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!!!!

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....