ONE afternoon recently I was preparing a meal for the family, a dysfunctional array of misfits to rival The Simpsons.

At one point, while slicing parsnips with a lethally sharp Japanese knife, I allowed my attention to wander for a split second.

The resulting damage wasn't much to look at. A pulsing bead of fresh blood, a flap of skin hanging off my thumb. It was painful, but not overly so.

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It was now that I rediscovered my knack for turning a drama into a crisis. The kitchen came to a standstill as, wincing audibly, my grievously mutilated hand held high in the air, I searched for a bandage with my good hand, rummaging through drawers that, naturally, contained everything but an unused Elastoplast.

The meal was accordingly delayed by 30 minutes; and when I sat down, it was with a sizeable wad of kitchen roll wrapped round my thumb, which made it difficult to hold any cutlery. I remember my mum looking at me and shaking her head pityingly.

I only bring this up because I read yesterday about a bloke who put my over-reaction to shame.

James Grant, a 24-year-old New Zealander, was spearfishing with friends on South Island at the weekend when he was attacked by a shark.

He was standing in six feet of water when he says he felt a tug on his leg. He looked down but couldn't see anything, possibly because the water was dirty.

He thought his assailant was a sevengill shark, with a jaw measuring eight inches across.

His sang-froid was admirable. "B-----," he thought to himself. "Now I have to try to get this thing off my leg."

He reached down with his knife and cut a few nicks in the shark, which promptly swam off.

Grant then saw several bites up to 5cm long on his leg. What did he do? He calmly stitched up his wounds and went with his friends for a beer. In the pub, he was given a bandage, as the wounds were bleeding.

Then and only then did he consent to go to hospital, where the stitching was seen to properly.

I should say that Grant is a doctor at the hospital, so he is accustomed to injuries, and thus refused to panic when a shark sank its teeth into him.

The next time I slice my thumb open, I'll know what to do: laugh it off, ignore the blood, and head to the pub with my mates for a couple of pints. Can't wait.