom bird. Was there a gender bias between the top and bottom birds? Was there any more tea in the pot?

One lucky little lady Sparrow found a monster sized crumb, just shy of an inch around, that’s 2.5cm in new money, and off she flew. Aerodynamics is a precise art, even for a fluttering bird, and that swinging prize had hugely affected her flight accuracy. The crumb was dangling, precariously from her beak, as she clumsily attempted to alight on one of the many twigs at the top of the nearest hedge. As she made footfall, that crumb let go and crashed down through the hedge and on to the ground.

Now, here is the thing. She immediately noticed that crumb’s loss and looked around for it. At no point did she look down. I cannot say for sure whether or not she looked up, but she definitely looked all around, as if expecting that crumb to be hovering at beak level.

I thought this was fascinating, because I, as top bird, would look down, following that crumb’s obvious line of travel. So, why did my little Sparrow simply look in one plane?

Having given this a teacup full of thought the realization came to me; I do not fly. If attempted, I fall out of the sky, much like crumbs. It is a bit of an inconvenience, but there you have it. The little Sparrow does fly.

My experience is that when I, or anything else is lifted into the air and released, it always falls to the ground. I know, where to look for those things; I look downwards.

Birds have a different gravitational experience. They fly. Their fellow birds fly. They do not fall out of the sky. Even food on the ground, can be picked up and flown away with. To a little Sparrow, flight is normal. To the little Sparrow, that crumb should have stayed around the place it was dropped, up in the air. Why not? That is how the world is seen by a little Sparrows eyes.

Now, if only I can figure out why toast always falls butter side down……..

Where did I put my cup?

Please feel free to leave your mark by jotting a comment in the reply box at the bottom of this page. Thank You

The Campsite As A Nature Reserve

With about 100 pitches, our campsite is small. It’s also fairly basic, sporting three shower/loo blocks, a laundry room, two places to hand wash clothes and a couple of sets of sinks to do the dishes. Apart from that, there’s not much here, other than the owners house, which also accommodates the small bar/shop and the social room. Like many campsites along the Spanish Mediterranean, it doesn’t need much more. Except, shade in the summer. On this site that is provided by a good variety trees and other tall plants.

Over the winter the clientele want as much light as possible and so the Eucalyptus trees are heavily pruned and yet still put on about a metre of growth a month. Buy the start of the high season the trees have a full canopy again, thus offering the goldilocks formula of summer shade and winter sun.

It turns out that this site is rather unusual, as the original owner, the mother of the current management, called this caravan park her garden and took great pleasure in selecting just the right plants for each pitch. Her first job was to give the land a skeleton, by marking off the boundary of each pitch with some low shrubs. She then had to punctuate the garden with some statement plants and to do this she hadto have date palms, the sign of a hot, sub tropical climate and so exotic to her northern European clients. The choice of a large number of Eucalyptus trees for their tolerance of the heat, their cool grey green colour, their aroma, and their shady, dappling canopy was inspired. She also picked trees for their berries and seeds and indigenous trees too.

As an underplanting, there are a range of succulents, including the sweet fruit and vicious needle bearing Prickly Pear. Beneath all these tall plants there are pots of plants absolutely everywhere.

When the ‘garden’ was planted, people arrived with modest caravans, small camper vans, or tents. There was no real struggle to negotiate these little homes around the the site and onto a pitch. Times have moved on, as has the motor industry. Caravans and motorhomes are generally much bigger than they were 20 years ago, when many of the regular campers first began to come here. Watching a modern vehicle or radio controlled caravan, shunting back and forth in order to turn a very tight corner bounded by four or five mature trees is a real treat for us.

What has all this got to do with nature?

The owners have created a lush garden that happens to be a campsite. Where there is a garden, there is life and this place proves that, as do the images throughout this post.