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.