Style | Swellboy

Swellboy on… being stung by a jellyfish

Dying in one’s bathing trunks is not the most elegant way to go

Swellboy on… being stung by a jellyfish

Image: Brijesh Patel

August 28 2011
Nick Foulkes

Swellboy is not usually a medium for household tips; in fact, you could say that I almost pride myself on supplying not so much the froth atop the cappuccino of life, but the light dusting of chocolate on the froth atop the cappuccino of life. But occasionally there are things that I come across that are genuinely useful.

This year I was stung by a jellyfish. I know it may be a remote occurrence, but there you are; one minute I was swimming along in my best breaststroke (I try to swim as if wearing a top hat and smoking a cigar), marvelling at how good it was to be alive. And then all of a sudden my thorax convulsed in a spasm as if I had received an electric shock or brushed up against a hyper-strength stinging nettle.

My body started to tingle and, being of a naturally dysphoric disposition, I assumed that my number was up. Within minutes a creeping paralysis would engulf my body. One by one my organs would fail. At least if I should have the dignity of dying with most of my clothes on, whoever found me would only have to look inside the breast pocket of my coat to see the tailor’s label with my name on it; but a middle-aged man in a bathing costume is a rather less appealing corpse. (Memo to self: get Emma Willis to make bespoke bathing trunks with name on label inside waistband.)

Anyway, as you have probably gathered, I managed to cheat death; nevertheless, I did end up with a red weal across the top of my chest. As I ran panting up onto the beach asking in what I thought was a matter of fact way for the air ambulance to be scrambled and for those electric pads that revive corpses on TV hospital dramas to be applied to my chest, the beach hut attendant at the Marbella Club said words to the effect of, “Hang on a minute, I will just go and get some vinegar.”

I know my Spanish is terrible (if in doubt, I add the suffix “o” to the English word), but did I look like a man who had asked for a salad to be served on the beach? Nevertheless, he came back very swiftly with a bottle of Vinagre de Jerez and a pad of cotton wool and while I was waiting for the air-sea rescue helicopter to arrive I dabbed a spot of vinegar on the mark; more out of politeness than anything. The result was miraculous, the swelling subsided with the rapidity of a punctured balloon and the colour changed from an angry red to a merely irritated pink. I thanked him and asked him to cancel the helicoptero. Of course, in addition to the goggles, earplugs, diving watch, rubber shoes and ankle-worn dagger, I will now always go swimming with a bottle of vinegar handy – I just wonder whether it has to be Spanish, or whether balsamic or at a pinch Sarsons will do the trick as effectively as the finest sherry vinegar.