When I think of urchins, I think of dirty faced lovable rouges, cute kids asking for sweets etc. The word actually comes from the middle east and means hedgehog, which is why Sea Urchins are called urchins. It reflects the fact they are covered in tough black spines rather their lovable roguish nature. Having stepped on one, I think they should be called Sea f***ers. They are reasonably pretty with long elegant black spines and a black body with the occasional brilliant blue, red or silver spots and it is clear that they are sharp, but in a country that hasn't decided to eat them all, they are bloody everywhere and whilst I managed to avoid them most of the time, on the last full day of our sail I managed to step on one and get 4 spines embedded in my right foot: two on the bottom, one on the end of my big toe and one the top of another toe. It hurt, but I was strong.....
I was a little concerned about infection and I think the crew were too, but not so concerned to do anything other than advise me to jump up and down to bang them out. Luckily we had a doctor onboard in the shape of Dr Nikki. She is an ENT surgeon, specialising in children and is a dab hand at removing stuff from feet armed with only tweezers and a needle. To start with, strong G&Ts made me comfortable and it was only when Nikki felt the need 'to go a little deeper' that a local was required. After a good amount of poking about, she managed to clear the spines out and I haven't had a hint on infection. I owe you one Dr Nikki!
My toughness in the face of very slight pain links to the fact that when on a boat for a few days with nothing to entertain us other than stunning beaches and a gin lake, a group such as ours may discuss the important things in the world and come up with wonderful solutions. Take for instance the common use of the word 'girl' and 'gay' in a derogatory way in the everyday language of even liberal people. 'You park like a girl!' 'That shirt is so gay' etc. It can be a bit of a problem. We discussed that none of us thought girls were bad or a shirt can be gay but we all used such phrases. Our solution - replace with kitten. Few kittens get offended so saying 'you park like a kitten' or 'stop being such a kitten' or 'toughen up kitten' is much more PC. Try it. It works. (J and I had a similar discussion re God as we don't do that bunch of b******s either. Now we use Jeff. 'Oh for Jeff's sake'. 'Thank Jeff for that!).
We left the boat with heavy hearts and headed back to Bangkok in the knowledge that as far as beaches were concerned we were screwed for ever more. From this point on we would be comparing every other beach with the white sands, clear turquoise water and emptiness of those we had just been on and in all likelihood, they would fall short.