Hi I’m Moj. I’m an actor, comedian and public speaker in schools, colleges and unis. I’m also a PADI Divemaster, outdoor swimmer and runner (& dad to baby Mila). I spend my life experimenting with how to live with less things that mean more. Conservation and our planet’s resources are always on my mind: not just for me but for my daughter’s future too. I believe in the power of water for our health. I’m also a bag aficionado, constantly on a journey for the most beautiful and functional lifetime pack for outdoor adventures - sea or land, rain or shine. This blog is the first in a series where I will be discussing all things UK water, diving and marine conservation. First, let me tell you a bit more about me and why I love the sea.
I am writing this whilst staring down at my 4-week old baby Mila. She is captivated by a fluorescent starfish, hand-knitted on the Isle of Arran by a local resident to raise funds for the Coast of Arran Seabed Trust. As I stare at my first child's pure joy in her first encounter with a UK starfish, a childhood memory of my own floats to the surface. I was 6 years old when I saw my first starfish, in the UK sea. I'd swam over alone (my parents always promoted self reliance and going out of one's comfort zone) to the large reef at low-tide on Man O'War Beach, terrified an Octopus might jump out at me (I'd watched too much Squiddly Diddly as a toddler) all whilst jealous in the knowledge that my dad and granddad were a few miles out to sea in a small rib boat powered by a small outboard motor, drift-diving on the current 20-30 metres below sea level. My first real-life superhero wasn’t in a comic book or the local cinema (dreams of Hollywood would come later in life): it was seeing my dad and granddad kitted out head-to-toe in thick neoprene scuba gear, returning from the depths of the English channel: which has a richness of shipwrecks rivalled by most of the World, due to centuries of trade, wars and expeditions into the unknown. Dad and granddad would ride back in, to the gazes of curious tourists who would crowd around their boat to see their haul of handheld nets full of hand-picked scallops, crab and the occasional Flatfish.
Ever since these annual marine pilgrimages to the Jurassic Coast, I've understood - subconsciously and now consciously - that being under or around the open water brings waves (pun intended) of benefits to a person's health. The highlight of my formative years was the few weeks where we - as three generations of Taylors - we would reside in a little caravan or tent. Basically, the taller you were in our family the more you got to call shotgun on the former! I would wake up each day to the smell of outside-cooked scrambled eggs, and a boat being prepared, before helping carry heavy (alien-like to me, at the time) diving gear to the car. After the short drive to Lulworth Cove to carry and launch the boat, I would devour an ice cream - often way too quickly and provoking brain-freeze. Perhaps I was psychologically preparing for an entire body freeze: my daily swims in the cool English Channel water, wearing nothing but some neoprene socks for the sharp reef, and speedos wrapping my skinny frame (until my dad bought me my first scuba suit a couple of years later).
Humans form memories around powerful emotional experiences where we are provoked to really think - of the environment, our relationship to it, and what we learned: one such memory was a talk my dad was invited to give to my primary school. He is - and always has been - a self-taught carpenter. He cut out a 5'8" wooden man called 'Diver Dan' and drew a rather good face on it: not too smiley, not too scary. The right balance of playful yet professional (diving is dangerous - particularly in the UK sea). Over half an hour my dad revealed each bit of scuba kit to "oooohs", and slowly explained each one, putting it carefully onto Diver Dan to ready himself for some UK scallop diving. It was majestic, and dad combined it with comedy; pulling out my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle puppets from the pockets in a 'how did that get there!' moment; whilst subtly weaving in the importance of respecting the sea and everything that is taken from it by humans:"no more than you need, and be truly grateful for what is taken".
I can trace back so many of my professional skills to the visceral cocktail of dad's school talk intertwined with Dorset sea swims. These life skills, as well as forming the success of my school sessions, have helped my success at performing and teaching comedy, winning an award at the Edinburgh Fringe as an actor, and leading PADI Discover Scuba Diving and Reactivate courses to promote UK diving to people. It has also served me in helping on conservational seagrass research projects in the Baltic Sea - alongside my good friend and dive buddy who is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Brighton. The unique draw of the UK's incredible open water, and the stories and confidence it has instilled in me, is something I treasure more than any underwater treasure. It has led me to undertake evermore reading on climate change, marine conservation, plastic pollution and a minimalistic "no more than you need, and be truly grateful for what is taken" approach to life. I repeat this mantra out loud with a nod to my granddad, as I wear the 50-year old dive watch handed down (via many UK underwater adventures) to my dad, and now to me. It's my favourite thing in the world...because no new watch can replace the water journey it has been on, with 3 different diving generations from the same family. The best things are made to last, made to withstand the elements, made with a simplistic aesthetic which exudes rugged quality. Remind you of any well-made bags?
My next blog in this UK water series will explore the power of cold water on the body.