Thursday, 30 October 2014

Meet People, Go Places, Do Things

A few years ago Mark and I were strolling along a beautiful sun soaked beach in Thailand after a wonderful snorkeling excursion. I remember talking excitedly about the amazing things I had seen under the surface as well as bemoaning the fact that my lungs would only let me stay down for about forty seconds at a time before demanding I'd return to the surface for another greedy gulp of air. 
When Mark said "We should learn how to scuba dive" I just kind of laughed it off, as back then I mistakenly thought that scuba diving was the reserve for people with plenty of cash to splash. 
However on our return to the UK Mark phoned a few places to inquire about training and costs and after considerable deliberation we decided to sign-up for the PADI Open Water Course with Dive Wimbledon and so the journey to awesomeness began.

As ridiculous as this may sound to others, learning how to scuba dive totally revolutionized my life and it has had a profound effect on my self-confidence. Sometimes something brilliant comes along that makes you glow and grow and for me that something was scuba diving.

  "Meet People, Go Places, Do Things" is the PADI motto and since becoming Divemaster Trainee with Aquatron Dive Centre that has become my sweet life :)

Yesterday Mark had a day off so we jumped in the car and drove to Loch Long. In the morning we dived a site called The Caves and in the afternoon we moved down the shore to a site called The A-Frames
The Caves - Loch Long
Mark and Jen enjoying a post dive coffee.
We've had a fair bit of rain and blustery winds here in Scotland of late but yesterday we had perfect diving weather. In the morning there was barely a ripple on the loch and we even had some blue sky breaking through in the afternoon. The water temperature was a cool 10°C but even after a 45 minute dive I still didn't feel that cold, in other words there is a very good reason why so many fellow divers opt for the Scubapro Everdry 4, it keeps you nice and toasty.
Pre-dive lunch at A-Frames where we managed to gatecrash an army exercise.
The highlight of the day was having our first ever catshark encounter. Sadly we didn't bring the GoPro camera on these dives which was a real shame because the visibility was really quite good but I was brushing up on my navigating skills and we thought it best not to task load ourselves. There will be another encounter I am sure.

I will wrap up with a little medley of pics from the past couple of months.
Now that Mark and I are both Divemasters in training we will be doing a lot more diving with the school, both as little helpers and as students ourselves.
The first rung on the PADI professional ladder looms in the distance but first there is plenty of studying, practicing, perfecting, working and playing to be done :)
The PADI Master Scuba Diver is the highest non-professional certification level in the PADI system of diver education, it has been so much fun getting to this point and I am very much looking forward to getting on the first rung of the PADI professional ladder.
Mark and I did four pool sessions and three open water days with the school this month. We also did the Enriched Air Diver Course and bagged our certs with flying colours, huzzah!
St. Catherines - Loch Fyne with Aquatron Dive Centre
29 Steps with the Open Water students who all did swimmingly.
Mark also did the first part of the Night Diver course at the A-Frames, I tagged along to serve up a hot drink during the surface interval.
St. Catherines with the school last Sunday. It was a bit of a dreich day but it takes more than a bit of rain and wind to wipe the smile off  a Scottish scuba divers face, we are hardcore ;)
Next month is set to be just as busy, kicking off with the Aquatron Big Sale Weekend and Halloween Charity Dance this Saturday. Mark's costume is all sorted but as per usual I am still pondering what get-up to go for, too many choices is my delightful problem.

Have a funderful Halloween peeps :)
Loads of love,

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


On Sunday Aquatron Dive Centre did something absolutely brilliant! 
Spearheaded by Awesome Annie, a bunch of  people gave up their Sunday lie in and headed to Dog Fish Reef, Loch Fyne to take part in the Project AWARE Foundation Debris Month of Action.
Dog Fish Reef is a very popular site for fishermen, campers and divers but unfortunately due to some peoples inability to dispose of their trash in a responsible manner it has over time started to resemble a rubbish dump with bags of trash stuffed in the bushes and litter & fishing line strewn across the shore. 
The main aim of the day was to do a site clean-up both on shore and under the surface, because the litter on land very easily becomes marine debris and sadly when this happens it is usually a case of 'out of sight, out of mind' for many people.
Every year an astonishing amount of waste makes its way underwater and can reach even the most remote ocean areas. The rubbish kills wildlife, destroys habitats and threatens our health and economy.
As a diver you have a unique opportunity to protect the ocean environment and making every dive that you do a Dive Against Debris, even if it is just a quick removal of some fishing line or stuffing a stray piece of rubbish into your mesh bag when you spot it.
From the Project AWARE website.
The simple action of removing rubbish from the shore or the underwater world has the potential of preventing more of these horrible things from happening...
Pics found via Google images.
You don't have to be a diver to make a difference either, it is just as important to remove rubbish from the shore thus preventing it from ever entering the water.

Here's the Aquatron Dive Against Debris day in pictures...
Dog Fish Reef at Loch Fyne.
Mark and I did our PADI Rescue Diver Course here back in May.
It was nice to see such a good turn out for the event.
Argyll and Bute council had kindly provided litter picker tools and protective gloves for the shore clean-up.
Yes, that is me on the right, looking amazingly fabulous in my scuba gear ;)
The underwater debris removal crack team after their first dive.
The shore crew sorting out the debris, counting and weighing it so that it can be added to the Dive Against Debris Map and project stats.
Just some of the debris collected.
The crack team spotted a wheelbarrow but decided to leave it behind as quite a few underwater creatures had made their home on it. The general guideline is to leave alone if things are growing on it or living inside it, unless of course it is something very harmful to the aquatic environment.
Here is Mark with a couple of divers getting kitted up for their second dive.
Mark did his second Divemaster Trainee session on Sunday. 
All bagged up and ready to be collected by Argyll and Bute council.
My hat goes off to the sorting crew that had to go through all the festering refuse that people had left behind in the bushes.
A worthwhile way to spend a day, I think you'll agree.
In other news this old girl turned forty the other week, became a certified PADI Master Scuba Diver and started her PADI Divemaster Internship with Aquatron Dive Centre, exciting times! 
Hope you are all doing grand.
I will love you and leave you with a cracking tune by the amazing Afro Celt Sound System, enjoy :)
All the best,

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Happy Days Are Here To Stay

It is hard to believe that a year ago we were in the midst of 'moving mayhem'.
We had to push hard to clear the bottleneck and free ourselves from a tremendous amount of crap and clutter but we got there in the end.
London feels like a shadow from a distant past now and I feel like I've finally found my way home after thirteen years at sea.
I admit that leaving London after all that time wasn't all plain sailing and smiles, there was a great deal of apprehensiveness involved too.
After all we did just kind of up sticks, leaving the financial security that Mark's job had provided behind and when we landed in Glasgow we had to hit the ground running.
It seems we've had luck on our side and things have turned out jolly well for us, better than we even dared to hope when we were discussing the future twelve months ago.
I am so thankful that the last year of my thirties was one of rapturous change.

To celebrate my big birthday (which isn't actually until next month) Mark and I went on a fabulous road trip last week. 
We visited spellbindingly beautiful South Wales and spent two nights at the stunning Beeches Farm Campsite, which is only a stones throw from our beloved NDAC near Chepstow where we did our Advanced Open Water Course two years ago (you can read about that here here).
After a days awesome diving at NDAC last Thursday we headed towards the south coast to hook up with a friend from Dive Wimbledon and his lovely wife who had rented a caravan in Swanage.
We did two wreck dives with Divers Down on Saturday and on Sunday we dived Swanage Pier twice.
Despite hurricane Bertha blowing a hoolie in the run up to our little holiday, we had pretty decent weather.
The second night at Beeches Farm we were even treated to a completely clear night sky and spent some time gazing at the stars. I was thrilled to spot three shooting stars, I haven't seen one of them for years.
On Monday we were planning to make a wee stop off at The Lakes for one night but the skies looked threateningly heavy and dull so we decided to do the Swanage to Glasgow trip in one excruciating hit.
The motorway was clogged up and our wee handicapped car was starting to make disgruntled noises, thankfully the lucky spirits were yet again looking out for us and we made it back home before he decided to go on strike.
The day after we jumped on a train to Edinburgh to go and soak up some Fringe vibes and do some serious guerrilla drinking. Our lovely Bulgarian friends sent us a rather nifty picnic bag with a wine cooler attachment that came in handy.
We lazed around on our tartan blanket in The Meadows and Princess Street Gardens, enjoyed free-bee gigs in The Grassmarket and on The Royal Mile. 
We made a couple of trips to replenish the wine cooler bag and bypassed the pubs altogether, like the young man in the bottle shop so wisely said "why pay £7.50 for a glass of wine, when you can have the whole bottle for a fiver". Why, indeed.
In Glasgow the consumption of alcohol in public places has been illegal since 1996 and you can be fined for enjoying a bottle of vino whilst having a picnic in the park, however in Edinburgh you are allowed to drink in public so long as you don't noise up the police, I like Edinburgh!

As per usual I took about a gazillion photos, you would be forgiven for thinking that I've super-glued the camera to my hands and never do anything else but snap away with it.
I do so love taking photos and with so much awesomeness to be awestruck by, can you blame me?!
Beeches Farm Campsite and Devil's Pulpit.
South Wales - A truly spectacular place with mysterious beasts, magical mist and miraculous ale trees.
Diving and re-homing gnomes at NDAC and fanning the flames with a Scubapro fin to get the BBQ going.
Mark, Santy and Jon at the pier and various vistas from Swanage.
Cato our car makes a great dive gear clothes horse, not sure if he agrees.
We dived two wreck sites, namely Fleur De Lys a French fishing crabber built in 1969 that sank after an explosion in the engine room back in 2000 and Valentine Tanks that sank in 1942 whilst practicing for the D-Day landings.
On Sunday we dived underneath Swanage Pier and I spotted a Greater Pipefish and almost wet my drysuit with excitement, it was so dainty and cute.
On Monday we made the long and arduous journey back north. The motorway was horrendous in places and it felt like we were standing still for hours, it was like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie, everybody was trying to get the hell out of town and head for the hills it seemed.
Beautiful Edinburgh.
The birds are having a grand old time while The Fringe is on with us humans leaving scraps here, there and everywhere.
Some of them were actually quite blasé about me wanting to share my lunch with them.
Free Fun and guerrilla drinking, that's how we roll around these parts.
You may not be allowed to drink in public places in Glasgow but putting traffic cone hats on statues is OK.
All the photos can also be viewed individually in this Summer Holiday Flickr album that I made.

It is back to work now but I am still on a holiday high, I hope it lingers!
Hope you are all doing grand folks, have a lovely weekend.
Much love,

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Ready, Steady, Glasgow!

Last week was like a wonderful whirlwind.
Our dear friend Leslie of The Dandy Lion Market came up from London for a wee break and Mark and I both volunteered at the Commonwealth Games.
I did two days at the swimming events at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre here in Glasgow and Mark went across to do a day at the diving events held in Edinburgh.
We managed to cram a whole heap of fun stuff into seven days and enjoy the buzzing vibe of positivity that the streets of Glasgow have been awash with during the eleven days of the games.
I absolutely loved being a part of the games and even if the days were pretty long, starting at 7.30am and finishing off at around eleven at night, we had an absolute blast.
Here I am with Chris, Tom and Chris outside Aquatron.
We all got kitted out in the official games volunteering clobber.
The events passed without incident so I didn't actually have to don my scuba gear and get in the water.
One of the judges accidentally dropped a pen in the pool but we were not called upon for that as it was quickly retrieved by a lifeguard.
The Australian team were amazing and swam home a motherload of medals.
Sadly there were no Scottish gold medals won on the two days I was there, so I never got to hear Flower of Scotland.
Personally I prefer this version with Kenneth McKellar...
Gie it Laldy!

It was billed as The Friendly Games and it truly was.
I haven't been in a place filled with so much positivity since the last time I went to a rave.
I would do it again at the drop of a hat!
I think it was a perfect time for Leslie to enjoy Glasgow too, even if Mark and I had to work a lot.
We still managed to have the obligatory drunken night out, visit the Gallery of Modern Art, a funky Pam Hogg exhibition/pop-up shop and a wee trip to the seaside.
Leslie and Mark at The Crystal Palace where we also hooked up with some visiting relatives from down south.
Matt & Leslie battled it out with cues at The Solid Rock Cafe.
Leslie with Clyde at Central Station.
The Pam Hogg exhibition and pop-up shop.
A wee trip to Irvine Beach Park.
It's all back to business as usual for a few days now before we head off for another adventure.
This summer has got to go down as one of the best ones in my life so far, I am loving every minute of it!
I will love you and leave you with an amazing tune that is having me dancing around the house at the moment and lusting for a pair of red jazz trainers...
Hope you are all well peeps.
Loads of love,

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Upon a hill across a blue lake

Bare feet against soft moss, magnificent mountains as far as the eye can see, a light breeze to keep the midgies at bay, that is all it takes to please me. 

I really love injecting a little bit of drama and movement into my pictures because I prefer photos that are a bit quirky. I call my favoured posing style 'Jazz Hands' as it often involves some sort of flailing of the arms and hands.
I was given this magnificent book from the early 1900 by my former boss at The Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden. It contains a collection of  The Sketch, which was a society magazine with regular features on royalty and the aristocracy, theatre, cinema and art studies. It was in print from 1893 to 1959.
I love spending a few hours just flicking through its pages, being wowed by the fabulous theatrical get-ups and picking up posing pointers from ladies that had the old Jazz Hands posing nailed.
I have been a very busy bee of late, since my last post I have become auntie again and bagged a wee freelance gig selling scuba gear on eBay.
The Commonwealth Games have rolled into town and  little old me is taking part, and before you ask...No, I am not racing against Usain Bolt.
I am a member of  The Aquatic Field of Play Intervention Team and I will be doing a couple of shifts at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre here in Glasgow next week.
So, you may be wondering what I will be asked to do if called upon, well, well...
If someone gets into the pool, who should not be there, and the police and security can't persuade them to get out then The Aquatic Field of Play Intervention Team steps in and forcibly removes the person(s) from the water. I really hope that we won't have to step in mainly because it would interrupt the games and ruin the vibe for competitors and spectators alike.

Sunday was spent in Ballachulish painting mum's living room and doing various little jobs around the house , then we fired back down the road on Monday briefly stopping off in Glen Coe for an impromptu photo session. I always like to bring a wee bag of clobber, accessories and wigs just in case an ideal opportunity presents itself and on Monday it did.
 As it is peak-season now we had an audience of bemused tourists and surprised looking walkers for most of our photo session.
This spot is just next to the main road and cars and trucks are passing all the time but you would never have guessed it from looking at these photographs. Mark is pretty good at cropping out roads, pesky power lines and walkers sporting day-glo.
The frock has been in my collection for well over five years. I haven't worn it before and to be honest when I bought it this was exactly the kind of thing I had in mind for it. I wanted to capture its beauty in some nice pics before letting it go again. I have quite a few frocks with a theatrical vibe and I can't think of a more stunning backdrop for them than the beautiful Highlands.
Look, no Jazz Hands!
 Last year we shot a stunning red velvet frock by Quad and a spectacular bronze coloured extravaganza by Priscilla in the Glen.
This frock is labelled 'California - The Look You Love' and here I am sporting it with a long black wig bought on eBay and a belly-dancing coin belt worn as a headdress that I picked up from a car boot sale in London.
The picture editing frills were added with PicMonkey.
I hope you are all doing grand folks.
I'll leave you with the banging tune that was blasting through the car speakers as we drove through the Glen, Yeehaw!
Loads of love,