|Passions Football, diving
and the film and television production company he runs with Men Behaving
Badly co-star Caroline Quentin.
What prompted you
to take up diving?
It was about ten years ago. I was visiting a friend in Sri Lanka and he
was a diver. He persuaded me to learn and I've never looked back. The
first time I got in the water was awesome. When I was reasonably happy
with my diving we started spear fishing - it was legal over there in those
days - and paid for our diving by selling our catches.
Where did you train?
It was with a PADI instructor who worked out of my hotel in Hikkaduwa,
Sri Lanka. It was one-to-one tuition, so I cottoned on quickly and didn't
have any hairy moments. In five days, I was a diver.
What are your qualifications?
I've never been too bothered about taking loads of courses. I've got my
open water certificate and only got around to doing my advanced open water
when I went to Palau with the BBC. I'm still waiting for the card. I don't
particularly feel the need to do any more courses for the time being.
How many dives have you
Hundreds. I don't bother logging them, don't see the point. Logbooks are
a pain in the arse when you're on holiday.
What is your best diving
It's in the programme. We'd set down bait above a 600m drop-off to lure
pelagic sharks. We didn't get many, but the water was thick with loads
of little blacktips and grey reef sharks. They were coming in like arrows,
just as if they'd been shot from a bow. I thought of all the senses sharks
have, and how at that point they were all focused on me. They could probably
hear my bowels twitching! They were tearing off dirty great big lumps
of tuna just a few feet from my face. I also had some great manta dives
off Yap. The visibility was about 12m, so you'd see these bloody great
shadows looming up before you, and you'd think it was a monster. They
were beautiful though, dancing over the reef in groups.
|On best behaviour: from top, taking
a break, Palau; Morrissey with Men Behaving Badly co-star Martin
Clunes; above left, snorkelling with jellyfish and, right, diving
a wreck, both on location in Micronesia; below, with Martin Clunes.
Photographs: copyright BBC
What is your worst diving
I've never had any really nasty experiences underwater, but I've had a
few of those dives when nothing happens and you just regret getting into
the water. When we were filming, I was saddled with a lot of cables and
communications gear and it acted like a sail whenever I got caught in
a current. During one night dive, I got disorientated, the kit was dragging
me all over the place, and there just wasn't much going on. It was as
murky as hell, it was shallow, it was facile.
Where have you dived?
Sri Lanka, Grenada, Jamaica, Yap, Palau, the Great Barrier Reef. I want
to dive in the UK. I've got some mates who want to take me to dive in
Wales, and I've heard great things about the west coast of Ireland.
Who is your regular buddy?
Anyone really. During the BBC filming, I was buddied up with these former
Navy divers who really knew their stuff. I'm comfortable diving with pretty
much anyone, as long as they're happy in the water.
Why do you dive?
It's a mixture of so many different things, from the physical to the emotional.
I just find it completely different and completely exhilarating. When
I go for long periods without getting in the water, I find myself really
hankering for a dive. By the time I got to Palau, I'd gone a really long
time without diving, about a year - I was beginning to wonder if I could
still call myself a diver. When I first got in the water, I needed loads
of weight to get me down.
Where do you want to dive
I want to go back to this perfect place called Flinders Reef, which is
beyond the Great Barrier Reef out of Cairns in Australia. It's got this
lovely wreck, the Yongala, which is surrounded by great coral. It's a
very old wreck, but in surprisingly good nick with a lot of marine life.
There's a big, fat, old grouper who lives inside. He's grown so fat that
he's trapped now, too big to get out. He has to wait for his supper to
come to him, but there's a lot of food coming through that wreck.
What equipment do you own?
I'm not bothered about brands. I've just had to chuck out a regulator
that wasn't working properly, but it was quite old. So, at the moment,
I own all my gear apart from a tank and the regulator. Equipment is made
to such high standards these days that you can pretty much go into a shop
and walk out with whatever fits you best.
Which five songs would you
like to put on a liveaboard compilation tape?
The theme tunes to Dead Calm and Jaws, which should provide the right
atmosphere; The Laughing Gnome by David Bowie to make everyone giggle;
any Mozart concerto and Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade, because it
What is the most interesting
The whale shark. I swam with a lovely one in Sri Lanka; it must've been
about seven metres long. We were out in a boat and another boatman started
yelling at us. I leaped into the water and there it was. My eyes must
have been like saucers! They're amazing fish and we know so little about
them. I swam with it for about ten minutes before it headed off to deeper
water and disappeared into the blue.
Have you a dive tip that
has helped you?
Everyone's got their tips and I don't have that much to add. Just breathe
easy and don't panic.
Which figure, living or
dead, would you like to take diving, and why?
Charles Darwin. The more I learn about natural history, the more I appreciate
just how much the world of science owes him. Apart from being a true genius,
he had this instinctive feel for natural history, and a good sense of
how things work that led to his theory of natural selection. He got some
astounding insights from his trip on the Beagle, which brought him face
to face with nature. I'd just like to help him further his work by taking
him underwater. Can you imagine what sort of effect a dive in the Galápagos
would have had on him, instead of studying marine animals from specimens?
What can I say? He's the man.
Unless of course you're a creationist.