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.