Friday, 12 December 2008

Smashing... the only word to describe the concert given by the Portsmouth Royal Marine Band at the Southampton Guildhall on Monday night.

The Concert, given in aid of Seafarers UK, the Royal Naval, Royal Marine, Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleet charity, was a gorgeous riot of musical colour, encapsulating melodic genres from new takes on traditional Christmas Carols through the music from Lional Bart's 'Oliver!' and Klaus Badelt's 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' to Riverdance (fast, fun, fantastic) and just about everything in between!

Lieutenant Colonal C J Davis OBE, Commandant of the Royal Marine School of Music and Principal Director of Music for the Royal Marines, shortly to retire after more than thirty years in the Marines and giving his last public performance as both Conductor and Player, was clearly enjoying himself.  His conducting style, featuring as it did a bouncing rhythm which must surely keep him fit, was a joy to watch.  His clear enthusiasm was infectious and both the Band members and the audience were very soon carried off on a wave of sound and showmanship the like of which the Guildhall will be hard put to follow.

In all, a wonderful night.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Just for Fun!

This was emailed to me by a friend in Brussels.  It made me laugh so I thought I would share it with you.  Double click on the image to read it.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 27 November 2008


Further to my blog on 19th September, in which I was lamenting the loss of the Woolworths store in Southampton city centre, it was announced today that the company has gone into administration with debts reported by the BBC to be over £285 million.  With businesses falling at a rate of knots as the credit crunch becomes ever darker, it remains to be seen if the jobs of over 30,000 Woolworths' staff will be saved.  

Eling Tide Mill

The Tide Mill at Eling has been absorbing my attention recently.  I popped over to see it and have a chat with the Mill Assistants, John Hurst (pictured beside the giant waterwheel) and Andrew Turpin.  This proved to be a very informative afternoon and I was soon absorbed in the history of this unique place.

There has been a mill standing on the site for centuries.  It is mentioned in the Domesday Book and it was owned by Winchester College for over 600 years.  The current building was rebuilt about 230 years ago and is of a mellow red brick with low ceilings, narrow staircases and the pleasant odour of salt water, old wood and flour dust.  

The millpond, on the opposite side of the toll bridge outside, is a huge dam.  It is a haven for waterfowl and wildlife.  The tide comes in, opens the sea gates, fills the millpond and the sea gates close on the change in the tide.  On milling days the sluice gates are opened and the trapped water cascades over the waterwheel, sending the grinding stones around.  A simple idea using ancient, environmentally friendly and fully sustainable energy!

For those interested in visiting the last working Tide Mill in the UK, it is signposted off the A326 when you leave Southampton, Hampshire, going towards the New Forest.  It is open from 10 a.m.  to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.  Flour milled there is for sale in the shop on site.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A Final Farewell

Southampton said 'Farewell' in style last night to the QE2.  Thousands turned out in the bitter cold to wave, take photos and video as she backed up to Mayflower Park for a grand firework display and then steamed out of port for the last time.

A cacophony of sound surrounded her as hundreds of small craft, ferries and other merchant vessels all sounded their horns and milled around her as she left.  It was a memorable sight.  I could hear mothers explaining to their children, who were long past their bedtime, that they should watch, as this was history they were seeing.  Awed kids obediently stared, open mouthed as she started her final journey, lights ablaze.   

As she sailed down Southampton Water fire works saluted her from the shore and her horn sounded out a deep, 'Thank you and Farewell' as she passed.   

In all it was a momentous night.  The Queen Elizabeth 2 will be sadly missed here in Southampton. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Farewell Queen Elizabeth 2, continued

The wind blew and the cold numbed hands.  The boat I had booked a place on to go out and photograph the QE2 farewell events could not sail, as the sea was so rough.  

Undaunted I made for the shore at Netley, not the ideal vantage point, but better than not seeing her.  

Prince Philip bade farewell aboard the QE2, when he toured the ship and attended a reception with local dignitaries, the ship's Master, Captain Ian McNaught and long serving members of crew. At 11 o'clock a million poppies were dropped on the ship and there were two minutes silence to mark Remembrance Day.  

At 1.40 a Harrier Jet approached the ship, cleaving through the clear blue skies to the delight of expectant onlookers.  It hovered and bowed in stately salute to the Grand Old Lady before zooming off in a cloud of exhaust fumes.

RFA Mounts Bay then sailed past her, with horn blaring, leading a flotilla of small boats braving the swells, all determined to pay their respects.  

In all it was a fitting farewell for a much loved Old Lady.

Tonight she sails from her home port for the final time.  In Mayflower Park there will be a firework display and a recorded address by the ship's Master will be broadcast.  

It's All Very Interesting...

It has been pointed out to me that I have over-used the words 'very interesting' in my blog, 'An Interesting Week.'  

I hate to say this but this news is indeed very interesting!  It made me go back and look at the article and sure enough the phrase is there twice, 'interesting' is used in the title, and 'interested' is used twice too.  I am mortified!  Apologies to all my readers.  Let it be a lesson to me to read and re-read my work, looking not just for spelling errors and obvious repetition, but the more subtle kind too.  I promise I will be more careful in future and my thanks to Rob Innis in Spain for pointing out the fault.

Farewell Queen Elizabeth 2

The QE2 was determined not to leave service quietly.  Coming in to her homeport of Southampton for the last time this morning, she hit a sandbank and grounded.  According to the BBC, witnesses speculated that the high winds, which caused the cancellation of her last port of call in Guernsey yesterday, were to blame for the grounding.  The winds, gusting up to 70 mph in some places along the South Coast, have been responsible for flooding and disruption, with Dover ferry services interrupted and the container port at Thamesport, Isle of Grain, closed. 

On the BBC website, Eric Flounders, Cunard spokesman said, 

"She touched a sandbank called Brambles but with the tide rising she was able to get away.  We are not aware at this stage of any damage to the vessel and everything is proceeding today as planned.  We don't know exactly what happened for the vessel to get stuck."

Commodore Warner, Commodore of the Cunard Fleet,when I interviewed him for Hampshire Life magazine (to be published January 2009) commented that the QE2, 'is ending up in Dubai on November 27th.  She is becoming a hotel and conference centre in the Palms.  I think the great thing about it is that nobody wants to see the ship leave the fleet.  She is an old favourite.  There is plenty of money to make sure she is very well looked after.  I am sure she will be spending another forty years down there."

The 70,000 tonnes QE2 came into service in 1967 and since that time she has been in to her home port 700 times, crossed the Atlantic 800 times and has carried more than 2.5 million passengers.

Southampton will be saying farewell to this grand old lady with a series of events throughout Tuesday, which I will endeavour to bring to readers later today.

Monday, 10 November 2008

An interesting week...

Well, what a week!  It began on Monday with a Council meeting of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists.  This was my first meeting since joining the Council and there were a lot of names to learn!  I was made to feel very welcome indeed, which was appreciated.

Sylvia Kent, writer, author, photographer and charming lady, was there with her camera and now I can be seen on her blog, which is good of her.  For those interested, click here to read her short piece on new Council members.

While at the meeting I had several conversations with writers of all genres.  It was very interesting to meet poets (I have great admiration for someone who can write poetry.  The best I can do is a poor haiku!), novelists, journalists and fiction writers to mention just a few. Having written in isolation for so long, there were not many writers on Anguilla and we did not socialise as such, it is quite a welcome novelty to be able to talk 'shop' with like minded people.

One such writer is Anita Marie Sackett, who takes poetry into schools.  This friendly and likable lady is the Poetry Representative on the SWWJ Council. Her website is a riot of colour and gives much information on this talented lady, including details of her children's poetry and adult historical talks.  

Tuesday I moved into my office at home.  I was only a week late in doing so, courtesy of the local carpet fitters who had come ten days before, boarded out the office floor, laid carpet and departed. By the next day the board had expanded and there were large 'bouncy' areas where it had bubbled.  It took them ages to come back and sort it out, which they eventually did with much noise and no apology. 

On Wednesday I celebrated being able to work at a desk for the first time since I left Anguilla. I thought I would try my hand at writing a little something for The Observer newspaper.  The paper has a column called 'My Crap Holiday' and I have travelled extensively.  I thought I could mine my memory for something unfortunate and write it up.  The result was a short piece on our one and only family trip to Spain, which was awful to say the least. I sent it in, sat back and waited.

Thursday brought a parcel from America.  Regular readers may remember that I reported on the Anguilla regatta for several publications back in the summer.  I sailed on 'Hearts Desire' a 1925 Alden Schooner in one of the races, which was both fun and very interesting.  I have been contacted by a person who worked on the boat in the 1970s and we have been emailing ever since.  He has sent me a book of his father's war time letters home.  His father, a private in the US Army Corps during WWII was stationed for a time in England.  This book seems very interesting and I look forward to reading it and, perhaps, following up on some of the clues inside to find out more about this US serviceman and the people he met here in the UK. Watch this space...

On Friday I took time out and had lunch with our son.  This was a rare treat for us both as we are busy people.  It was good to have a little time to ourselves and to be able to chat.  

Sunday dawned wet and depressing.  I was raring to go though as I had lots of ideas for articles queueing up in my head and I wanted to get them started.  My husband nipped off to get the Sunday paper and left me to it.  He brought back The Observer and I was very pleased to see that my holiday had been thought bad enough to reach the 'My Crap Holiday' column!  If you are interested, read it here.  

I wonder what this week will bring?


Friday, 31 October 2008

Wendy Hughes

Wendy Hughes has been in contact to let me know a more up to date website where readers can learn more about her work. It is: This is the website for her writers circle and there is a section on Wendy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Still here!

There is so much to tell you, Loyal Readers!

The first thing you will notice is the revamped blog.  I have taken the plunge and changed my image.  Comments are welcome please.  What do you think of the new site?  And the new photos? Now I have left my paradise island and am living by the sea in Southampton, I thought it was time the lady in the hat disappeared and the 'New Penny' arrived.  

Talking of the 'New Penny,' my thanks to Rob Innis who braved our chaotic home last week when he visited for the weekend. Rob took the photos for me.  Rob is a freelance writer living in Torrevieja, near Alicante, Spain.  His work, well worth a read, can be read on: and

So, what have I been up to since the last blog, which I must say was written a long time ago?

The answer is that I have been very busy.  I wish I could say it was all writing work.  Some of it has been as I have been getting to grips with the Society of Women Writers and Journalists' (SWWJ) magazine, The Woman Writer, which I officially take over (as Editor) soon.

I joined the SWWJ's 'Day for Journalists' last Saturday at the New Cavendish Club, near Marble Arch in London.  This was an immensely enjoyable and very informative workshop led by the knowledgeable and hugely likable Wendy Hughes. (For a slightly out of date profile of Wendy try this link: The day covered such topics as writing for Trade Journals and how to approach new editors and was aimed at those of us who have experience in the field as well as those just starting out.  I must say that such workshops are one unexpected benefit of my membership of the SWWJ ( 

BT turned on our telephone earlier this week and then we found that we could make calls but not hear when people called us!  This led to some fun as we tried to sort out the problem.  BT, now almost fully automated, allowed us to listen to hints and tips to fix it ourselves, read by a disembodied voice.  I know technology has advanced and the call was free, but I would much prefer to talk to someone, not be talked at by a robot.

Today our internet has gone on!  Hurrah!  I have been frequenting a certain coffee shop in the centre of Southampton and stretching an Americano as long as possible, while I try to keep up with the outside world.  Now I have unlimited access and life can begin again.  Isn't it funny, the World Wide Web as we know it has only been with us since Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues invented it in 1989.  What did we do before that? 

Some of you might remember I was featured in Country Life magazine a short while ago, in an article on adult learners.  I am firmly convinced that I will still be studying when I'm 95!  I have started a creative writing course with the Open University.  A short while ago members of my group met at the University of Westminster for a day school.  This proved to be great fun for everyone.  My peers are not professional writers but several of them will, I think, make it. They are very talented.  So far this course has been interesting and highly user friendly - A215 if anyone is interested, which is part of the two year Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. For more information see 

In the meantime, Anguilla was hit by Hurricane Omar a short time ago.  It would seem we had a lucky escape!  Friends there tell me that there was not a huge amount of damage but several boats were blown up on the beach at Sandy Ground and Sammie's bar had to be dug out as it was buried in sand.  The island lost its power but it could have been much worse.  My thoughts are with everyone on the island.

OK all for now.  Now I have internet access in my office at home, I promise I will blog more often!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The Society of Women Writers and Journalists

I am slowly getting back to my writing. England is full of exciting possibilities!

I enjoyed an excellent meeting of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) at their Regional Meeting in Chichester last week. The guest speaker was Janet Lawrence, cookery and crime writer (she wrote the Caneletto and Darina Lisle series') and inspirational speaker. She gave a witty talk on how she became a writer, with tips on how to write a crime novel. I was interested to hear that you do not necessarily have to know about police procedure or forensics to write a who-dun-it?! As crime novels are more likely to be read than any other genre of fiction, writing such a book is attractive to many. I might well give it a try myself. Watch this space...

I am delighted to be taking over as editor of the Society's magazine, The Woman Writer. I am looking forward to meeting the challenge of producing a 24 page colour magazine five times a year and getting to know the Society members whilst doing so.

Talking of meeting Society members, Sylvia Kent has an excellent blog which gives much interesting coverage to the activites of the SWWJ. I recommend her blog for a thoroughly good read:

Now, back to writing.....

Friday, 19 September 2008

In the Suburbs

Life chugs along and we are now in South West London. The weather, raining when we left Anguilla (was the island crying, sad to see us go?), was delightful in New York and, after a little rain when we arrived in Southampton, has brightened into several days of Indian Summer now we are in the suburbs. We have picnicked twice with my parents in the sunshine and my father has complained of the heat!

We have noticed several changes to England. The green brigade has become more vocal since we left in January 2001. Now the environment is a community concern. The local recycling and waste disposal facility near my parents' home has just been reorganised and residents are trying to get used to the new layout and ways of doing things. Sign posts are low down and not easily visible from a car, so there are lots of pedestrians carrying or dragging large bags of rubbish from their cars to the point of disposal, often some distance away. I am sure that this will be sorted out eventually but for now, there are a lot of confused recyclers in Kingston! The point though, is that there are a lot of recyclers - the message is getting through and people are doing their bit.

I noticed that Woolworths, the store where I had my first Saturday job back in the dark ages, is in financial trouble and the huge shop it had in Southampton is now no longer there. Shame. I used to love wandering around this massive branch. You never knew what you were going to find on its shelves, although the last few times I visited I did wander if the decision makers at Head Office actually knew what their customers wanted. There was a bewildering assortment of pink TVs, sweets sold by weight and cheap household products. As I say, part of the charm was not knowing what you were going to find when you browsed. I shall miss Southampton's store when we move back to the area next week.

There seem to be a lot of large cars for sale now. No doubt this is due to the government's road tax amendments, which make it very expensive to run high powered, fuel inefficient vehicles on Britain's road nowadays. Joe and I are looking for another car and find we are spoilt for choice amongst those cars with engines bigger than 2.0 litres. We were thinking of a small hatchback, about 1.4 -1.6 litres and are finding that we are not the only ones who want such a car. Prices are high and we are blinking! We will keep looking I think.

We are staying with my parents for a short while. This is proving quite a nice way to reacquaint ourselves with our home country. As I have mentioned, we have been out picnicking and I took my mother out for a 'girls day out' to London yesterday.

This was a real eye-opener to me. My mother is not good on her feet after a very short while and so I decided to dig out the wheelchair she dislikes hugely and take that along with us on our day out. I called the railway and booked assistance and checked the various venues we might go to, to see if they were wheelchair friendly. They were, so off we went. Southwest trains were excellent and staff there provided ramps to get on and off the railway carriages with no hassle, City Cruises from Waterloo pier were equally helpful (as were several passersby - thanks gentlemen) so we had an enjoyable trip up and down the river to Greenwich and back, two taxi drivers were very good indeed in getting mother into their taxis with portable ramps that appeared as if by magic and the staff at Brown's Hotel, where we went for afternoon tea (wonderful), were completely unfazed by a lady in a wheelchair. This all made the day very enjoyable indeed.

Ok all for this post. We are helping my parents to sort their shed out - a mammoth task!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Queen Mary 2 is all it's cracked up to be and more! I know this is a subjective opinion and not all would agree with me but, I think she's wonderful!

We have met with nothing but courtesy and kindness. I keep getting lost and wandering around with a dazed expression on my face, much to the amusement of my husband! He, of course, knows just where he is the moment he goes to a place once and is able to navigate from one end of the ship to the other without thinking about which deck he should be on - he just knows!

A transatlantic crossing is not like a cruise. We do not go to one port after another for one thing. We last sighted land on Thursday and hope to see it again today as we are due in port tomorrow morning. In the interim we have had our days filled with all kinds of amusements and have had such a hectic social life it has been a bit breath-taking to tell the truth!

The forensic anthropologist and crime writer, Aaron Elkins, has been on board and we have attended several of his lectures on his life and work. He has a very down to earth approach to his work and did not write his first novel until he was fifty. Fame has come later in life and he gives the impression that it is still something of a novelty. A charming man, it was a pleasure to share a little of his time.

Also on board has been Nigel West, aka Rupert Allason (a different life completely), intelligence historian and writer, he currently lectures at the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies in Washington DC. He gave an excellent lecture on the exploits of 'Garbo,' the WW2 double agent and West's efforts to track down the elusive individual after the war. His talk on Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was equally interesting. Anyone offered a chance to hear this gentleman speak is well advised to do so. He is a witty and compelling speaker.

We have dressed up a lot this trip! My favourite ball gown, orange and black (sounds awful but is beautiful in reality) is showing a little wear and will need some TLC when we get back. I have worn it a lot over time and it shows. Joe too has to make some repairs to his DJ. He was dismayed to find he was missing a button and did not have a spare. On a smart ship like this, one cannot go out abroad with a missing button! Luckily, he has a tuxedo with him and it was just back from the dry cleaners...

I have been doing a little work too. I interviewed the Master of the QM2, the delightful Commodore Bernard Warner, for a British and an Indian magazine. Commodore Warner was interested and interesting and the resulting interview will, I hope, be enjoyed by many readers when it is published in January and November respectively.

Well, that is all for this post. More another time!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

New York, New York!

Well, we have left Anguilla.

We were seen off by several friends and well wishers, which, I must say, was as unexpected as it was welcome. We sat and thought about it and realised that we have lived in Anguilla longer than any other country in the last 13 years! It brought a lump to both our throats when we bade farewell and knew it was for the last time.

We flew on an Anguilla Aviation Services' charter flight to St Maarten (a fantastic service, giving us a chance to overfly Anguilla in a small aeroplane and see the island one last time before we finally landed in St Maarten), caught the American Airlines flight to JFK, (all our bags arrived with us in New York I am pleased to report!) and we are now here in the Big Apple.

It is a beautiful day and we have walked through Central Park, had a wander around some of the shops, stopped off at an internet cafe to check emails (I am awaiting replies to several messages) and will shortly go off and look for a new laptop as the time has come to try a Mac. This evening we have tickets for Spamalot, the Monty Python show we have been trying to get tickets for every since it hit theatres. We are both fans of Python so are looking forward to a good laugh!

We will be here until Thursday, when we board the Queen Mary 2 for our homeward voyage.

More on this in a later posting.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Leaving Our Home

We moved out of our house on Monday.

I must say it was a bit of a wrench. The house, on Sea Rocks, Island Harbour, on the north east of the island, has been our home for 3 years and 3 months. It was comfortable and cosy.

The view, out to sea across the reef, was wonderful. Over time we have spotted whales swimming by and watched exciting boat races, seen unwary boats hit the reef and chuckled at the attempts to rescue them.

We have sat out at night star gazing, held shooting star spotting competitions (the record was 6 in an hour!) and relaxed with friends on the terrace over a glass of wine.

We have watched the local wild chickens bring up countless chicks in the garden, laughed at the cheeky Yellow Breast's love of sugar and all things sweet and been thankful there were so many geckos to eat some of the mosquitos.

I have wandered about the garden taking photos of flowers and fruit growing in seemingly impossible places, from the inhospitably rocky ground. The pink grapefruit were a real plus!

Leaving meant a massive cleanup operation, involving a sort out of everything and then packing and sweeping, moping and tidying what was left. As we departed we were sad but it was then a shell of what it had been and no longer the happy home it once was. It was sterile and stood ready for the next occupants. They will put their mark on the house and make it their own, just as we did.

Now we are living in a hotel. Paradise Cove is in the West End of the island and we have a very nice apartment with all mod-cons. There is a swimming pool on site, which we have made full use of in a vain attempt to get a bit fit before we leave the island on Monday! I think we are doomed to failure but it's fun trying!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

All at Sea Magazine

I saw the double page spread I wrote for All at Sea magazine, on RFA Wave Ruler's visit to Anguilla, today (August edition). I know I did all the work in terms of writing and taking the photographs, but I must say, the editor, Chris Goodier, and the layout and design staff at the magazine, have really made the article look good! Thanks Chris!

For those of you who might like to read what I have written, keep an eye on and go to the Anguilla pages. July's edition is online at present and there is an archive if you fancy reading past articles. August will be available at the beginning of September.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Country Life Magazine in the UK

I heard today that in the current edition of Britain's Country Life magazine, I am featured with others who have studied later in life.

Regular readers of this blog may remember that I am addicted to the Open University in England and earlier this year graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Humanities, specialising in Art History and Classical Studies. This was picked up on by the university purely because I have studied in some unusual places whilst with the OU. When they were contacted by a writer wanting unusual study stories, the University passed my details on to them.

So, if any one wants to read a little about me, obtain a copy of Country Life!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Baggage Mountain!

Well, we are packed up at long last for the Big Move. We have a baggage mountain in the dining room awaiting transport and the rooms echo when we move about them.

The end is in sight now. Joe's successor arrives next week and, after a farewell party for some friends, we will move out of the house and into a hotel for the last few days before we finally leave the island. The hotel has a pool, which will be well used by the Legg's as it is very hot here at present!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Malicious Comments

As Anguilla returns to its usual serene calm I have been surprised by the reaction to my blogs on recent events. I must confess to thinking that not many people read my blog as usually I receive no feedback to my writing.

One thing that has really annoyed me is that people have used the blogs to send me viruses via the comments. This has led me to withdraw some of the blogs to stop people targeting the site. This is in effect curtailing free speech but I am not sure what else to do. I cannot continue to field virus infected comments, which arrive in my email inbox before coming to the blog, and the only way I can think of to stop them is to take off the target blogs.

At least from all this I know that there is an audience out there in readerland, even if some of them are malicious.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Carnival Trouble Part 2

Since I wrote the last item in this blog, it is now known that one lad died, a lady is seriously ill in hospital and there were several others injured. Several people are 'helping the police with their enquiries.'

I had hoped that our last Carnival on Anguilla would be fun. It was in part but this event has tainted the whole affair. Shame.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Packing Up

We are up to our ears in boxes, bits, bobs and assorted junk.

After more than 3 years on island, following over 3 years in Bangladesh, we are on the move again. This time it is back to Blightly where things will have changed somewhat since we were last resident there.

We had packers in all day yesterday and are expecting them in again today. It is amazing how many things we have accumulated! Now we are sorting, trashing, boxing, storing and hope it will all be complete by Thursday afternoon. I have had enough already.

Wish us luck!

Monday, 28 July 2008


This weekend Joe and I have been sailing. We signed up for the four week introductory adult class, which the Anguilla Youth Sailing Club is running and we have been trying to get to grips with sailing a Laser 420 two person sailing craft around Road Bay.

Yesterday was our final session. So far we have found out how easy it is to capsize our craft, how hard it is to right it again, have learnt some of the mysteries of the 'foreign language' that sailors use and I have found out just how painful it is to be hit repeatedly by the boom! We have managed to sail in a straight line and just about managed to tack. We have learnt about 'ticklers' and their role in steering.

All of this is exciting stuff! I freely admit that I am an impatient person and need to really keep at things which are difficult. There have been times over the course of the class when I was just overwhelmed with the difficulty of trying to skipper the craft, was seeing stars from various attacks from the boom and just wanted to get back on dry land! I am glad I persevered though. Joe and I may not be the world's most elegant sailors but we can make a boat go in the vague direction we want it to go in now and have actually been able to have a bit of fun learning to do so!

In three weeks time we are going on an away day with the club, when we will be sailing to Sandy Island, in open water (!), for a picnic and then sailing back to Anguilla again. That is the plan anyway.... Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Bells, The Bells...

Today the telephone has done nothing but ring!

Usually I quite welcome a call, as it is often very quiet during the day at home when I am working. A little respite from my laptop is something to look forward to. Today though, when the calls hit double figures in the morning as I am trying to get my head around editing a piece I wrote a little while ago and which just will not come together, I did not need any more distractions!

So why did so many people call? My mother had been contacted by our bank in the UK, who wanted to talk to my husband. I should explain that someone cloned my husband's ATM card when he was last in England and thieves have emptied our bank account. This we did not take kindly to, as you may imagine. Luckily, our bank is professional and we will get our money back but in the meantime, there are procedures to go through.

My mother has taken the plunge and dyed her hair orange. Whether this was deliberate or not, I do not know. I rather think she was aiming for ginger but it is clearly bright orange, particularly where her hair is grey at the temples. She has had it all cut short, used a cut price dye that washes out in 8 washes and had some fun experimenting. Of course, I had to see what she looked like, so that was a long Skype call, particularly when my father came on the line and we had to wait while he tried to remember what it was he wanted to tell me. Bless him, I think age is creeping up on him. He declined my mother's kind offer of dying the wisps of hair he has left with the remnants of her hair dye. I now keep imagining how the pair of them would have looked if mother had had her way!

I took several business calls this morning too. There seems to be so much going on just as we are getting ready to leave the island. I am busier now than I was earlier in the year when I was covering regattas, flower shows and ship's visits and buzzing around the island interviewing everyone from cake and pie makers to newspaper editors and pop stars!

Anyway, it has now been quiet for a couple of hours and I have broken the back of the article I have been having problems with. I will look at it again tomorrow and then submit it with a sigh of relief and get on with the next one. No peace for the wicked!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Looking Back... Looking Forward...

It's been a funny old week.

I seem to have spent much of it wet and 60 feet, or more, deep. I was working on my deep diver and night diver certifications and these meant that I went off exploring and doing underwater drills to pass the qualifications. Normal life was put on hold for a while.

Night diving is not a passion of mine. I was glad of the almost full moon, which light up the water and kept me sane. I love to see the wonderful colours a torch can bring out in marine life but it is what you cannot see beyond the beam that I worry about.

On Thursday I finished the last dive and so qualified not just as a Deep Diver and a Night Diver but as a Master Scuba Diver too. To say I am chuffed is an understatement! I am delighted.

My long suffering instructor, Rob, is, I think, relieved to have got me through it. He freely admits, and I agree with him, that he did not think I would do it. I know that if he had let go of my hand on the first dive I would not have taken a second. I was frightened, literally out of my depth and had bitten off more than I could chew.

I hate things to beat me so I came back, finished the course and was hooked. Since those early days I have taken several more courses and readers of this blog will have suffered with me through the gruelling Rescue Diver course I completed a couple of months ago.

So now I am taking a rest from diving for a day or so and am catching up with other things.

Diving does not go away though. My husband, Joe and our friend, Sheryl, took their Advanced Diver Certification and Sheryl's other half, Michael, and I took a boat ride out to watch their torch lights moving about on the wreck of the Cathley H for their final, qualifying night dive. For me this was a novelty as I am usually the one under the water looking up, not the one out of the water, looking down! They both passed the dive and so, are now Advanced Divers. I could not be more proud of them.

At the beginning of the week I heard I had beaten off over fifty other writers to land a regular commission as a Travel Writer and Researcher, writing for an internet company which produces travel guides for cruiseship passengers. I was quite pleased with myself and look forward to the new work with enthusiasm.

I met the Anguilla Community Band the week before last and was charmed by their commitment to representing the island at functions large and small. My article on the band was published on July 18th in The Anguillian ( and I hope that there are readers out there who can assist them. They exist without regular sponsorship and it is goodwill and sheer determination that keeps them going. At present they need instruments, so if anyone has any old brass, woodwind or indeed, any instrument that they do not need, then please contact me and I will put you in touch with the band director, Allan Coppin.

The Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACOCI) is not letting me go easily. Despite my having undertaken my last interview for ACOCI Connection, I have been asked to retain my editorial role with the publication. This is good news as this has been a labour of love for a long time now. Wherever I end up in the world the miracle of modern technology will mean I can still stay in touch.

I received a message out of the blue this morning from a new Indian magazine whose editor has seen one of my yachting articles and wants me to write more such pieces for his publication. I have replied and asked for details but this seems like a good start to a new week.

So, what will this new week hold? I have several articles 'on the go' and must finish these this week, so I think I will be largely office based. Next week we are being packed up for the Big Move, so I have to think about what I will need over the next few weeks and make sure these items do not get accidently put into packing cases. It would be just my luck to have packed my card reader, dictaphone or the mains leads for the laptop!

More of this in future blogs.

Monday, 7 July 2008

The Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Today I undertook my last interview for the Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACOCI). I must admit, when I take a moment to think about it, I am going to miss the Chamber.

I first became involved with ACOCI in December 2006, when I was approached by a volunteer with the Chamber asking if I would be interested in writing for, taking photographs and editing a new publication that the Chamber wished to bring out. ACOCI had had a one page newsletter up until this point and wished to make a proper magazine out of the production. I was to be the one to take the project forward.

ACOCI is a small Chamber. It has less than 100 supporting members and so money is always tight. Nevertheless, Executive Director, Calvin Bartlett, had big ideas. He and I, and the talented layout professional, Valerie Zaharia, got together and decided just what we would do and how we would go about it.

Our first effort was a four page publication in colour, printed on cheap, thin paper but it was substantially more rewarding for ACOCI members than its flimsy predecessor. It covered the AGM and, for the first time, offered members the chance to interact with each other via the newsletter. From here we moved on to targeting individual companies and looking at why they joined the Chamber and what benefits they got out of it. Little by little the word spread. Soon we were up to 8 pages in quality paper and struggling to contain all we wanted to report on within it. Some editions have overspilled into flyers inside the main edition. We started to attract advertising and, although this is something that the newsletter needs to work on in the future, it started to generate income towards paying for itself. We now have business people contacting the Chamber and asking to be interviewed for the magazine. From a very small beginning a thriving magazine has been born.

It will be hard to leave my baby behind. As all parents know, letting go is difficult. I am not sure if it will be in good hands when I leave the island at the beginning of September. It may be that I will retain some of my writing and editing duties purely because there is no one else on the island willing to take it on. The wonders of modern technology mean that email makes my working for the Anguilla Chamber a viable option, even from England.

Today though, as I chatted with the Director of the Financial Services Commission for the next edition, I reflected that this would be my last interview. Over time, I have talked to many local business people, many of whom have gone on to become friends. This is, after all, a small island. I will miss this opportunity to get to know people in this manner.

I will be photographing the Anguilla Carnival for the newsletter as I did last year. This should be my final official act as photographer and will lead to the my final editing of my final edition. A sober thought.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Looking to the Future....

As we are leaving Anguilla soon I am looking to the future. I have been debating whether to take a Masters degree and if so, which course to take and at which university.

Yesterday I was browsing the Open University website (, as I do periodically, to see if anything new has been added to the long list of under and post graduate courses my Alma Mater offers. I found all kinds of subjects!

A couple of years ago the university began a creative writing course at undergraduate level. I thought then that it would be a good idea to take it, as the more you learn, the more you realise there is to learn. Now I find that a second course has been added and the two can be linked to a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. The course looks interesting and so I have signed up. Hopefully by the time I get to finish it there will be a Masters course I like the look of and so will be able to take that.

I find studying with the Open University addictive and I think that I will be taking many more courses as the years progress.

In the meantime, I am to be one of three graduates featured in an article for Country Life magazine in the UK in the near future. Writer Sue Corbett contacted the Open University looking for adult learners who have taken degrees later in life. The university put her in touch with me and the rest, as they say, is history. I will let you know when the article is printed.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The PADI Boat Diving Course...

On Monday 30 June I took another diving course. This was the PADI Boat Diver Speciality Course. It was great!

Recently my diving has been quite stressful. I had not been able to dive for quite a while due to bad weather, ill health or just plain being too busy and when I started diving again it was in preparation for taking the Rescue Diver Course. This meant quite a lot of stress. With the Rescue Diver qualification under my belt, I can relax a bit and that is what I have done.

I have been diving from a boat since I began diving. I thought I knew all there was to know about boats, and diving from them. Little did I know just how much I did not know!

The course consists of a course book to read, with knowledge reviews to complete, a dvd to watch and then two practical dive sessions from a boat. As courses go it was a nice and leisurely way to learn about things I had, frankly, taken for granted. I had not thought about such things as bilge pumps and marine radios, taking it for granted that in the event of the boat sinking divine intervention would kick in and the boat would stay afloat and someone, anyone, would happen by and rescue all aboard. Now I know that bilge pumps have little flaps on them which automatically start the pump when the amount of water in the bilge reaches a certain level. Now I understand why we will not sink! I also know now that help can be summoned on channel 16 on the marine radio. It might not miraculously appear.

I was given a life jacket and told to put it on. Luckily for me I have worn all kinds of such jackets in my time and this one, the rectangular shaped variety which goes over your head with straps around your waist to a clip in the front, was one I had encountered before.

I tried my hand at driving the boat. Have you ever tried this? For those readers who have, you will understand my saying how hard it is to keep to a straight line. For those who have not, let me assure you that when you see a boat captain effortlessly steering, it is not as easy as it looks! I was not too bad at slow speed but when I tried to go faster I got my lefts and rights mixed up, sorry, my ports and starboards mixed up, and ended up going in a circle rather swiftly! It gave all on board, including myself, a good laugh.

And there you have the crux of this course. It made me laugh. Even when I tried to tie some of the knots I should know and my instructor, endlessly patient bless him, showed me over and again until, eventually, I got it, it was still fun. No cross words in the heat of stress, just lots of interesting things to try out and some great diving as the weather was kind to us. I can honestly say I laughed more on this course than I ever have on any course, even the wonderful underwater photography qualification I took last year.

If there are any divers out there in readerland who may be looking at the Boat Diver Speciality Course and thinking that it is not worth the effort, think again. Even though I have done all my diving from a boat, I still learnt a lot of things that I would not have done without the course. Now I understand what the crew are thinking and why they do things the way they do. It will give me a greater insight into boat operation when I dive in the future and has already enhanced my enjoyment of diving itself.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

A Sad Tale at a Primary School

Ok, so there are some aspects of life on Anguilla which show that it is just like everywhere else. I was sad to witness an incident at the Stoney Ground primary school today which was not pleasant and which reminded me that there is conflict everywhere, not least on an idyllic Caribbean island.

I volunteer my time one afternoon a week at the school, helping to teach English to children who are speakers of other languages. This afternoon the children arrived full of news.

The secondary (high) school is just up the road and there is a pupil from the school who has taken to turning up at the primary school and playing with the younger children, particularly the girls. I do not know what, if anything, has been said about this, but the fact is that today he turned up and one of the primary school boys attacked him with a large piece of wood. When a female teacher intervened, the primary boy punched the teacher, knocking her glasses off and one earring from her ear. What provoked this violence I do not know, as I arrived just after it all happened, when the language students were full of excitement and eager to tell me all about it in their broken English. The police had been called and the parents of the children involved had been asked to come to the school.

My class began and we used the incident to practise conversation. I should explain that there is no particular area set aside for these lessons and so we are a nomadic little group. Today we found ourselves working in the waiting room outside the Principal's office. Thus it was that we were there when first the police arrived and then the mother of one of the children involved. They came through our class and into the office.

The children, agog, had flapping ears and little attention. The murmur of voices from inside the office gradually grew louder and louder and LOUDER, to the point where we could not hear ourselves speak and were forced to stop the lesson. The door flew open and the mother erupted, shouting and clearly angry, and stormed out. The children whispered that she was the mother of the child who had attacked the other boy and the teacher. It was obvious that she was not in the least concerned about what the boy had done, or why and would not listen to anything said to her. At least one of the policemen had lost his temper and so they ended up yelling at each other in front of my little 12 year olds. One of them later confided that, "It was the most thrilling thing she had ever seen!"

My point is this, that such a thing happened, for whatever reason, is bad enough. That the adults could not sort it out in a manner befitting their age was worse. That it ended with one of the parents storming out and taking her offspring with her is worse still. That the row happened in front of impressionable children is unforgivable. What does all of this sorry incident teach all the children involved? The police later said they were powerless to do anything but talk to the children and their parents. If the parents would not listen, they could not make them.

I have to ask, what is to stop an incident like this happening again if there are no measures that can be taken against violent pupils, and their parents are not interested?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

RFA Wave Ruler

Well, the island has been agog to see British Royal Fleet Auxiliary sailors on the island recently. RFA Wave Ruler has just left us after spending three days anchored at Road Bay.

Wave Ruler is a 196.5 metre long Oiler. In other words, she is a very big tanker! Her breadth is 30.4 metres and she has a draught of 13 metres, making her difficult to take into shallow waters. She went into service for the Ministry of Defence in 2002.

Her 80 RFA crew were looking for a little R&R but sadly did not get much of it.

She arrived on Sunday 15 June, Father's Day, and immediately the Captain, Duncan Lamb, and his officers hosted a buffet lunch for the Governor, His Excellency, Mr Andrew George and Mrs George, the Chief Minister, the Honourable Osbourne Fleming and other local dignitaries. We drank cocktails on the fantastic Bridge, marvelling at the vista afforded by the panoramic windows. Then we were treated to a very good buffet lunch, the galley staff having put themselves out for us.

The Waver Ruler volunteer cricket team took on a local team for a friendly match on Sunday afternoon. It was just as well it was friendly as the locals thoroughly thrashed the sailors! The final score: Sailors 93 runs from 20 overs and Locals 93 runs from 8 overs. The Locals then went on to continue batting and eventually made 240 runs.

The Captain managed a couple of hours on shore after the lunch party had left and I fear that that was all the rest time he got, as the next day saw him leading a group of officers to the Queen's Birthday Party at Government House. Resplendent in their white tropical uniforms they stood out from the colourful outfits the other guests wore. They were happy to pose for photographs with the Governor and the Chief Minister and they were unanimous in pronouncing the buffet, laid on by Mrs George, excellent. Having tasted the offerings myself, I have to say I agree with them!

Tuesday saw the crew all very busy. All day long visitors came and went; the liberty boat going as fast as it could between the ship and shore.
Captain Lamb paid courtesy calls on the Governor, Chief Minister and the Commissioner of Police. He then held a Press Conference for local reporters.

The Anguilla Fire Service spent the day aboard, training with fire hoses, and got very wet in the process. They seemed to enjoy the very realistic scenarios put to them. It is not often that they are called on to put out a fire on a ship and this is what they practised in all guises.

Members of the Disaster Management Committee came aboard for a tour of the emergency supplies and a briefing by the Acting Chief Officer, which one member of the Committee later commented as being 'a learning experience.' One of the roles of the ship in the Caribbean during Hurricane Season (June to end of November) is to assist in hurricane relief. RFA Wave Ruler carries a 'large pack' of emergency supplies, everything from lights and generators to a large inflatable boat capable of carrying a Land Rover.

Meanwhile there was a Navigation briefing for members of Customs, the Police Marine Unit and Immigration. They learnt about how a Replenishment at Sea (RAS) is carried out and then worked on their course plotting.

Literally the last thing the crew did before they left was to send a football team to play the National Anguilla Football Team. Composed of officers and crew with an average age in the mid forties, they were creamed by the local lithe and swift footballers. The final score was 12:1 to the Anguillians but they all kept smiling and were happy to pose together for photos afterwards.
The ship left late on Tuesday evening for Montserrat, its next port of call, leaving many new friends behind.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Captain Lamb and his crew for the hospitality, kindness and cooperation showed me while I was on board. Captain Lamb found the time for me to interview him at length for The Anguillian and for Ships Monthly in the UK and I am indebted to him for his kindness. In particular I also wish to thank Third Officer Phillip Balch, who manfully tried to answer all my many questions.
The photos from top to bottom: the football teams, the Queens Birthday Party, Phillip Balch on deck, RFA Wave Ruler, Captain Lamb at the Press Conference.
RFA Info:
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service (RFA) is a civilian-manned fleet of 18 ships, owned by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD).

It's primary role is to supply the Royal Navy (RN) at sea with food, fuel, ammunition and spares required to maintain operations away from its home port. It also provides the RN with sea-bourne aviation training facilities and secure logistical support.
RFA Waver Ruler arrived in the Caribbean last month and will remain until December. During this time, in addition to her support of the accompanying RN frigate, she will also provide counter narcotics assistance to the US, French and Dutch authorities in the area. At each port of call her crew offer advice and assistance on a variety of matters similar to those provided in Anguilla.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

A New Rescue Diver....

Well, I did it!

I am now a Rescue Diver.

I did not think I had passed the course and was somewhat subdued for a while. Rob and I had had words as I talk too much and Rob did not like it. I must learn to curb my tongue and listen before passing comment (or not passing comment, as the case may be).

I had four scenarios to pass which aimed to be as realistic as possible. We went out to open water near Sandy Island. I had to bring in a diver who had cut his hand, become anxious and then out of air on the way up to the surface on the first scenario. Then I had to get him on board and administer first aid. This went ok I am pleased to say and Oscar hopeful, Dougy, was well and truly bandaged up in true first aider style!

Next came the pair of divers in distress. One panicked and one was tired. I got the panicked diver to the boat and was returning to the second diver when he became a very alarming panicked diver. I had no scuba on and he weighes considerably more than me. I knew (because he had already done it on my practice sessions) that he was far stronger than me and if he ducked me I had no chance. Luckily, I had a flotation ring, which I attempted to keep between him and me. I kept out of his way and waited until he had had enough. I was shaking when I got back on the boat. It was tough.

Next, and by this time I was getting tired, came the lost diver underwater. I had to organise a search and this time I got flustered and had to start the scenario twice to get it right. Then Rob and I went down and I navigated an expanding square search pattern to find Dougy. Then I had to bring him up and administer mouth to mouth. I found getting the face mask out of my bcd (bouyancy control device - the jacket that holds the air tank) pocket impossible and so had to do mouth to mouth, rather than mouth to face mask.

The last scenario was by far the hardest and I had to do it three times to get it right. I was not sure I had passed it even when we finished for the day. I had to bring an unconscious diver who was not breathing to the boat, get him aboard and administer oxygen and cpr. Again I could not get my face mask out of my pocket and I had to do mouth to mouth. I will have to look at my bcd and find a better place for the face mask so I can reach it easily. I had what seemed like very long swims with the victim and then it was hard work to get him out of the water. Sadly for my oscar deserving victim he got a bit bumped about when I accidently swam him into the propeller of one of the engines. I know it hurt and I bet the bruises are huge this morning. Sorry Dougy. On my last attempt I did not drown my victim and he may actually have survived if the scenario had been for real.

Rob kept me in suspense all the way back to land, just saying that he would meet me at Sammie's Bar, along from the jetty. I was subdued. I was totally exhausted by now and Rob had told me off several times. No one likes this and I did not really think it was justified but he was as stressed as I was, wanting me to pass but to pass properly and to get it all over before it got too dark.

Rob, Dougy, Punky and I all gathered at the bar and I was told my fate. By now I was convinced I had blown it. I had decided that enough was enough and if I did not pass, then so be it. I wanted to go home and sleep! I also ached and longed for a bath. As our house does not have a bath, I was doomed. To be honest I was a bit miserable and just wanted the suspense to be over!

I was dead chuffed when Rob said I had passed and presented me with a Rescue Diver Certificate and all my paperwork filled out to get my certification from PADI. My grin was huge! Of course there were hugs all round and I got a bit choked up. I am a girl, after all! Rob and I agreed to be friends again (we were never really not, I have to say. Friends can have disagreements). He took the attached photo of me with my certificate.

So I have done it. I have to say a big, huge, mega thank you to Rob for getting me through and for not giving up on me, to Dougy for being a great victim and allowing me to batter him in the name of a PADI certification, to Punky for his calmness and advice and to all of the team for their generosity in the face of adversity. They really wanted me to pass but were not prepared to compromise standards, which is just as it should be. Thank you guys and Punky, I want to see the video!

If there is anyone out there in reader land who would like to learn to dive, take a speciality or more advanced course, I have no hesitation in recommending Special D Divers. Dougy Carty can be reached on:

So what is next for me? I have a Navigation Speciality Course starting this coming week and then I will do the Boat Diving Course and either the Deep Dive or Night Dive Speciality Courses. After I have these I can apply to PADI for my Master Scuba Diver accreditation. Phew! I will be a busy girl but at least the worst is over!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Cap Juluca

I have been very busy the last few days and so I have not been able to mention Cap Juluca. What is this? I will tell you dear reader...

Cap Juluca is Anguilla's premier resort. The winner of numerous awards, from Frommers to Conde Nast, it is quite simply the place to stay in Anguilla and many would say, the Caribbean.

It was my husband, Joe's, birthday and I had no idea what to give him. Ever had that feeling? He does not need anything, so what do you give someone who has all he wishes? I cast about and thought of Cap Juluca.

We have lived on Anguilla for more than three years and in all that time my husband and I have only visited there once, for a cocktail with some friends. It is lovely, set in idyllic surroundings on Maundays Bay.

So I called the hotel and booked a suite with a pool. I was expecting something less than we got!

Palatial was not the word. It was exquisite. The completely private swimming pool where you could relax, serene in the knowledge that you were not overlooked and no one could disturb you. The huge marble bathroom and four poster bed in the elegant bedroom were to die for. The balcony that took the suite out into the open air, its folding doors allowing the gentle swish of the waves, mere feet away, to lull us off to sleep at night. The living room had a panoramic vista which took in the bay and the hills of neighbouring island, St Martin, just a few miles away.

It is true that the kitchen, fully equipped with everything you could want and more, was the home to many friendly ants but we did not do a lot of cooking while there, confining ourselves to making coffee, so we all lived in perfect harmony.

The staff were pleasant and friendly. It was a bit of a job to pre-order a birthday cake but I managed it and it arrived on time, which was great. What was very nice, and totally unexpected, was the bottle of champagne, chocolates and dried fruit sent by the management. We had arrived on my husband's birthday and, although the accompanying card was to me not him, we understood the sentiment behind the gifts and were truly touched.

In all, we stayed for two nights, were joined by friends Julie and Rob to celebrate Joe's birthday and Julie's the next day, and we had a wonderful, relaxing time. We had both got into a rut, worked too hard and too long, and forgotten how to play. We had a weekend of luxury and fun. It was great and I thank the management and staff of Cap Juluca for a truly marvellous experience.

Rescue Diving, Day Two...

Well, I made it through day two. I have to confess that I felt black and blue last night after I came home from day one. I sat down and then found that getting up was hard! I am pleased to say though that all went well today and I actually managed all I had to do without running out of steam!

Today saw me practising mouth to mouth, mouth to pocket mask and mouth to nose resuscitation on Dougy, the owner of Special D Divers, the dive company I learn with. He and I now know each other a lot better than we did! Dougy's boat captain, known as Punky, videoed some of our session and has threatened to put the video on You-Tube! Haha!

As usual, Rob, my instructor, was a soul of patience but I do not think he quite understands me (saying that, does any man understand a woman? Hemmmmm.... I am digressing, so back to the story). My way of working through things I am not sure of, have little confidence in my ability to do or I am just plain apprehensive of, is to talk through them. I work them through aloud and hope other people understand that this is my way of coping with a problem. Rob reckons I am 'blustering' when I do this. Oh dear. Oh well, he was very patient with me when I could not get my lefts and rights correct with compass drills and when I managed to do the expanding square search for a missing diver, he was really pleased for me (and more than a little relieved too I am sure!). Thank you Rob for bearing with me. It is appreciated.

Dougy deserves an 'Oscar' for his performance as a diver in distress. So far, he has been a tired diver, had cramp, been panicked, been found 'unconscious' on the bottom and been 'rescued,' had me lug him up on the deck of a boat and up on to the beach (and put up with me dropping him on the sand when I lost my footing!) and has not broken his act once. Even when I nearly drowned him trying out some of the manoeuvres, he took it well!

I think Rob and Dougy make a really good team. They have not trained too many rescue divers and so I am a bit of a novelty. Saying that, Rob is a stickler for doing things properly and I have had to do things over and again to get them just so, but we have all enjoyed ourselves while going through the course. Punky too has joined in, something I was not anticipating. I have learnt that there is much more to a dive operation than just turning up and going out on a boat to a pretty stretch of reef, popping into the water and looking about. It has given me new insight into how these professionals think and with it, a new respect for them.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Rescue Diving....

I have not written about diving for ages. As I am half way through the Rescue Diver course I thought I would bring my readers up to date.

Some of you may remember that I qualified as a scuba diver at the ripe old age of 43. It was something that did not come easily to me and, to be honest, it came down to a case of not allowing something to beat me. I qualified but I did not really enjoy the sport.

Then I did my first dive as a qualified diver and I fell in love!

Yes, I dived on Anguillita, just off Anguilla's western tip, and found a world of teeming marine life from rays to sharks, beautiful blue chromis to speckly eels and I was hooked forever more.

Since then, I have braved the depths at night to go night diving on the wreck of the Cathley H in the pitch black and have found my way around with a compass whilst trying to navigate my way about. I took and passed the Advanced Course and found I was really enjoying myself.

What next? I thought about it for about ten seconds. The decision was easy. Master Scuba Diver. That is what I wanted and I knew that it would not be easy.

To reach this ultimate qualification for an amateur diver, you have to take 5 speciality courses, have taken the Open Water, Advanced and Rescue Diver Courses and have taken a first aid qualification. You also have to have dived a minimum of 50 dives to take the Rescue Diver Course, considered one of the toughest amateur dive courses.

So, I knew I was letting myself in for a bit of work!

So far, I have taken the Underwater Naturalist and Underwater Photography Speciality Courses and the St John Ambulance of Canada First Response First Aid Course. Now I am working on the Rescue Diver Course.

Today I took the examination. I was not confident about this; who is when they sit a test like this? 50 multiple choice questions about all kinds of things from the emergency use of oxygen to the various tows to use, from techniques to rescue panicked and tired divers to throwing flotation aids. All kinds of things to learn and remember. I had been studying for ages and had a dvd to watch and learn from too. In the end, I need not have worried as some of the knowledge rubbed off and I passed. I was very pleased with myself as I really did not know if enough had sunk in for me to get through.

Then it was off to the water and a whole barrage of practises, from how to approach a panicked diver, how to fight off a panicked diver (I got well and truly ducked, repeatedly!), how to assist a tired diver, how to throw a flotation aid (have you ever had to throw one? It is harder than it looks!), how to get people on to a dive boat, how to carry them ashore and a whole host of other things, all in shallow, calm water.

Tomorrow I will be doing more; going deeper and rescuing divers from the bottom in a whole host of scenarios. All of which is to prepare me for the final phase of this demanding course, the four open water rescue scenarios on Thursday which will be realistic and will, I really hope, qualify me as a PADI Rescue Diver.

For now, I am pleased to have passed the exam and to have got through today. I did not drown nor did I allow any one else to do so. As this had been on my mind, I am pleased to be able to say this! In fact, if truth be told, yes it was hard, I need to know the theory and be able to apply it practically, but it was intense fun. Already I feel more confident in the water.

I have homework to do this evening and then tomorrow I will be off again, hopefully taking another step towards my goal; the Rescue Diver Course and then, Master Scuba Diver.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

WISE Project in Anguilla

The Workshop Initiative for Support in Education, (WISE) Anguilla, held a celebratory open day on Thursday 29 May at the the Cottage Hospital on Crocus Hill.

The WISE project, as it is known, seeks to support school children who, for one reason or another, do not 'fit in' at mainstream school. Adapted from an Isle of Wight, UK, concept in 2004, the pilot scheme involved a group of 4th Form boys who worked on woodwork, boat building and ceramics projects. In early 2005 a group of 3rd Formers joined WISE.

By September 2005 the project was a full time one with students tackling such diverse areas as carpentry, model boat building, agriculture, jewellery, ceramics and art.

70 children a week were taking part by September 2006 and boat building, bamboo, glass work and a tree nursery were added to the projects, closely followed by literacy and IT.

The project hit 120children in September 2007 and added a culinary workshop sponsored by the Soroptomists in a commercial kitchen. At this time a primary programme and WISE Plus, for children at risk also began. Swimming lessons were added at the start of this year and later in the year an engine repair and go carting workshop will start.

Students with a practical inclination are chosen for the project based on their behavioural problems. Students choose which areas they are interested in and attend between one and five mornings a week. The student attends mainstream school for the rest of the week. The instructors are qualified volunteers who actively support, encourage, assist and praise students to focus on improving attitude, work skills and self-management.

The Open Day was very popular with many people coming to look at the exhibits made by the children. The Governor, His Excellency Mr Andrew George, toured the facility and was impressed by the activities of the group. The Governor's Office has been a financial supporter of the project.
For more information on this project contact: +264 497 7372 or the Albena Lake Comprehensive School.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

More Anguilla Regatta Photos

More photos of the Anguilla Regatta. Top to bottom: Charm III, Local Boats, Moonshadow and Juluca.

Thrills at the Anguilla Regatta!

I have been really busy lately so apologies for keeping you waiting for news of the 2008 Anguilla Regatta, which took place over the weekend of 9,10,11 May.

It was a thrilling weekend. The sun shone, the sea was a beautiful blue and the wind was good for sailing. Friday was a little choppy and the sky was overcast occasionally, but all agreed it was a weekend when the sailing was perfect.

Friday saw the 26 nautical mile 'Beach Jam' Course, which took competitors into some of the island's most beautiful bays on the Western end of Anguilla. I was on Hearts Desire, the 1925 43' Alden Schooner owned and skippered by Glen Schroeder. He has owned the vessel for five years and purchasing her was the culmination of a love affair with schooners which has been with him since boyhood.

We started last as none of us were sure of the starting signals. This was a bit of a blow but we were not unduly worried. We wanted to beat the other 1925 Alden Schooner in the race, Charm III, about which I have written elsewhere in this blog. This was not to be though as she was being crewed by the skilled lads of the Anguilla Youth Sailing Club and they meant business! Hearts Desire had a green crew and several of us have not sailed a gaff rigged vessel before. With no winches or pulleys it is hard work pulling on ropes to make anything happen! In the end, we settled for a sedate 6 hour and 11 minute sail and arrived back at our start to much applause from those hardy spectators still waiting for us to return. I am sure that the race officials, who had loyally waited for us to complete the course, were relieved when we finally finished!

I missed the Governor presenting the prizes so cannot report what he said, although I am reliably informed that he gave a witty speech, which was well received. I would have liked to have heard it...

Saturday dawned and with it the big 12 metre yachts from St Martin. These were being crewed first by teams from Temenos and CuisinArt Resort and Spa as they fought for the West End Cup, and then by the National Bank of Anguilla and the Caribbean Commerical Bank in the race dubbed the 'Battle of the Banks.' These races are tremendously popular on island. CuisinArt uses a place in the crew as an incentive during the year. All the people on board had earned their places with hard work and good service. No wonder they were so excited!

In the end, CuisinArt Resort and Spa triumphed over Temenos, who has vowed to return next year, and the National Bank of Anguilla beat the Caribbean Commericial Bank. Each bank has now won the race three times, so it will be interesting to see how they get on next year!

On Sunday there was the Sir Bobby Velasquez Local Boat Race. This was great fun! Nine Class A sloops competed and their huge sails made a pretty picture against the beautiful blue sky on the horizon. Eagle caused a bit of a stir when two other boats forced her inside one of the markers and she carried on regardless. There was much indignant shouting from those watching in the myriad of small craft which was following the race. Real Deal won the race and Alvin Richardson, the skipper, was over the moon!

In the meantime, there were races for Open, Cruising, Multihull and Spinnaker classes and lots of vessels turned out for highly competitive races. In the end Budget Marine Too, skippered by Robbie Ferron won the Spinnaker competition. Moonshadow, captained by Eddie Baretto won the Cruising class. Steve Donahue thrilled everyone when he took the Open class on Anguilla registered Juluca. Herve Harel on Harel Yachts took the Multihull title.

I buzzed about on the press boat, ably skippered by Damian Carty to whom I owe many thanks. I took thousands of photos, some of which are reproduced here. I hope that they give you a flavour of what the Anguilla Regatta is all about. For those of you who might like to visit Anguilla to sail in or watch the fun, visit for more information on the Regatta and sailing in general.

The photos show: from top to bottom - Temenos and CuisinArt battle it out, Glen Schroeder, Hearts Desire and Mike Syme, crew aboard Hearts Desire.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

It is so easy to make a mistake!

My mother has emailed me in a bit of a flap. She is only just getting some confidence using the computer and, as she can now see the screen following a trip to the opticians, she is starting to press buttons she would not usually have noticed, let alone used.

This morning I opened my email to find the following message:

"penny, i think i have made a bo,bo. i am so sorry, i think i have clicked on a wrong button. i was looking on your blog site, when i saw a button that said FLAG or UNFLAG BUTTON.not knowing what it was, i clicked on it. i was horrified when i saw that i was reporting you for bad reading content. sorry."

I have never been reported for bad content before and did not expect my mother to be the one doing it! I hope that whoever investigates this will see that all is well and it is just an elderly lady trying to get to grips with modern technology. I have now emailed her with instructions on how to use the cursor to hover over buttons she does not recognise, so that the resulting dialogue box will appear and tell her what the button is for. Next I must teach her how to put capitals into her emails properly!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Anguilla Regatta - Coming Soon!

It is Thursday 8th May 2008.

Tonight is the Skippers Briefing for the Anguilla Regatta, which starts tomorrow and lasts all weekend. At 6pm Roy's Bayside Grill will be packed with sailors for the briefing and it will be the beginning of a busy time for me.

I will be on the press boat Friday 9 May, to report on the races and will cover the prize giving by HE The Governor, Mr Andrew George.

Saturday 10 May will see me taking part in a race - my first! I feel a quiet mix of apprehension and excitement at present and I still have two days to go! On Saturday too the Battle of the Banks will be fought. The 12 metre ex-America's Cup racers will provide thrills and much competitive spirit in the best tradition of sailing. It will be spectacular to watch.

Sunday 11 May, the final day of the Regatta, the local wooden racing boats fight it out in the Sir Bobby Velasquez Local Boat Race. These boats, without internal ballast and decking, fly through the water and are really fun to watch. Regulations go out of the window apart from the 'Hard Lee' rule, when, to avoid a collision, a captain will give this cry and each boat must tack away, regardless of where this will put the boat! It leads to fun and excitement, particularly when the rocks, sand bags or crew used for ballast is jettisoned to lighten the boat in an effort to reach the finishing line first!

In all the Anguilla Regatta, an annual event since 2003 to raise much needed funds for the Anguilla Youth Sailing Club, and run by the Anguilla Sailing Association in conjunction with the Anguilla Tourist Board, will be a weekend of fun for all the family.

I will let you know how I get on in my race - I will be aboard the Juluca, owned and skippered by Steve Donaghue. Wish us luck!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

In the middle of the night...

It's funny what you do when you can't sleep.

Tonight I slept for about two hours and then, PING, eyes wide open and mind racing away uncontrollably!

I am never one to miss an opportunity and so I have been catching up with my emails. People who must have thought I had died will be shocked to see they have a message from me when they wake up in the morning!

I have deleted some obvious rubbish from my inbox and generally given it a tidy up. I feel quite pleased with myself. Of course, all this will generate replies from my long lost friends and so my inbox will soon fill up again! In the long run I will have gained nothing, but at least people know I am still about.

Of course I am taking the opportunity to write my blog while I have time, which is always a bonus. The coming week will be a busy one as the Anguilla Regatta is on the horizon next weekend and I am covering it for several publications. For those interested in this event there is more information on the Anguilla Sailing Association website,

OK, I have a tired brain so that is all for this post.

Friday, 2 May 2008

My Friend Rob!

I had some good news today.

My friend, Rob, in Spain, emailed to say that following my advising him to start a blogsite, he has been offered a regular blogging job on which gets over twenty thousand hits a day! I am so pleased for him.

Rob's blogsite is It is a very good read!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

On graduation, American Airlines and websites!

Well I am back and am pleased to say that all went well with the graduation. I found my suit! Hurrah! I had, in my infinite wisdom, stored it in our lockup so I would have it safe for when I needed it! Great, except I have the world's worst memory so could not remember this little snippet of information!

Susan is well but a bit cheesed off. She needs occupation and is endeavouring to find some.

Our son will finally pick up his boat, which has been languishing in Shepperton Marina since he bought it in January, and sail it to his mooring this coming week. It needed some work done on it to make it Thames Water compatible and this has now been completed. He can soon start moving all his boxes out of the various hideholes he has them in and get his life together. He says he is not going to keep the psychedelic curtains. Shame.

We came home courtesy of American Airlines. It took thirty nine and a half hours to reach Anguilla from Heathrow. Technical problems with the plane in New York were followed by a medical emergency on the same flight. This led to our touching down in Bermuda to let the patient be taken to hospital. By the time we arrived in Puerto Rico to pick up our connection to Anguilla, it had long gone. We stayed overnight in the Intercontinental in Carolina, very nice. When we arrived for the flight home we had a further delay due to technical problems on board. The captain of the New York - San Juan flight had mentioned that the delays were longer because American Airlines have cut back on maintenance staff. Being on two flights by the same airline which both developed technical problems, and remembering back to November when Joe and I travelled (or tried to travel) to Miami with this airline and were left stranded for hours in Puerto Rico as there was not a serviceable plane for us, makes me think that there is something seriously wrong with this airline. If a spokeman for the company is reading this blog, it would be interesting to hear what the official line is.

This morning I have updated my website. This is a long overdue task which I had put off because there was a fault in my index page I did not know how to overcome. This morning I have spent hours sorting it out and the result is the new, more up to date website. I hope my tinkering with it will result in more hits. The address is: if you would like to read the latest version. Let me know what you think.

Ok I think that is all for now. I have a million things to do, so had better go and do them!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Life Moves On...

Life on Anguilla moves on apace. The sea, which settled down a little last week has decided to play up again and we have large waves and a fair bit of breeze. It is nowhere near as bad as two weeks ago, when the ferry ports had to shut down and all fishing boats stayed at home, but it is building gradually, so watch this space.

In the meantime we are looking forward to popping home to see the folks in England. It was November when I was last in the UK and July when Joe was last there. We have things to do and people to see.

On April 12th I am graduating from the Open University, having finally finished my Humanities degree. I cannot find my best suit, which is a bit of a pain to say the least. There is not much call for suits here on Anguilla and I can honestly say that in the last three years I have used it a handful of times. Now I need it, I have no idea where I have put it. This means that I will have to go out and seek a new suit as a matter of urgency when I arrive in Blighty. I had not intended shopping so soon in the trip! Oh well, I have to look on the bright side, I will take my mother with me and that will be some quality time with her!

We are going to visit our friend Susan after this. She lives in the North of England and recently retired. She is coming to terms with life in a much slower lane than she has been used to. Personally I am dreading this, from full ahead to almost stop because of a birthday. Some people long to retire and others look forward to it as a necessary evil. It will be interesting to see how she is coping.

To get ready for this trip we have both had to adjust our schedules. It is the end of the UK financial year and the beginning of a new one which means that end of year accounts need to be balanced and reports sent to London. My poor husband has had to work like a Trojan to get things up to date at his office before we leave. He could have done without the OU graduation date so close to the end of the financial year.

I am just coming to the end of a very busy period of magazine commissions and the ACOCI Connection newsletter. Work is starting to tail off now as the trip is coming closer but will start again immediately afterwards, with interviews of several local persons of interest on Anguilla for two different publications. Life as a freelance writer is never static and new opportunities always need to be grabbed with both hands when they are presented. I will be using aspects of the UK trip as the basis for several articles for British magazines.

I just hope we do not freeze while we are there as the weather has been awful. At least here, when the weather is bad, it is still warm!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Festival Del Mar was such fun! The whole community turned out to support it and there were lots of visitors to go around the various food stalls and stands.

The Anguilla Sailing Association came along with the kids from the Anguilla Youth Sailing Club and Kenny Richardson did well to win the Optimists race. Captain Lue won the Sunfish race and was jubilant "I'm one of the main guys," he modestly remarked afterwards.

Four brave fishing boats went out in the still-heaving seas for the Fishing Tournament. Two returned in time for judging and Roger Smith won the Best Catch category. He had a great weekend as he also won the Adult Model Boat Race and competed in the Adult Triathlon. Asked what he thought of his achievements he said,"I am proud and I am the best fisherman in Anguilla!"

As the weather had been so bad, the traditional boat races were curtailed. One Class B boat sank on the prerace warm up and had to de-sail before being refloated.

Food was spectacular as is to be expected on an island with the reputation for culinary expertise. The Island Harbour beach restaurant, Coté Mer, served delectable Paella with ingredients donated by several island businesses and gave all proceeds to the local St Andrews Church. Local vendors cleaned and sold fish on the roadside.

Music went on into the night. The delightful Garvey and his Satisfaction band got people into the mood on Saturday evening.

In all this first Festival Del Mar was a success and lessons learnt this year will go towards making it a must for everyone, local and tourist, next year.