The Weasel

More than any cephalopod you care to name, I'm a sucker for aquariums. So when, as a birthday treat, Mrs Weasel whisked me off to the queasily named Nausicaa, the Centre Nationale de la Mer in Boulogne, I was happy as a grig. I even managed to conjure up a sickly smirk when forced to have my picture taken at the entrance with someone dressed in a bright orange fish outfit (a ray, according to Mrs W). But my delight rapidly ebbed when, after a lengthy queue, we finally gained admission. Inside, the flitting shoals of fish were mirrored by rampaging gangs of little froggies on a day out from school. The hellish combination of darkness, heat, milling crowds and booming loudspeakers put me in mind of one of Milton's juicier passages.

Occasionally, it was possible to discern magic amid the mayhem. Undoubtedly, the most entrancing sight was the very first display. It was a large vertical glass cylinder populated solely by swirling clouds of medusa jellyfish - lazily pulsing parachutes trailing clumps of gelatinous tentacles. The swimmer's terror became a spectacle of extraordinary, translucent beauty. Nearby, there was exactly the same thing in miniature, a column of baby medusa, like animated shirt-studs. The razzmatazz of the tropical tank was another winner, but I sympathised with the leopardskin-print angelfish, sadly stuck with last year's fashion. I was, however, rather less spellbound by a murky display devoted to "3,000 metres sous la mer", where Plasticine worms and a few lengths of hose-pipe unconvincingly impersonated the denizens of the deep.

The Gallic obsession with technology was much in evidence. There was a plethora of interactive gubbins. Escalators soared and plummeted at unlikely angles much like their unnerving counterparts at Charles de Gaulle airport. A 3-D cinema thrust leaping dolphin, wobbly bubbles and vast skeins of kelp into the faces of a boggling audience. Despite all this hi-tech razzle-dazzle, the engagingly quaint translations of the display captions must be utterly perplexing to younger English visitors. "Some very odd parlour games!" tittered the caption over a pelagic shoal. "What a bunch of tricksters!"

But the most distinctively French aspect of this attraction is its obsession with food. Unlike the new London Aquarium, where the only maritime comestible at the time of my visit was an unappetising tuna sandwich, Nausicaa boasts a substantial fish restaurant and shellfish bar at the entrance. A second large snack bar overlooking a tropical pool caters for any visitors finding themselves a bit peckish at the halfway point. Similarly, many of the displays are predicated on the principle that the staggering multiplicity of oceanic lifeforms came into being with the sole intention of ending up on a French dinner table. In an overhead tank, we observed a row of tuna peering down on us like a disapproving jury. The silvery flanks of mullet and sea-bass shimmered provocatively in nature's briny marinade. In a fish farm devoted to "le fameux belouga", whiskery sturgeon poked their mole-like noses out of the water. (An accompanying caption, "Les bons mangeurs font les bons vivants," was mystifyingly translated as "Hearty eaters make hearty fellows.") However, judging by the sour hoodlum mouths of the occupants of the very last attraction, a glass tunnel through a swirling squadron of sharks, the normal gastronomic relationship between man and fish could easily be reversed. If, by some mishap, one or two little froggies should provide a snack for the sharks, it would indeed be a tragedy - but that's the food chain for you.

All this Godzilla stuff is old hat for the Weasel family. Yeah, sure, we saw the world premiere of the saurian schlockbuster at Madison Square Garden on 18 May. To be honest, we saw it from our yellow cab as we made our way to catch Woody Allen tootle his licorice stick at the Hotel Carlyle. The film was a little hard to ignore in Manhattan at that time. It seemed that every other office block bore a painted arrow running its entire height, accompanied by a sign which screamed: "He's as high as this building!" No wonder half the film's total cost of $240m went on marketing.

Surprisingly, a tiny Japanese restaurant near our hotel on West 23rd Street was a real-life victim of the giant lizard. I discovered this strange fact on my way out, after consuming a small mountain of sashimi. Pasted in the window were two letters from a law firm with an address on the Avenue of the Stars, Hollywood, Calif. The first pointed out with a certain bluntness that the rights to the name Godzilla were held by Sony Pictures under licence from the Toho Co of Japan. Therefore, the restaurant had better change its name from "Godzilla" and pronto. The subsequent letter, equally abrupt in tone, noted that "Zilla" was not an acceptable contraction. Better think again, pal, or else. The new name of the establishment where we so agreeably dined was "Monster Sushi". Considering that the movie has turned out to be such a monumental turkey, the restaurant ought to send heartfelt thanks to the attorneys of Tinseltown.

Coincidentally, film and food also came together at the South Bank last week. On a balmy evening, the National Film Theatre launched a season called "A Feast for the Eyes" sponsored by the New Covent Garden Soup Co, who provided guests with a selection of delicious potages (fortunately chilled). The NFT's upcoming treats include Ang Lee's sublime Eat Drink Man Woman and Peter Greenaway's stylish The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Personally, I'm tempted by a collation of wartime shorts, including All About Carrots (1941), Eating Out with Tommy Trinder (1941) and How to Cook a Cabbage (1943). Forthcoming attractions from the NCGSC include Potato, Leek and Lavender, and Tomato Borscht. No slurping in the stalls, please.

Though a bit late in the day for us, I have found myself enthralled by a slender work called A Practical Guide to Alternative Baptism and Baby-Naming, by Kate Gordon (Constable, pounds 6.99). After the toe-curling ideas for alternative ceremonies ("Spirits of the West, hear me; we ask for your blessing on this child. Water bring emotion, instinct and feeling. Old moon, bring wisdom, peace and contentment ... "), the book offers a wonderful array of unlikely monikers to bestow on tots. Some unfortunate gels will doubtless be saddled with Clear, Gaia, Chilali and Kezia, not forgetting, of course, Chelsea and Eugenie (the Ferguson offspring). The origins of some names are appropriate for certain personality traits. Kim is from the South African diamond-mining town of Kimberley, while Tallulah is a native American word for "waterfall". Suggestions for geezers include Elmo, Homer, Izzard, Lory, Paxton (Latin for "peaceful place"), Raleigh, Zak and Zadok. Anyone contemplating Yancy should be aware that it is a native American term for "Englishman", and, therefore, probably impolite. Thanks to Ms Lumley, Purdy may sound sexy but it means "hermit, recluse" in Sanskrit

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

    Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

    Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

    Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition