Australia is in the middle of a totally ridiculous non-compulsory, non-binding plebiscite (or is it a survey?) which asks the question “Should the law be changed to allow same sex couples to marry?” And costs $AUD170 million. All to rescue timid parliamentarians from doing their job, which is to legislate in the spirit of Ireland and the 21st century.

I suspect this is why I use my non-geological beach walks to meditate on couples, using shells and occasional other findings to prompt my thinking. Shells have been paired at the whim of the sea, not unlike the nature of most pairings, brought about in strange configurations by the accident of proximity.

Take these two, for example. Totally different. You’d never expect them to see anything in each other.

For these two I see trouble ahead. They are very different from each other, both broken, marked by previous experience.

There could well be a different kind of trouble for these couplings. Look how they curl around and nestle up to each other. It’s pretty dangerous to seek completion in something else. And look how abrasion’s beginning already – grains of sand settling between them ready to niggle and damage.

Alarm bells ring here. See how one of them dominates. I foresee an overpowering matched to a diminishing.

Look around you at any cafe and you’ll see this couple, sitting silent, each in their own isolated niche.

Some couplings manage a nice balance of function and pleasure.

And some, like this man with his surfboard, offer pure unadulterated, undemanding delight.

Then there are the couples wrapped up in each other and excluding the rest of the world. These two are foraging companionably together, but when a third joins them they raise their wings and squawk it away.

A gutted crab and beached starfish are a final reminder that human pairings all end in separate couplings with death.

Despite all these negatives and nigglings, I hope my fellow Australians shape up and vote resoundingly “YES”, showing good sense that our politicians and many commentators and interest groups lack. No doubt same sex marriage will encounter the same mix of agony and ecstasy that seems to be inherent in most relationships, but that’s no reason for making it impossible.