Culture vulture

14th October 2005 at 01:00
Richard Marsh loves escaping underwater, or into Wilbur Smith

Beginning with endings

What hooks me in books or films is endings. Endings that make you sit up, or challenge traditional storylines. The ones that slap you in the face.

You think "I just wasn't thinking of that." The English Patient, both Michael Ondaatje's novel and the film, did that for me. I find myself, years afterwards, wondering what that woman was thinking of when she was in the cave.

Regular reading

Trashy novels by Wilbur Smith, beach fodder. I like his River God, set in Ancient Egypt. They just deliver the excitement and they're over; it's escapism. For something deeper I would go to John Fowles's The Collector and Louis de Berni res's Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

Favourite films

When I was much younger I used to exercise racehorses, so I'm fond of a film about the horse trade called Phar Lap, the name of a racehorse in the 1930s. I like American gangster movies: early Scorsese, especially Goodfellas; and Tarantino: Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction. And Luc Besson's film The Big Blue, pictured, starring Rosanna Arquette, set in the world of breath-holding free diving.

Underwater octopush

On Friday nights I play underwater hockey for the Plymouth Pirates. I've been playing since I came to university here. It's a very demanding, high-level anaerobic sport. You swim with a snorkel; you use a wooden pusher in your hand to move a puck made of metal, called a squid, along the bottom of the pool. You have to dive, move the squid and pass to your team-mates. It's about interdependence and knowing where other people are: if you all go down at the same time, then you all have to come back up and the other team gets the squid.

Deep blue

The colours, sounds and feelings of being underwater were what The Big Blue captured. I like the challenge and the solitude: you're by yourself; your thoughts are your own. You need to keep yourself under control and calm.

For some people it's too claustrophobic, too scary. But I find it exciting, being alone with the water. It fills up your soul.

Richard Marsh, 40, is head of Stoke Damerel primary school in Plymouth.

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