It was 8.30am and, being on holiday, we were enjoying a leisurely breakfast, when a knock on the door heralded the concerned face of our neighbour, several chalets down the sea wall.
"Tell me!" she said "Have you been invaded by shrimps?"
There was one of those pauses where you are aware that whatever you say is bound to be inadequate. We looked around in a bemused fashion. "Um – not so far as we know..."
"Well, I've got them an inch deep all over my front room! They're getting EVERYWHERE!"
And it was true. Her chalet had been visited by a legion of sand hoppers, or Talitrus saltator, a type of amphipod crustacean, common to our East Anglian coasts. It lives around the high tide mark and feeds on rotting seaweed. In turn, it feeds the seabirds.
Except that morning hundreds of these little things, about half an inch long and resembling nothing more than a cross between a shrimp and a flea, were not in the sand, but had migrated over or under or through the meter high sea wall and were in my friend's beach house. And they're not called sand hoppers for nothing. Like a flea, these things can jump; and yes, they had got EVERYWHERE. There were some even caught in a spider's web near the ceiling!
Well, we had the children and fed them breakfast while she and her husband swept and vacuumed, and fished in corners, under furniture and inside shoes and gradually de-shrimped their house.
It happened again the next night, and then again about a week later.
And it was only their house! Nobody else along the sea wall was affected. It is still a mystery as to how they got in and why they only picked the one particular house to invade.
It made me think about the way we struggle with misfortune. We try to seek answers or patterns. We ask ourselves "What did I do to deserve this?" or "Is this Karma?"
But sometimes bad stuff simply happens. We were just unlucky enough to be there at the time. If we're lucky the misfortune is merely an annoying inconvenience; sometimes it's a tragedy. Other times misfortune passed by our door without knocking.
Usually the best thing to do is just accept what happens, pick ourselves up as best we can, brush ourselves down and carry on. It doesn't help to try to find the answers because there are no answers. That way madness lies.
Sometimes shrimp just happens. Deal with it.
I'll lend you a broom.
A Moodscope member.