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: His web address is 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:

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

Shoal Bay Scuba, Tel 497 4371

Happy Diving!