Interview With The Chapman Family


Something quite out-of-the-ordinary happened yesterday. It was an abnormal, unexpected and strangely fascinating event that was ultimately tinged with sadness. A 30ft whale was washed up half-alive/half-dead (I guess it depends on your individual optimism index) on a Teesside beach. This huge creature, believed to be a sperm whale, was mysteriously grounded in Redcar – alone, upset and all out of luck. No one knows why, presumably because – although man has mastered the construction and destruction of almost everything on this rotating rock – the sea, it’s tides and those that live deep within it, will forever be an unsolvable Sudoku. But where does this fit in with A Negative Narrative? Well – a man (Kingsley) in a band (The Chapman Family) was there with his dog (name unknown) and camera-phone to document everything and relay the scenes instantaneously on Twitter. What followed was a chord-striking slice of absurd reality.

I have a strange obsession with dead animals. Not strange in that I slip myself into their still-twitching, warm corpses to get my kicks, but strange because I am a fervent vegetarian and – though I could never bring myself to touch a furry or feathered cadaver – I have built up a small library of photos of deceased beasts. The connection between the size of the unfortunate animal and my emotional involvement is directly related; squashed insects are little more than a mental smudge, flightless birds usually raise an emotional flicker, and dead pets – due to the human relationships they have formed – add another element. There is then, something inherently heart-breaking and tragic about a beached whale. The very sight of this magnificent beast yesterday, immobolised, exposed and helpless is enough to choke even the hardest throat. Whether it was the enormity of the Redcar whale, it’s tragic gentleness – or perhaps just because it was a fellow mammal – seeing it made me very, very sad. By the end of yesterday the same curiosity had brought hundreds of people to the beach to observe this proud cetacean lying in it’s sandy, open coffin.

All credit due then to Kingsley Chapman of the Chapman Family for this Putlitzer-esque photo-journal. At the time of press (Wednesday morning) the Redcar whale’s carcass was tethered down in the same spot, seemingly unmoveable. It is an ignoble end to what was a majestic life. RIP Redcar whale. May your afterlife be awash with sexy plankton, salty krill and all those other things you used to love so much. This is your pixelated eulogy.