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.