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.