Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Santa is on his way!

It is official - Santa is now zooming around the world delivering presents to all good little children. We have been tracking his progress, which I have to say is very impressive, on NORAD's excellent Santa tracking website: http://www.noradsanta.org/en/home.htm From this site it is possible to watch video cam clips as he goes across various landmarks on his long journey.

I have to say that the reindeer are holding up very well. Rudolph's nose, as bright as usual, is lighting their way and NORAD's tracking system is picking it up clearly. The satellite navigation system on the sleigh seems to be keeping Santa on track. This is obviously an advanced version of what is available in the shops for cars, but this one does not send Santa off down narrow country lanes, devoid of children!

At 23.26 Anguilla time, 24 December, Santa is currently over Tennessee, USA, heading south.

Merry Christmas everyone, ho, ho, ho.

Friday, 30 November 2007

The Last Few Weeks

Well it has been a while since I last wrote on this blog! I had not realised it was so long. How time flies.

What have I been up to? You may well ask! Well, I will tell you. I hope you are sitting comfortably as this may take a while.

I went to Miami with Joe and, while he was busy with his course and conference, I was busy with my articles (see previous blog). You will be pleased to know that I got them all completed in time. It just goes to show that if you want to do something badly enough, you will no matter what there is in the way! Of course it helps if you have a wifi enabled laptop!

I took two days out to take my Underwater Digital Photography Course. I took it with South Beach Divers and had great fun. The course was not very intensive, which I was surprised about to tell the truth. I thought that there would be more theory than there was. I had to read the usual manual and then take photos.

My instructor, the irrepressible Anthony Djuren is a Master Scuba Diver Trainer and Professional Concert Photographer. His life seems to be a constant round of travelling, photoshoots and diving - fantastic! He has lived just about everywhere and dived on all the major sites of the world. He is currently planning a 'Road' movie with some of his old army buddies across the US. His life now is a far cry from his original calling as an advertising executive. He woke up one morning and explained to his wife that he was going to drop out and take up professional scuba diving. She was surprised!

Anthony took me to Key Largo. For me this was a real adventure as I have never been out of Miami when we have visited Florida.

The dive operation there is very commercial and I felt a little as if I was being processed in a factory. The boats are huge and there are a lot of people on each one. I had some things to adjust to. I had never left a boat using the 'Giant Stride' method of water entry. I usually roll backwards off the side of the boat. I was a bit concerned that I might end up landing face first in the water and knocking my nose into the back of my head! Anthony just laughed! 'Keep your head up and look ahead as you walk off the edge' he advised and, being a good student, I followed his advice and thus still have a nose in the right place.

Diving on Fire Coral Alley, so called because it is literally ablaze with the stinging coral you give much respect to, I met 600lb Cooper, the Grouper. As you can see from the photo above, he was a gentle giant and seemed quite used to divers. Just as well, as there were way too many of us. This is commercial diving on a scale I have not been used to before. I suppose I have been sheltered, diving here on little Anguilla. The dive sites here are lovely and unspoilt. The biggest group of divers a site gets is about 8 at once, not 80++ as in Key Largo. That the sites are being spoilt was evident at our second site, Hole in the Wall, which was nice enough but wherever you went you bumped into other divers. Too many people, some sea life. Shame.

On this trip I made the acquaintance of Frankie, the Bronx policeman. Frankie, if you are reading this, Hello! He and I chatted on the long drive to and from Miami and I learnt all about his life as a cop. I would love to do an in-depth interview with this gentleman as he was interesting to talk to. I hope that all goes well for him, as he is contemplating his future with the police force.

Back in Miami Anthony took me to the Princess Brittany wreck off Miami, which is at 87 feet. Here there were lots of really big Barracuda. Anthony got me to enter the wreck as there are a couple of places where divers can swim through. I am not good in enclosed spaces and for me this was a bit of an ordeal. I was taking pictures all the while and hoping that they would come out ok. Visibility was not wonderful so the resulting photos were not as good as I had hoped.

My final, qualifying dive was to The Pipes. These were sewer pipes which were surplus to requirements and so were dumped to be colonated by sea life. Again, way too many divers but we had some fun swimming about, and through, them. Anthony even found a resting shark for me which was excellent to see.

So, now I am a PADI Underwater Photographer. Great!

To all the staff at South Beach Divers, many thanks for your help and support and to Anthony, thanks for the fun too! I have never taken a qualification and had such fun doing it! Thanks for passing me too!!!! http://www.southbeachdivers.com/

Joe and I were going to dive together at the weekend but the weather changed and that was the end of that. Shame. Joe was really looking forward to some fun after his course and conference, which after all, were the reasons we were in Miami.

He flew home to Anguilla and I flew on to London to see my parents.

My father's health has been a bit of a worry for a while and I wanted to see for myself how he was. Not good is the short answer. I spent a week at home and I am glad I went. My mother was struggling too and I hope I managed to give them both a bit of help and support while I was home.

Back on Anguilla again and it was time to get the December edition of ACOCI Connection ready for publication. There is just so much going on in the Chamber of Commerce that it has taken a bit of effort to keep up with it all! The Chamber and Cable and Wireless hosted the first Business After Hours event which went very well and attendance was good. This was a chance for local businesses to meet over a glass of wine, swap business cards and learn a little about each other's products and services. Cable and Wireless made various presentations and the whole event was broadcast live on local radio. I covered the event for the magazine and took some photos for The Anguillian of the bizarrely named band, The Energetic Superfly String Band, who were very good and got everyone's feet tapping.

The Chamber held its Christmas Fayre on 8th December and I spent 10 hours on duty with my camera and dictaphone. Father Christmas opened the event and, in an exclusive interview, told me that the reindeer were suffering from the heat and so were not present and were resting in the cool shelter of a local stable. Many local children breathed a sigh of relief to hear that the reindeer were ok and they were universally happy to see Santa!

The Pepper Stepper Skipping Troup put on a display of agility with a skipping rope the like of which this writer has never witnessed before. As you can see from the photos, they were magic indeed.

A fashion show completed the days events, which had also included many local businesses showcasing their wares on a very blustery and intermittently wet day.

ACOCI Connection was put to bed at the end of last week after our layout lady, Valerie, did a sterling job in making it look good. Valerie has such expertise and it is a real pleasure to work with her. If you are reading this Valerie, I wish to say a public thank you for making the production look so professional. The Board of Directors of the Chamber are very happy with the production, which makes all the work worth while.

In the meantime, The Insider is nearly at the printers. This is HM Prison Anguilla's first publication and the team involved, all prison staff except for yours truly, have worked very hard to bring it together. Some last minute hitches have been encountered, which have delayed publication, but in January it will hit the streets and we can sit back and listen to the feedback. This will be useful for the next edition, due out in the summer.

I was stunned to find that I had passed my last Open University course (see previous angst-ridden entry on the OU!) and so picked up my degree at long last. My family have been congratulatory and Joe bought me the most gorgeous pair of earrings to celebrate. I will be travelling back to England to pick up the award in April. I am an eternal student and am already looking at other courses.

Ok I think that is as much as most readers will be able to stand to read in one sitting!

I will try not to leave it so long between postings next time.
The photos show Cooper, the Grouper, Anthony peering through a port hole on the wreck of the Princess Brittany, The Pepper Steppers in action and Father Christmas opening the Chamber of Commerce Christmas Fayre.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Busy Penny!

They say that if you want something done, give it to a busy person. Well, that is what has happened to me recently.

On Wednesday an editor did me the compliment of entrusting seven articles to my tender care. That was very nice of her and I am grateful.

Then she dropped the bombshell that the deadline for all the copy is 10 November. Under normal circumstances this would not be a problem but I just happen to be going to Miami on 3 November - tomorrow. This has meant that I have had to do all the interviews and behind the scenes work yesterday and today, so I can take the notes and work on the articles while I am away.

I have had great fun contacting people, arranging appointments, emailing questions, taking photographs and talking to interviewees in different parts of the island over the last 48 hours. I seem to work best when I am under pressure and certainly the old grey matter seems to have been quite stimulated by all the work!

To all the people who have cooperated with me these last few days, I say a big 'thank you.' I do appreciate your moving your schedules around to accommodate me.

Now all I have to do is produce the articles....

Friday, 26 October 2007

Raining at Last!

Yesterday afternoon it poured with rain.

Last night it bucketed with rain.

This morning it is still tipping down.

Our water tank is so full it is overflowing into the garden.

Readers of this blog will remember that a few weeks ago we had to have a tanker full of water delivered as we ran dry. Now, we have so much water we cannot store it all.


I Love Taking Photos!

I am taking a course in Photography with the Open University in the UK. It is something I have been promising myself I would do for years and now that I am finally studying the subject I am having great fun and learning a lot into the bargain.

I love taking photos! Ever since I was a small child with my first 110 mm camera (remember those?) that just needed the cartridge film inserted and the camera back closed to be able to start using it, I have been hooked. Over time, I have had 135mm cameras, a step up from the 110, ‘instant’ cameras which spewed forth an instant print which developed in my hand as I waited – magic I thought as a child – and then graduated to 35mm and now to digital Compact and DSLR cameras.

At present I have several compacts. They are all Panasonic apart from a first generation Canon. This was state of the art when I bought it as my first digital camera six years ago. 2 mega pixels and a range of different automatic shooting facilities, I thought I was the bee’s knees when I used it! Now I look at it and know it to be the dinosaur it is.

My current favourite compact is the Panasonic DMC-TZ1. Smallish and reasonably light weight, it offers excellent sensitivity, a reasonable zoom lens and good picture quality. I have taken it diving with me recently and have been very pleased with the results in both picture and video modes. I know that now this has become history as the new version of this model was launched this year, but for now at least, I am going to stick with this little gem.

I received a Canon 350D for my birthday in January. I love this camera. It is continually surprising me with its versatility. I am increasingly called upon to supply good quality images to go with articles and this gives excellent results. My husband has not made the leap into digital photography yet and so still uses his Canon EOS66 35mm camera, which gives excellent pictures I must say, and we share the lenses, which is useful.

The OU course centres on using Photoshop Elements to enhance the pictures taken with the digital cameras. What do readers think of Elements? It has much of the professional version but less of the jargon I am told. The digital darkroom is something I am very much a novice at using, so it is a challenge for me to learn and grow with my photography using Elements.

The course runs until just before Christmas, by which time my fellow students and I will have climbed a steep learning curve!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Vandalism on Anguilla

The lovely beach at Little Bay, named for its size, is famed for its clear waters, clean sand and fantastic marine life.

Recently the Fisheries Department spent a small fortune in erecting signs telling the public that the bay is a Marine Park and explaining the obligations that this designation brings. On Saturday our dive boat called in to the bay between dives and all aboard were shocked to see the state of the signs. As you can see, they have been completely destroyed by vandals. Not only does this show a blatant disregard for the meaning of the signs, it also shows that those responsible could not care less about polluting the beach or public safety, being quite happy to leave sharp shards lying about.

A sad state of affairs on Anguilla.

New Divers!

On Saturday Joe and Sheryl passed their PADI Open Water Certifications!

They completed their underwater tasks and then were absolutely bowled over by diving on the wreck of the Cathley H, which was sunk in 1995 as an artificial reef. They were wide eyed with amazement to see lobsters tucked away in crevices and fish shoaling in the wheel house!

They both freely admit that the course was difficult; the hardest thing they have ever done.

The photo shows the two new divers with their temporary Certificates.

I am sure that readers will join me in congratulating them both.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Examination Day

Well, today was the day.

I took my end of course exam this afternoon and I think I have blundered badly.

To explain, readers of this column will know that I have been studying with the Open University in the UK for several years and have taken all kinds of courses in that time. Since February I have been studying a third level undergraduate Art History course and the three hour examination for it was today.

It was awful.

It is the first time I can ever remember opening a question paper and thinking ‘Oh no!’ It was not that the questions were particularly difficult but that I was under-revised. I had to answer three questions and it was hard to find three that I felt I could do justice to. In the end I waded through one and made bad attempts at the other two. Sigh…

I now have to wait until the middle of December for the result. If I pass I get a BA Honours degree in Classics and Art History. If I fail, I will have to retake the course and will not receive the degree.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Intrepid New Divers!

Well they did it! My friend Sheryl and my husband Joe took their first giant bubbles towards diver certification at the weekend and loved most of it!

They sailed through their paperwork and did very well in their examination at the end. Both passed with flying colours and wore big grins when they reached the dive boat.

Their frowns of concentration were valley-deep while listening to the dive brief on the boat prior to their first dive, just off Anguillita, a lovely place to make the acquaintance of the deep.

They went down, did their drills, came up again and managed their surface exercises to the satisfaction of their instructor, the ever patient Rob. They both had a few hairy moments. Sheryl had problems with her breathing and Joe decided it was ok to take a quick breath from his regulator while performing an out of air emergency ascent! Needless to say the ever vigilant Rob noticed and he had to do it again!

Next it was dive two and here I was able to take some photos of the intrepid pair, one of which illustrates this article. By this time, they were enjoying it!

At the end of the weekend they were two very tired but happy people, half way to their PADI certification. I am so pleased for them and I look forward to next Saturday when they complete the course and we can all celebrate their success.

Friday, 12 October 2007

D - Day on Anguilla

Tomorrow is D - Day for Joe and Sheryl. D for Dive Day I mean. They are to begin their PADI Open Water Diver Certification tomorrow morning.

Both are looking forward to it with excitement and a little trepidation. Rob, our friend and long suffering Dive Instructor, is ready for them and will put them through the ropes.

I hope you will join me in wishing them both Good Luck.

Ritkis, the Mechanic

Today has been a good day. Joe had the day off and we were going to go across to St Martin to the Mitsubishi Dealership there to talk to them about our wing mirror.

I should explain that we have an ancient and much loved Pajero which we imported from Japan to Bangladesh and then exported to Anguilla where she has been giving reasonably reliable service for the last two and a half years. A short while ago Joe was driving along and a large stone hit the driver’s side wing mirror, smashing it and showering him in slithers of glass through the open window.

We could not find a replacement wing mirror here on Anguilla, on St Martin or in the US so ordered one at great expense in the UK and our son, Thomas, brought it out with him when he came to visit recently. Joe immediately went to change it and that is when the fun started.

The supports the mirror sits on came off the car easily enough but that was the only thing that could be called easy about the whole endeavour. Quite simply, the screw holding the supporting bar was rusted into place and NOTHING was going to shift it. What should have been a five minute job to take the assembly apart and insert the new mirror has taken weeks to fix as a succession of people have tried to undo it for us. Joe tried of course, with good old WD40 and took our friend Colin’s advice, (he’s a retired engineer) to try soaking it in vinegar but it was not going to move. Others tried and failed and eventually the screw looked like it had been through a grinder. So, today was to be the trip to St Martin to the dealer to see if he could help.

On the way to the ferry in our other car, an-almost-as-old-but-not-quite Suzuki Escudo, I got fed up with its steering which has been getting noisy of late. This has been looked at by a mechanic and pronounced ok but it creaks as it goes around corners and occasionally gets very heavy to handle. To us, these are all signs that the power steering is ailing and should be fixed. On the spur of the moment, I turned into the Suzuki dealer and car hire establishment in The Valley and asked the staff there if their mechanic could have a look at our Suzuki. We were directed to their workshop where we met Ritkis, the Suzuki mechanic.

This gentleman, hot and dirty, intelligent and smiling, cheerfully made an appointment for the car to be brought in next Wednesday and then looked at the carrier bag Joe held. Inside it was the Pajero mirror.

Well reader, now we have a pair of wing mirrors on the car and did not have to trek to St Martin in the hope that we could get it sorted out. Ritkis drilled and pulled and soon the assembly was apart, the mirror replaced and the whole put together again. He was clearly up to his ears in work but he found the time to do this for us. Bless him.

I look forward to seeing what he can do for the Escudo. We both have our fingers crossed.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Time Flies!

Here it is, Thursday already! This week is zipping by. I had intended writing in this blog everyday but there is just not enough time in the day!

Today, for example, I was up before dawn to revise for my Open University (OU) Art History examination, which is next Thursday (gulp!) and then spent an hour or two working on my new course with the university, on photography. I am not very good with Photoshop Elements and so thought I would take a course to improve my skills. Today I tied myself up in knots trying to make it work as the tutors at the OU say it should.

I followed this with a two hour meeting at HM Prison where I have been asked to edit their new magazine, The Insider. This magazine will showcase the achievements of the service and its efforts at rehabilitation of prisoners. It is being launched to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the move of the prison to its present site. There is no budget for this enterprise and so it has to be self financing. All the content is being written by officers or by myself, having interviewed officers. We have a team member, who teaches at the prison, who is to solicit advertising to pay for the production. I am keeping my fingers crossed that all will go well, as the team put together to make it work has put in a lot of time and effort to get it right. If anyone reading this blog feels philanthropic and would like more information on the magazine with a view to taking out advertising, or to sponsor it, please contact me.

After lunch it was time for some serious writing so I wrote an article for a local newspaper in Portsmouth, England, and edited an article I have been working on for a specialist magazine in the UK. This article I have now submitted to the editor, so I will have to wait and see what he thinks of it.

Now it is blog time and so I am writing this. I will next go back to my books for an hour and study for my examination. I am not ready for it but wish that it was over so I can pack my books away and move on.

So, another day passes. Just think, it will be Christmas soon…..

Friday, 5 October 2007

Happy Bunny!

I have been working hard over the last few weeks (since I did not have to spend fifteen plus hours a week studying) writing for various publications and have heard that several articles are to be published in the UK in the near future. I mainly write for the overseas market, that is, the Caribbean where I live, and so whenever I am published in my home country it is a huge boost.

I still have lots of things in the pipeline though, so there will be more work winging its way to my native shores over the next few weeks. Writing has got to be one of the best jobs in the world!

I am a happy bunny today.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

PADI Open Water Diver Certification

Joe, my husband, and Sheryl, my game-for-most things friend, are each studying to take their PADI Open Water Diving Certification.

This has involved long sessions over a book, many frowns from Sheryl as she has attempted to get to grips with unfamiliar concepts such as physics and the watching of a DVD produced to bring to life what the book teaches.

It has also involved some physical preparations on both their parts. Joe has had to change his medication and get his physician’s approval to dive. Sheryl has had to get over a fear of getting her face wet and they have both had to learn to snorkel. Between them they have worked very hard to overcome potential problems to get them to a point where learning to dive is a viable proposition.

Now Sheryl, who bravely took a resort dive on her recent birthday, snorkels with confidence, her face in the water and her eyes open, not screwed up as if waiting for the worst to happen. There are lots of turtles in the waters around Anguilla at the moment and she never tires of seeing them. Joe has learnt what to do, or rather, what not to do with his arms whilst snorkelling and is much more confident.

They have to wait until the weekend after next for their course and they are using the intervening time to practice for their swimming and floating test. This is giving them the worst headache as they each seem to think that this is the hardest part of the course. It is true that for Joe this could well be the case as he usually sinks when he tries to float but, lately, he has been concentrating on this and now floats quite well. They have to float for ten minutes so they are timing themselves to make sure that they can keep up for the required period.

In the meantime, we have been going out and snorkelling in Shoal Bay, just along from our home. Yesterday we saw a baby Lobster, a small Turtle, a Nassau Grouper, lots of large Blue Tang and a tiny Flounder all within a few feet of the shore. It was a good session indeed!

Keep reading this blog for updates on how Joe and Sheryl are getting along.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

HMS Portland in Anguilla

With the visit of HMS Portland, I have found myself busier than I have been in a little while!

On Monday morning I was invited to sit in on Navigational and Wireless Communications Briefings given to members of the Anguilla Police Service, HM Customs and Immigration Services and the Fire Brigade by members of the ship’s company. These proved to be very interesting and, as Sgt Browne of the Police Marine Unit said of the navigation training, ‘this was knowledge we needed and it will help us a great deal.’

In the afternoon I was invited aboard the ship to meet the Commanding Officer, Commander Mike Utley, affectionately known as ‘Father’ by the crew. I was met by Lieutenant Commander Harry Palmer, the ship’s Public Relations Officer amongst other roles, who gave me a guided tour of the ship and much appreciated background information. He also made me some welcome tea, whilst apologising for the crack in the cup!

Talking to Commander Utley was a delight. I think I was slightly more than he bargained for though! As Lieutenant Commander Palmer had informed me, after the ship’s relief work in the wake of Hurricane Dean in Belize, Commander Utley had given 19 interviews to radio and television in 48 hours. I think he expected I would be there for ten minutes, ask him the barest minimum of questions and then disappear to write my few hundred words! What he got was Professional Penny who had done her homework. Yes, I wanted to know about the ship and what it had been up to but I also wanted to know about the ship’s Captain. So I asked him about his career and what he thought of the new Type 23 frigate he now commanded in comparison to his first ship, a Leander Class frigate back in the early 1990’s. What his wife thought of his frequent absences and just how one of his commands had won the prestigious Jersey Cup for Fishery Protection. In all, we chatted for over an hour and his enthusiasm for his job, his ship and his crew shone through. He endearingly told me ‘I love driving ships!’ and it showed.

Later, the Commander hosted a Cocktail Party for over eighty invited guests and both Joe and I went along. Owen King, the ship’s photographer, was much in evidence snapping away with his Nikon, which I must say I covet! He and I had shared a few minutes earlier in the day exchanging professional courtesies and eyeing each other’s equipment. I liked his Nikon; he liked my Canon but loved my little Panasonic DMC-TZ1, which we both agree is a lovely, capable little camera. The Cocktail Party ended, as all such on board parties end, with Sunset performed with precision and skill.

The ship had to leave suddenly on Tuesday and so all further engagements, including Lunch with the Governor and his staff, were cancelled. The ship sailed at noon. No doubt we will hear about her exploits in due course.
The photo shows Commander Utley still smiling at the end of our interview.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

The Navy Is Coming!

The residents of Anguilla are looking forward to the arrival of Plymouth based Royal Navy warship, HMS Portland, which will visit us from 24 - 27 September 2007 as part of her deployment to the Caribbean. Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory but we do not often see members of our naval fleet and so there will be much interest in her visit.

According to the press release issued by the ship the aim of the visit is 'to display and strengthen the links between Anguilla and the United Kingdom and provide the Ship’s Company with an opportunity to relax during their six month deployment. ' During the visit the Captain will host a Cocktail Party for invited guests after paying courtesy visits to His Excellency the Governor, Mr Andrew George, the Chief Minister, the Honorable Osbourne Fleming and the Acting Commissioner of Police, Illidge Richardson. Members of his crew will be 'taking part in a series of training exercises, including first aid and radio communications drills, with the Anguillan Police and Fire Services.'

The ship's Commanding Officer, Commander Mike Utley said “We are really looking forward to our visit to Anguilla and the opportunities to conduct training with the Police and Fire Services.”

The release further states that 'HMS Portland is stationed in the Caribbean region as part of the Atlantic Patrol Task (North) (APT(N)) for the 2007 hurricane season, which runs from June until November, ready to respond in the event of a humanitarian crisis. She recently provided assistance in Belize following the impact of Hurricane Dean. At other times, APT(N) units conduct Maritime Counter Narcotics operations and wider regional engagements covering the Atlantic and western Pacific.'

HMS Portland is one of the most advanced of the Royal Navy's fleet, being a Duke Class, Type 23 Frigate. She carries 180 personnel and is a multi-purpose ship equipped to carry out a range of military and humanitarian tasks. Her weaponry includes a 4.5 inch gun, Harpoon and Seawolf missile systems and carries the versatile Mark 8 Lynx helicopter. At 133 metres in length and with a displacement of 4,800 tonnes, PORTLAND is powered by 2 Rolls Royce Gas Turbine Engines, supported by 4 Diesel Generators.

The children on the island will be able to marvel at this feat of military might when the ship hosts visits for local schools. Those interested in sport will be able to see how the crew fares when matched against Anguillian teams in Netball, Cricket and Football.

In all, Anguilla is in for an interesting time over the next few days.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Roadworks on Sea Rocks!

The residents of Sea Rocks, Island Harbour, have become used to listening to the dulcet tones of heavy plant equipment recently as a four feet deep trench is being dug along the road to hold water pipes, electricity and communication lines. The trench, being undertaken by Daddy’s Construction Equipment, is scheduled to take about seven weeks and is half way to completion.

I spoke to Julian Popo, a St Lucian living on ‘peaceful, very quiet’ Anguilla for two years, who operates the heavy equipment. He says he enjoys living on Anguilla where ‘everyone knows everyone’ and has been operating heavy building equipment for fifteen years. His young son, Dervin, hopes to follow in his footsteps.

The photographs show Julian working on the machinery and the trench itself.

Our Son is Visiting!

Our son, Thomas, is here and I am being lazy!

I have not written anything for this blog for a week, which is very remiss of me. I will rectify that now.

Thomas is staying with us along with his old school friend, Kit, and Kit’s parents, Colin and Christine, who are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary this year. The weather has been glorious. We have spent lots of time on the beach enjoying the sunshine and Anguilla’s wonderfully clear waters and multitude of marine life.

Colin has bravely tried a Resort Scuba Dive with our friend Sheryl, who plucked up courage to join him as a birthday present to herself. He has decided that once is enough, she is going to continue and try for her PADI Open Water Certificate. They both did very well indeed as both were terrified!

Thomas and I went diving to the Cathley H wreck, Hole in the Wall and along to No Name Reef. It was the first time we have dived together and I loved it. We were lucky to see a rare sighting of a Frog Fish. Dougy Carty, who owns Special D Divers, has not seen one in Anguilla’s waters for eight years. It was a curious little fellow. It was dark red with mottled grey blotches and it crawled along the sandy bottom making for the shelter of an over hanging rock.

Colin, Christine and Kit went off to St Martin for a couple of nights and we joined them for the second night having had a quiet night in with Thomas. We see him so rarely that this was a real treat. We caught up on all the gossip and took daft photos while larking about on the terrace.

On St Martin we went to the delightful Tropicana restaurant in Marigot for lunch. This is often packed with people as the word is out that it is good. We were lucky to get a table down by the water as the restaurant is situated on the marina. The food was as wonderful as usual. A real temptation to the palate and the free home made banana rum was a welcome addition to the coffee at the end of the meal.

We stayed at the Mercure, a stone’s throw from Marigot. It was the first time Joe and I had stayed at one of these chain hotels and we got a good deal. We booked a duplex apartment for the three of us and found that we had a lovely mezzanine with a king size bed and an ensuite upstairs, whilst Thomas had a large single bed with his own bathroom in the living room downstairs. The accommodation came with refrigerator and sink on the ample balcony and there was TV and lots of storage space. It was not bad at all. The hotel had a beach and a pool and the cost of a night’s stay was complete with a help yourself buffet-style breakfast.

I have, of course, been working a little while our guests have been here. I have just finished trailing the island’s Governor around for The Anguillian, the local newspaper. This was fun. Now I am working with the Prison Service as there is a community project that they have launched which has attracted my attention. The prisoners are renovating old buildings on the island and they are doing so very well indeed. More on this later on this blog I am sure.

The photos are of Thomas giving Joe a head massage, Christine and Colin at Roy’s Bayside Bar and Grill, Father and Son on the tennis court, Thomas tree hugging in Island Harbour and Thomas, Kit, Christine and Colin in the water at Junk’s Hole.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Water, Water Everywhere!

Meet Stanley. This is the lovely gentleman who delivered water to the house when we ran out. His truck is huge as you can see from the picture and he had real trouble getting it up the rough track and then into our garden but he managed it in the end.

He delivered 5000 gallons of water which has stirred up the sediment at the bottom of the tank and, even now, four days later, the water has still not quite settled. Still, we have water, which is a blessing.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

What a Day!

OK, I know I said yesterday that I could afford a little time for coffee and other interests now I have finished my OU papers, but I was not expecting to use my extra time cleaning the house!

Our son, Thomas, his old school friend, Kit and Kit's parents arrive for a visit tomorrow.

So far today, the car, which has been playing up all week by being reluctant to start, has been picked up for repair, leaving me stranded at home. We have not had a lot of rain recently so this morning we ran out of water and now, as I am trying to vacuum around quickly, the internal bag has burst and I cannot find the spare bags we bought recently. So, I cannot wash clothes and beddding I wanted to freshen up, am cleaning in slow time with a broom, dust pan and brush and have managed to draw just half a bucket of water which will have to do to mop floors. It is 86'F and I am hot, sticky and a bit fed up!

On a positive note, Joe ordered a tanker full of water a couple of days ago, so this afternoon we will have some water. I will be able to do my laundry and take a much needed shower!

If I keep my fingers crossed the car will be delivered back to the house sometime soon so Iwill not be marooned any more. It will only be the vacuum cleaner which will be out of use. I cannot get bags for it on island (or anywhere else for that matter!) and the bags Joe and I bought in the UK on our last visit we hope will fit when I do eventually find them. If not, we have a useless cleaner!

These things are sent to try us, and oh dear, they do!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Tired Penny

I have just finished my final 2000 word paper for my last Open University (OU) course, AA318, Art in the Twentieth Century. I have sent it off to the university electronically and can now breathe a sigh of relief that it is over. I just need to study hard for my examination on October 18th and then I can put my books away. What a nice thought!

I have been studying in my spare time with the OU since 2002 and in that time have taken 9 different courses. On the way to my BA Honours Degree (Humanities with Classical Studies and Art History), I have picked up two Certificates (Humanities and Spanish) and a Diploma (Classical Studies). I have learnt all kinds of useful things, like how to search effectively on the web, and some not so useful things (although interesting to know!), such as Andy Warhol getting his major influence from a British Artist, the originator of Pop Art, Richard Hamilton.

I have been particularly busy these past few weeks as, in addition to the studying, we have had guests staying, I am working on some commissioned articles and towards some more dive qualifications. On Friday our son and friends arrive for a visit and I really want to be free for the time they are here.

For now, I am going to have a cup of coffee and put my feet up for a while. I might have a look at the paperwork for the Underwater Naturalist Qualifying Dive, which I am due to take on Sunday. No rest for the wicked!

Monday, 3 September 2007

New British Citizens!

On Thursday 30 August 2007, His Excellency the Governor, Mr Andrew George, presided over a Citizenship Ceremony at which eleven new British Citizens were created.

Punctually at five o’clock, the candidates for Citizenship, together with their family and friends all looking suitably smart and overawed by the occasion, arrived at the Governor’s Office for the formal Oath Taking and Swearing of Allegiance to the Crown, which is part of the Ceremony.

They were met by the Governor’s Staff Officer, Mr Joseph Legg, who acted as Master of Ceremonies, guiding the candidates through the event, ensuring that all went smoothly and introducing the Governor at the appropriate point.

After rising for the National Anthem and the Anguillian National Song, the Governor outlined the significance of becoming a British Citizen under the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 and congratulated all those about to receive their Certificates of Citizenship. They would henceforth be able to apply for British Passports and have the right to live and work in the United Kingdom free from immigration control.

The Candidates, one by one, affirmed their allegiance to the Queen, her Heirs and Successors and swore the Citizenship Pledge together. As they did so there was a breathless hush from those in the audience.

The Governor then formally presented each new British Citizen with his or her Certificate of Citizenship and invited the audience to take photographs if they wished to do so. However, it would seem that the occasion was so overawing that even those with cameras kept them in their cases!

I, however, covering the event for another article, did have my camera and so can bring you some photos of these proud new British Citizens receiving their Certificates, along with a picture of the Governor and Staff Officer standing to attention for the National Anthem.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Rain on Sea Rocks

At last we have had some rain on Sea Rocks - if only a little.

Anguilla's water catchment tanks are running dry all over the island and so, every little bit helps.

As you can see, the reef opposite the house was not happy at all and the rain was very heavy. If only it had continued for longer than the few minutes it has taken to photograph and log it for this blogsite. Shame....

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

A Promethean Event

At a lively and informative handing-over ceremony on Monday 27 August, His Excellency the Governor, Mr Andrew George, presented two Promethean interactive whiteboards to the Honourable Minister of Education, Mr Evans McNeil Rogers, for use in schools on Anguilla.

The whiteboards are accessed via a computer and offer fully interactive functions to both the class teacher and the individual pupils. They are part of a project, directed by Mrs Dawn Reid, funded jointly by the Overseas Programme Fund of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Government of Anguilla. The project, which provides four whiteboards, will enable teachers to offer interactive teaching to a generation brought up on the fast movement and bright colours of computers. As such, it will offer a chance to reach out to children who are unresponsive to traditional, black and white on paper, teaching methods and motivate both teachers and students.

Commenting on the ‘innovative and forward-looking project’ Governor George stated that the US$12,000 which the British Government had invested was an ‘important contribution’ in aiding the Department of Education ‘to keep up with latest developments’ in both technology and education.

Promethean, a company which originated in the United Kingdom, was represented by Dr Mary Markowski, who addressed the invited guests, and Mr Manley Wisdom, an Educator, who demonstrated what the interactive whiteboards could do. This involved a presentation that delighted the guests bringing much humour and startled gasps as the versatility of the technology was revealed. It was evident from the brief overview Mr Manley provided, part of a two day Promethean Professional Development Workshop to train the trainers on Anguilla, that the whiteboards will revolutionise teaching and revitalise apathetic students.

Mr Rogers, in accepting the Governor’s gift, stated that he wanted ‘every school and classroom in Anguilla to be exposed to this technology’ which he stated ‘encourages children to learn.’ He promised that this would be just the beginning and he would be approaching the Governor ‘to meet him half-way’ once again to help bring more of these whiteboards to the island.

The photograph shows the Governor presenting the interactive children’s handsets, through which students are able to access the whiteboard, to the Minister of Education. The whiteboard itself is in the background.

Promethean can be contacted on the following links:
http://www.prometheanworld.com/us/ http://www.prometheanworld.com/uk/

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Nectar on a Plate!

We dined at the delectable Veya on Friday. Nestled half way up the hill on the road from Sandy Ground, this is a charming, elegant fine dining restaurant.

On Friday evenings the restaurant serves a Thai menu alongside its a la carte menu and Joe and I had been saying for weeks that we should go along to try it. Bangkokg was a rest and recreation destination when we lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and we were frequent visitors. We love Thai food and so wanted to try out Veya's.

Now we are kicking ourselves for having left it so long before sampling this menu!

It was well presented, delighting the eye and tempting the palate long before our taste buds were excited. The flavour combinations did not overpower the food and you could taste the individual ingredients in each dish. The choice of each course was imaginative, allowing guests to enjoy a shrimp and vegetable pancake with peanut dipping sauce as a starter, a curried chicken portion with coconut rice and mixed vegetables for entree and a cardomon creme brulee with pineapple for dessert. These all combined seductively to make this meal one of the best we have had in a long time.

We have friends coming to stay next week and have already booked a table during their time with us. We hope they will enjoy what this restaurant has to offer as much we do.

Veya's website is: http://www.veya-axa.com/info.php

Thursday, 23 August 2007

A Cure for Islanditus!

I spent today on Anguilla's neighbouring island, St Martin.

Sheryl and I took the early ferry, which takes about twenty minutes, to Marigot on the French side of the island. I should explain that the island is split between the French and the Dutch and each side has its own distinct character.

Marigot is a very French capital. You could be in any seaside town in France when you visit this pretty town. There are pavement cafes from which you can people watch and a colourful street market most days. It is a good place for breakfast - pain au chocolat or croissant and good coffee is de rigueur.

Philipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side. It is more commercial than the French side, with a huge ferry terminal and hundreds of duty free shops which line the streets in the vicinity of the liners that arrive with great regularity.

We arrived in Marigot and hired a car. This was a bit of a palava. Many of the ferryside car hire companies will gladly hire you a car and when you take delivery of it you find that there is little gas to actually make it move. Hire company employees just smile and shrug their shouldars, taking no responsibility at all and leaving you to limp to the nearest station. If it happens to be closed, you end up pushing.

Consequently, the hire companies I use regularly know that I will not take the car if there is no gas in the tank. This morning this meant that we had to wait for twenty minutes while a car with something in the tank was found. We had enough to take us out of Marigot to a station just beyond, which is where we made for.

After putting $10 in the tank, which we thought would be enough for the little bit of running about we wanted to do, we set off for Simpson Bay and the excellent Scuba Shop there. Readers of this blog will remember that a little while ago I purchased a new BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and was getting used to it. I was, and still am, very pleased with the investment but the air pipe is too short. The Scuba Shop had agreed to look at it and so we made this our first port of call. As we arrived we found that the car had a flat front tyre.

Kim, the boss, and Mariska, one of her excellent staff, were their usual helpful selves and we called the hire company from their office. We were reassured that within twenty minutes we would have someone with us and we carried on with our business. I soon had an air hose that was a full four inches or so longer than before and Sheryl had been fitted for a much needed new dive mask. We spent at least half an hour in the shop and yes, you guessed it, no hire company had turned up when we left. We were marooned.

It took the company two hours to get to us. You can imagine how we felt by that time! To give them their due, the chap who arrived to sort out the problem did his best to change the wheel as quickly as he could. However, the spare in the boot of the car was flat and bald, so it was just as well he had another wheel in his van, and when he tried to unbolt the wheel on the car to change it, one of the bolts just snapped off. We were not impressed.

We were finally on our way again after a fair bit of stress. We went for a well earned lunch in the waterside Skip Jacks restaurant, where we cooled off a bit. If you find yourself in Simpson Bay you cannot do better than pop into Skip Jacks for a fish lunch. Wonderful!

The rest of the day went well I am pleased to say. We shopped and Sheryl managed to pick up new cutlery at a price that did not make her gulp.

We ended up on the beach at Grand Case. This is nothing compared to any of Anguilla's beaches but is pleasant enough and makes a nice spot to stop for a cold drink and a short chill on a hot day.

We arrived back on Anguilla loaded with boxes and, of course, had to run the gauntlet of the customs man, who today was Justin. He and I know each other but that did not stop him from performing his duty. Both Sheryl and I had bills to pay! C'est la vie!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Amateur Theatre

I miss the fun and camaraderie of amateur dramatics.

Over the years Joe and I have enjoyed working on many shows.

‘Aladdin and the 7 Thieves’ was the show where the writer had never written before, the director had never directed, the sound and lighting crew were new and the show was five days away from opening when I was asked to help out. Now that was fun! This was a production of the British School of Brussels’ Pantaloons Group. A group of eager, if mad – the accent was firmly on the ‘loons’ in their name - enthusiasts who raised huge amounts of money with their annual, sell out Pantomimes. I took over as Stage Manager and the show went on after several very long evening rehearsals and much crash training to bring it all together.

Joe was able to perfect his famous technique for making rubber chickens fly whilst working on ‘The Princess and the Pea’.

Whilst in Brussels, apart from the pantomimes, I was asked to train a stage manager for the Brussels Shakespeare Society’s production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. This was a lovely production in which we managed safely to bring live flame on stage without burning the auditorium down!

Whilst we lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, we joined the only English language theatre group in the country, Dhaka Stage. This opened up many horizons for us. It was a never ending source of amazement to me that there were so many talented people in the city. We had everything from a professional Tenor to a real film actor and all came forward to work on Dhaka Stage’s charity fund raising productions.

It was in Dhaka that Joe went on the stage for the first time. He was a Roman Senator in ‘Fore Plays’ and a Victorian Policeman in ‘A Christmas Carol’ and did very well. We were very lucky in that we had a wealth of very good - and very cheap - tailors in the city, able to make excellent costumes for very moderate prices. Our shows always looked very good, both in terms of costumes and also in terms of set design, for which we were able to bring very talented people in from local schools.

Towards the end of our time in Dhaka the group was asked to put on a show for the Bangladeshi Foreign Office Wives Association at the Sonagaon Hotel in central Dhaka. This was then the only really five star hotel in the country. We put on ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in their dining room to an audience of over 400 guests and later took it to a less exulted public for a fund raising run. This led to the hotel management itself approaching the group for a fund raiser of its own and, just before Christmas 2004, we staged ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the same venue. We raised money towards a floating hospital which, in a country that is only 25 feet above sea level at its highest point, was a necessity to reach often remote and far-flung villages.

Now we live on the lovely island of Anguilla. There is some amateur dramatic work in the schools and a group for young people. When I made a tentative approach to one of the groups early on in our time here, I was invited to a meeting of the group but the leader would not give me his address. “Ask anyone,” he said, “and they will tell you where I live.” I asked, got puzzled frowns and that was that.

Amateur theatre is fun but very demanding. As a director it is particularly hard work but the rewards at the end, when the show goes on, are well worth it. Joe and I will return to it when we get the opportunity once again.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

First Aid on Anguilla

Yesterday was a very interesting day.

A friend of mine, Sheryl, and I took the St John Ambulance of Canada Emergency First Aid with Adult CPR Course.

In an intense day of learning we trained in the core competences of Emergency Scene Management, how to administer first aid to people who are in shock, unconscious, choking, bleeding or having cardiovascular emergencies. We learnt about medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma and allergies, together with wound care and first aid for burns.

The course was hands on from the first and, after watching an instructional film for each section of the course, we were invited to try out the techniques we had been shown. This was both useful and fun – Sheryl and I know each other very well now after checking each other for injuries from head to toe and practising our bandaging techniques on each other!

Our course instructor, Peter Quinn, a veteran of the Fort McMurray Fire Service in Canada, where he was an Emergency Medical Technician, has been teaching for St John Ambulance of Canada for fifteen years. He was both knowledgeable and patient while leading us through the course and professional when he administered the course examination at the end of the day.

By this time we were both exhausted!
When we passed we were very pleased to say the least! It was a lot to assimilate in a single day, but the sense of achievement was worth the effort. We are now both qualified to render Emergency First Aid for the next three years and CPR for the next year.

The photograph shows Sheryl after I had put her in the Recovery Position. I think she was quite pleased to be resting after the long day!

Peter Quinn can be reached on peterfquinn@caribcable.com

Quiet Anguilla

Hurricane Dean came, blew a very little and then left.

The photograph shows the reef in front of our house at 07.00 yesterday morning. As you can see, it is back to its usual quiet self. Anguilla has been very lucky.

Friday, 17 August 2007

The Hurricane has Arrived

It is almost noon and the storm has reached us.

So far we have had some rain and wind, with one short power cut this morning. As you can see from the photograph, there is increased activity on the reef in front of our house. This is usually very tranquil but not today!
I will keep you posted.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Hurricane Dean

Here on Anguilla we have been watching the progress of Tropical Storm Dean as it worked its way towards the Leeward Islands.

Over the past few days we have watched the forecasts and have been preparing to batten down the hatches as it was at first thought that we were directly in its path. Yesterday though, the storm veered slightly and is now on its way towards Jamaica, via Antigua. Its intensity has increased and it is now officially a hurricane.

Tomorrow morning at about 8am the storm should hit land. As we are the northern most island in the Leeward chain, we will be lucky. We are on Tropical Storm Warning rather than Hurricane Alert. The forecasts predict we will have about a 40% chance of winds of more than 39 miles per hour hitting us. Those on Hurricane Alert will face winds of more than 73 miles per hour.

The American National Hurricane Centre site offers excellent information on this storm for those of you interested in keeping up with it:

At present there is a little breeze ruffling the trees and bushes in my garden, which is quite refreshing, but it is 91°F and the clouds are starting to gather.

I will keep you posted as to how we get on….

Monday, 13 August 2007

As the Summer Festival came to its end last night my husband, Joe, and I joined hundreds of others on the beach at Sandy Ground to eat, drink, chill and watch the boats come in from the last boat race.

UFO was victorious this time. She and her several rivals were brought home just as the sun set on a successful Festival.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

The Parade of Troupes

On Friday 10th August it was the Summer Festival’s Parade of Troupes. This is the big daytime event of the Carnival and involves all ages from tinies upwards in a riot of fun, colour, music and pageantry.

Many of the Troupes on parade had community messages such as Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder from the 7 Elements of Beauty group who energetically showed that beauty can be different things to different people and Peace on Anguilla from the venerable ladies and gentlemen of the Back to Basics group.

Music was provided by many of the island’s bands at mega decibel levels and the street literally shook to the reverberations of the beat as the trucks holding the bands thundered past the large crowds of spectators lining The Valley’s streets. Indeed the turnout was very good, with the Governor and his wife, some of the migrant Indian workers from the local big hotel projects, tourists of many nationalities and local Anguillians all thronging the route the Parade followed.

With the Festival coming to a close for another year, there is a new Miss Anguilla, Miss Kafi Gumbs, Dynamite is the 2007 Calypso Monarch, Miguel Franklin and K’nyshau Cameron are the new Mr and Miss CCB Talented Teens 2007 and some of these graced the Parade with their presence.

In all, the 2007 Parade of Troupes was a huge success and reflected the immense amount of work, dedicated practice and sheer imagination that goes into organising a Troupe. It was joy to attend.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The Island Harbour Boat Race!

On Tuesday 7 August it was once again Race Day on Anguilla as the Summer Festival continues.

This time our village, Island Harbour, hosted the race. In a closely fought battle the swift Eagle flew ahead of the mighty UFO.

The day was grey and overcast which meant that the wind was brisk and the temperatures lower than usual. All of this was good news for the competing teams aboard the boats.

The photograph shows the eventual winner, Eagle.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Anguilla's Summer Festival

It is Carnival time here on Anguilla.

There will be lots of fun and frolics for all ages with the culminations of various contests including the crowning of the Calypso Monarch and the highly prestigious, Miss Anguilla. At the end of the week there will be the fabulous Parade of Troupes and I will be there with my camera to bring readers a selection of shots to showcase the fun people have during Carnival and to highlight the amount of work undertaken to make it ‘all right on the night.’

The island is buzzing with high occupancy rates in the hotels and guesthouses as tourists and the Anguillian diaspora pour in to Anguilla. Extra ferries have been laid on to bring people over from St Martin, our neighbouring island five miles away with a big international airport.

The Opening Ceremony on 2 August was graced by the Minister of Finance, the Acting Chief Minister, Victor Banks and there were speeches by several members of the Government.

On Saturday 4 August there was the Children’s Parade. It was a shame that the public turnout was so low for this event. Looking at the photographs on the Anguilla News website http://www.anguillanews.com/Anguillacarnival/Kiddesparade/07/index.htm ,
it is obvious that a huge amount of work has gone into the costumes and the children had much fun parading through The Valley.

August Monday yesterday dawned bright and fair but soon became grey, overcast and wet. Nevertheless the August Monday Boat Race went ahead as scheduled from a packed Sandy Ground beach. ‘Miss Anguilla’ eventually triumphed over ‘UFO’ in a closely fought ending. The Beach Party celebration afterwards went on into the night.

The Festival this year is proving to be a lot of fun. There is much more to come but the next events will be the subject of further posts!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Penny - The Eternal Student!

It is the first of August! I cannot believe that this year is going by so swiftly.

Soon it will be examination time.

You see, I am an eternal student. I left school when I was eighteen with adequate qualifications and got married instead of going to university. Whilst I have never regretted the decision to marry so young (we are still together and coming up to a BIG anniversary), I do regret not having gone on to university.

So, I have studied whenever and wherever I have been able to. This has led to some interesting courses and fun times!

When in England I went to night school and took as many word processing courses as I could. The result of that was that I could now use the new tool that was rapidly overtaking the old fashioned typewriter; the computer. I fell in love with it at once! No more having to worry about correcting fluid if you made a mistake and if you felt like sending a paragraph from the middle to the top of the page, just for the sheer fun of it, you could. Of course, as a writer, being able to use a computer has been invaluable.

To boost my confidence I signed up for an Assertive Class. This was great fun. The course coincided with the ‘Saga of the New Loo’. I was able to put into practise all the assertiveness techniques that I had learnt – not loosing my temper, learning to say ‘No’ etc. To tell the saga (abridged version), it went like this: Once upon a time, Penny and her husband Joe, decided that the time had come to have a new toilet installed in their apartment. Penny’s mother told her about a friend whose husband was a plumber and was looking for work. Feeling philanthropic, we asked this gentleman to come along and install the new loo. He came, he bodged and he left. The first inkling that something was wrong was when we opened the toilet door and fell over the new ‘step’ he had installed to raise the level of the toilet floor up, as he did not know how to attach the new chinaware to the old fittings as there was a gap. The step solved his problem. We knew for certain that something was wrong at about midnight when the water pressure on the ill-fitted pipe work gave way and we had a flood throughout our entire home. The water stop-cock was in the communal loft which we did not have access to. When we called the ‘plumber’ we reached an answer phone and it took every ounce of assertiveness training to politely request him to come to fix the mess. Needless to say when he finally appeared he fixed his bodge job and scuttled away.

After that came National Vocational Qualifications or NVQ’s for short. These qualifications are designed to fit people for employment and are available in a huge range of subjects at different levels from complete beginner to university graduate. My employer at the time was very concerned that employees should be as well educated as possible and I took full advantage. Administration, Customer Service and Computing courses gave me a taste of studying at a higher level and I was hooked.

Next the logical step was the Open University. To say that I love this fantastic educational institution is an understatement. I think it is the most wonderful invention of modern times. For those who do not know what I am talking about, let me explain. The Open University is Britain’s Leading Distance Learning University. Its campus is in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, just north of London and it offers a range of fully accredited University Certificate, Diploma, Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses to its students, who are spread out over the length and breadth of Britain, and the world. Students are from all walks of life and all ages. The beauty of the Open University is that you can study while you work, thus making it one of the most affordable ways of obtaining an education.

Over the years I have studied Spanish, Classics, Web Searching and Art History and will take my final examination for a Bachelors Degree in Humanities in October. On the way I have picked up one or two other qualifications which have proved useful. At times it has been hard work to keep up with working full time, running a home, moving house and country, and being a Mum, whilst studying at the same time. Nevertheless it has been a real adventure, opening up new horizons for me that I would not have thought possible.

I hold the distinction of being the first (and as far as I know, the only) student to take a Classics examination at the British Council in Dhaka, Bangladesh. My invigilator, a local employee of the Council, was very intrigued by my subject. I had to explain what I was studying, Ancient Greek life and history, and why. I think he understood my fascination with the past but could not fathom why I should want to take a degree in it!

So, now it is August. I have a paper due at the end of the week and then just one more before the examination. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

The Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry Triumphs!

I am the Editor, Writer and Photographer for the Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACOCI) Newsletter. This week I took the camera along to a Celebratory Networking Meeting at the lovely Zurra restaurant on the new golf course in the West End of the island.

Celebratory because the Chamber has just won a major award, Best Project from a Chamber in a Developing Country, and was placed as a finalist for a second award, Best Membership Recruitment Project, at the Fifth World Chambers Competition in Turkey. This competition is held every two years by the World Chambers Federation (WCF) and, according to 'Commerce International', it is the only global awards programme to recognise innovative projects undertaken by Chambers of Commerce and Industry from all over the world. The WCF’s mission ‘is to encourage Chamber excellence and dynamism while fostering information exchange and business development’.

The Anguillian Business Community has a well known individualistic attitude. The Chamber has always faced challenges in recruiting members and showing its value to the economic development of Anguilla. Slowly the Chamber has grown, from its inception in the late 1970’s to the point in 2006 when it boasted 60 supporting members. In 2007 the Chamber formed a private-public partnership with the Government of Anguilla resulting in the incorporation of all government registered businesses as standard members of the Chamber of Commerce. As a result of the agreement, membership increased to 1,100. A proportion of the Business License fees that registered businesses pay to the Government is now paid to the Chamber. The Chamber is proud of this agreement which is seen as a unique working relationship between the Public and Private Sector.

This idea is original and innovative and has been recognised by the Award of Best Project from a Chamber in a Developing Country. This award is a new category, added for the 2007 Competition, and recognises an exceptional project that demonstrates achievement and success in a challenging business environment. The Chamber was also a Finalist in another category, Best Membership Recruitment Project.

This places the Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Top 21 Most Innovative Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the World. This achievement has created new opportunities for the Chamber to explore new niche markets, establish new partnerships and launch new initiatives to support small and medium businesses which will benefit the local economy. This is a fantastic achievement of which its members should be proud.

The Anguillian Chief Minister and Finance Minister were invited to join Chamber members in a celebration of the awards on Tuesday 24 July. It was disappointing when they did not turn up. Indeed attendance at the celebration was generally low. It would seem that everyone outside of Anguilla recognises the Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s value, but Anguillians are still less enamoured. It will take much more than the winning of a Major International Award to break into the hearts of many Anguillians.

Those who came to the meeting were addressed by the Chamber’s President, John Benjamin, who was elated by the award, and by Calvin Bartlett, the Executive Director, who thanked the sponsors who enabled the journey to Turkey to be undertaken, the volunteers who make the Chamber tick and all those who made winning the award possible. Members of the local Press and Television Company were present to record the event for a wider audience and for posterity. All attendees enjoyed being wined and dined expertly by Zurra staff and much networking in a friendly atmosphere went on.

The photgraph shows Calvin Bartlett, Executive Director of the Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with the Winner's Plaque for Best Project from a Chamber in a Developing Country.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Meet some of the family!

My sister-in-law Sheila has just sent us some photo's, taken when we were back in the UK earlier this month. Joe and I have been married for nearly 25 years and I can count the number of times we have got together with members of his family on both hands.

I want to introduce Sammie and Adam, Sheila and her husband Steve's two children (on the right and left of the photo) and Georgia (in the centre), the daughter of Joe's younger brother Mike's new wife, Mandy. Joe and I were just about to leave when Sheila took the photo and it's a great off-the-cuff snapshot.

The kids are all within a year or two of each other and it means that they all get on really well, which is nice to see. Georgia has slotted in, so to speak.

The children have just broken up from school for the summer and for Sammie this was a bit of a traumatic experience. It dawned on her last Friday that it was the last time she would be going to her Primary School with all her familiar friends, teachers and surroundings. In September she starts at Secondary School and her world will never be the same again. We have all been through it, the change in our nice cosy lives and the thought of what is to come that is completely unknown. She does not know it yet but she is about to embark on a period in her life that will be exciting, offer her new challenges and which she will probably look back on affectionately for the rest of her life.

In the meantime, she, Adam and Georgia are going to enjoy the summer and all its fun, resolutely ignoring school, its rules and regimentation for a few weeks. Ohh, to be young again!

Friday, 20 July 2007

Diving Diva

Today I have been out diving by Sandy Island, just a short distance from Sandy Ground, Anguilla. Here there is series of reef ledges covered with corals and a multitude of marine life. I was lucky to see a very pretty Chain Moray, a stunning Initial Phase Redband Parrotfish - vivid dark green with red fins and tail and a beautiful Honeycomb Cowfish. None of these are anything unusual in these waters, but I was pleased to see them all out and about when I swam by.

It was a day of firsts. I have invested in a new wetsuit and so wanted to try it out. I am between sizes and the English pear shaped figure is not catered for when it comes to making a wetsuit. After a lot of searching, I finally found one I could squeeze into in Cornwall, in the West of England. 'Squeeze' is the operative word. When it and I are dry it is murder to wriggle into.

I also have a new BCD. This is a Buoyancy Control Device, looks like a sleeveless jacket and is designed to both hold an air cylinder and provide buoyancy when a diver is in the water. I looked at several and chose one designed for the curves of a woman's body. I had been using a unisex one and it was most uncomfortable! It just did not fit and was elderly too, so I splashed out and now have an Aqualung Diva, which sounds as good as it looks and feels. In my new wetsuit and new BCD I am a Diving Diva indeed.

Another first today was the use of a friend's underwater camera kit, complete with strobe lighting and various filters. My son, Thomas, has been trying to buy me a housing for my digital camera since January without success, so I have been looking for a camera outfit specifically designed for use underwater. My friend, Steve, has just updated his model and has offered me his not-very-old ReefMaster digital camera. I took it out for a test shoot today and one of the pictures I took is illustrating this article. Not too bad for a photographer unused to the camera and struggling to get used to the new Diving Diva Outfit!

In all, I am pleased with how today went. The suit is fine, the BCD is worth every penny of the fortune it cost and I am pleased with the camera. I just need to practice with it...

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Friends Reunited

My friend Cees has contacted me through this blog to send me a hug from Amsterdam. It is so good to hear from him. We have not met for several years as he left Dhaka, Bangladesh, before we did and returned to Holland to work. Shortly afterwards we were posted to Anguilla.

When he went he made my day as he presented me with a bag of individual face masks, bath salts, herbal bubble baths and other assorted goodies that were so very difficult to get hold of in Bangladesh. He could not pack them and knew I would love them. How right he was! I hoarded them for ages to make them last as long as possible.

It is funny what we think about when we remember certain people, isn’t it? Cees and I worked together on several things while we were in Dhaka, but it is not the projects we were involved in that I remember first, but the carrier bag he slipped me at his farewell party that springs to mind.

Thanks Cees, it is lovely to hear from you and I hope we see you out here on Anguilla soon!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

My Anguilla

I am a very lucky girl! My husband has been posted to the island of Anguilla, in the British West Indies, to work in the Governor’s Office. Of course, I have gone too!

It is a tiny place; just sixteen miles long by three miles wide sitting at the top of the Leeward Caribbean chain. The island is perfectly summed up by its’ tourist slogan, ‘Tranquillity Wrapped in Blue,’ for it is truly a tranquil and beautiful place to live.

We live near a village called Island Harbour in the northeast of Anguilla. The principle industry here is fishing and colourful little boats are to be seen bobbing in the clear blue sea just off the sandy beach.

Our ‘road’, actually a rough dirt track, is called Sea Rocks and the houses, all perched atop the cliffs, have glorious sea views, stretching out over the Atlantic Ocean.

The house is a small villa painted white, enclosed with mesh fencing and has wooden gates to keep the local marauding goats from entering. These are all over the island and eat anything and everything they meet. The garden would not last long if they managed to get in!

The back of the house faces the road and the garden here is landscaped. I should point out that the ground on Anguilla is made of rock and coral, so building anything is difficult and to grow a garden needs great perseverance. We were lucky that when we arrived at the house the land had been sculpted into a peaceful and interesting garden. The landscaping has followed the natural contours of the land features and so cultivated areas are uneven and rocky. Shallow brick walls delineate garden areas from the car parking shingle.

All over the island Turk’s Head cacti grow abundantly. These cacti are squat and round, have green bases and large red protuberances. When they flower they are covered in tiny red flowers and the whole is a mass of fine prickles. They look impressive in the wild and are a fine addition to my Caribbean garden. This is true too of the baby Cholla cactus which I found recently beside a fossilized brain coral and which is now nearly twelve inches high. When mature it will grow, straight and proud, up to ten feet in height.

Frangipani is also found amongst the other planted flora. This tall, spindly plant with its delicate white, yellow centred flowers has the most heavenly scent but it must be treated with respect as the sap is poisonous.

In the spring the Spider Lilies peep out at visitors as they come through the main gates to the house. These are majestic plants which are about two feet in height and have delicate white blooms which, when viewed from above, look like spiders with a central body and six delicate legs. They wave in the breeze and appear to be giving permission to enter.

By the terrace is the Bougainvillea with a glorious riot of spectacular pink blooms which attract the Bananaquits. These are tiny birds, brightly coloured, with shrill little cries and a very sweet tooth.

My little piece of Anguilla is quiet and peaceful; a perfect place to write.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Travels in Bangladesh

I remember when my husband and I travelled in a convoy to a tea plantation for the Easter holiday whilst we were living in Bangladesh a few years ago. It took all day to cover the fifty miles or so to get there, as we had to catch ferries to cross the numerous twisting tentacles of the country’s rivers and the roads were not good. One of our vehicles got a puncture. There are few garages, no roadside rescue services, not many telephones and little mobile coverage in Bangladesh so a breakdown of any sort is a major calamity. We pulled up in a tiny village causing a sensation in the sleepy backwater, which had never seen so many vehicles. The entire village turned out to help; some with tools that they thought might be of use such as axes, hammers and saws. They then grouped around and watched with fascinated interest as the wheel was taken off and the spare attached. The whole process took just a few minutes but by the time we had thanked our well-wishers, politely refused offers of tea (there are no public lavatories in Bangladesh) and got going again we had made new friends who would not forget the day we came to their village.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Diving on Anguilla

I dive with Special D divers based at Sandy Ground.

I was trained by them for both my Open Water and Advanced Certificates. I intend taking several more options with them up to Master Scuba Diver and have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this dive company.

The company is owned by Douglas (Dougy) Carty who can be reached on the following email addresses: dcarty@anguillanet.com dougcarty@caribcable.com His web address is http://www.dougcarty.com/ Telephone ++264 497 4567 or cell ++264 235 8438

If you wish to take any speciality courses or any further training then you need to contact Rob Willsher who does all the training for Special D. Rob is British, ex-military, very, very experienced and extremely professional. Email him on: robscubainstructor@hotmail.com

The diving around Anguilla is varied and ranges from nice easy dives to much more demanding ones. To give you an idea of what is available:

There are several wrecks at different depths, for example, the 'Cathley H', which is at about 60 feet, is interesting during the day but spectacular at night when the whole of one side of the well preserved ship comes alive as the coral opens up and feeds. It is bright yellow and if you are into underwater photography would make a good subject. This wreck is also the night-time resting place of giant rays and the biggest turtle you will ever see!!

Dog Island is a good 30-40 minute boat trip away but well worth it. This dive is for more experienced divers and goes down to about 90 or so feet. The marine life is spectacular. Expect to see small sharks, Queen Triggerfish, Rays etc - you never really know what you will find. I personally love this dive.

Anguillita is another island but only just off Anguilla. This is a shallow ledge dive from about 20 feet down to about 60 feet. It is a nice easy dive and sea life abounds (Tarpon, rays, shark, Blue Tang, several types of Angels etc.). I always come up with a big smile on my face after this dive!

In between these there are deeper wrecks (try the 'Ooster Diep' Wreck which still has a car on board with perfect chrome work!), dives where the underwater flora is spectacular (eg Hole in the Wall) and some great 'just swim and see what comes along dives' (eg Sandy Shallows).

Visibility is generally good or very good but if a ground sea comes up the boat does not go out.

Dougy offers single (about $60 or so) and double tank dives (about $100 or so) but offers discounts if you buy a block of dives eg my last block of 6 single tank dives was $255. Equipment rental is roughly $5 each for the BCD and Regulator. He also has some wetsuits, masks, fins and snorkels.

Reservations are required - particularly now as he was telling me the other day that he has been particulary busy - and you MUST show proof of certification. If you have not dived for a little while and could do with a short refresher, then email Rob and he will be happy to help.

There are other dive centres on the island and in the interests of fairness I will give you their contact details, but I have not dived with them, so cannot say one way or the other what they are like. They, like Special D, are all PADI certified companies.

Anguilla Dive Centre, Meads Bay, Tel 497 4750
email: axadiver@anguillanet.com

Shoal Bay Scuba, Tel 497 4371

Happy Diving!