The Snow has arrived early ths year.

We went to bed last night fully expecting snow up t’north but we were really surprised to wake up to a thin but even coating here. Harley saw the snow last January but this was Sookie’s first experience of it.

We went for an early morning walk and the dogs certainly enjoyed themselves. We are settling down now to watch England v South Africa at Twickenham.

Sookie Update

It’s been a while since I added anything here, I guess I have been just to busy at work Sad

So here is an update on Sookie our Irish water spaniel. She is 8 months old now and is starting to settle down. She is still hard work and taking a long time to grow up but over the last few weeks she has changed. It is almost as if someone has thrown a switch in her brain, she has started to get it and is working really well. SHe is also looking pretty good too.

The Country Landowners Association Game Fair at Ragley Hall

Today we went to the 2010 CLA Game Fair at Ragley Hall it was an excellent day, as it always is at this annual event. The bonus this year, for us, was that it was held only 20 minutes down the road from where we live.

When most people talk of packs of hounds in the UK they picture huntsmen in their pinks riding to a set of fox hounds, but this is not always the case. There are mant different types of hound, all hunting very differently and all chasing different quarry.

These are The Ryford Chase Griffon Vendeen Bassets. This pack was founded and is run by their Master and Huntsman, Nick Valentine. They are the smallest of the Griffon Vendeen type of hounds that originated in France. There are 30 couples of these 15" hounds in the pack as well as 8 couples of Teckles. The pack hunts ........ rabbits.

Today was also a great opportunity for us and Sookie to meet her father. This is Bentley (Grainne's Pirate at Kirkmarsh) a truly magnificent dog.

And here is Sookie with her dad Happy

The Kennels are now complete, we have our own little Guantánamo Bay at the bottom of the garden

The dog kennel came from Reeves Animal Housing it is really well made and guaranteed for 12 years. The dogs are fine and took to it very quickly. They do not spend all of there time there as we have then in the house during the evening and they spend a considerable amount of time out and about.

I took the dogs out tonight and the combination of the late evening sunlight and the buttercups in the field made for some very pleasing pictures.

May Bank Hoiday Weekend

A typical English Bank Holiday, cold, grey, wet and miserable, so we had to rely on more than the weather to enjoy it.

Saturday was not so good, we did very little other than watch Wasps get beaten in the semi final of the Amlin Challenge Cup by the Cardiff Blues. It’s bad enough getting knocked out, but getting knocked out by the Welsh is really hard to swallow, and this happened one week after Wasps were pretty much eliminated from the championship play offs by Bath.

Sunday was a good day, all be it very cold and grey, we went to watch my nephew, William competing in the junior classes of the Atherstone Pony Club One Day Event. William did pretty well, This is him on Ellie who is an amazingly steady and prommising mare, she had an excellent day especially considering that she only turned five years old last week.

A one day event is made up of the same elements as a three day event except all three disciplines, The Dressage, Show Jumping and Cross Country all take place on the same day.

The dressage is great to watch, but not the most exciting thing to photograph.

This is followed by the Show Jumping

and finally the Cross Country

Today the three classes of the senior event were held and I spent the day fence judging on the Cross Country course. A very cold and miserable day with rain that turned into hail on several occasions, very low temperatures and a biting wind. I don’t know why I am complaining as I spent most of the day in my car overlooking a fence but when I did venture out it was really unpleasant. The good thing was knowing that there was a beef casserole bubbling away in the slow cooker for when I got home.

So dispite the weather it was a full and busy long weekend and we have another one to look forward to at the end of the month.

Welcome to Sookie (Turnervale Talulla)

Today we picked up our new Irish Water Spaniel puppy Sookie (posh name Turnervale Talulla) She is a very happy confident puppy not at all shy and happy to play with us and Harley.

Originally bred as a wildfowling dog, working on the marshes, bogs and estuaries of its native Ireland, the Irish Water Spaniel can be adapted for many forms of work. They are responsive, equipped with an excellent nose, eyesight and hearing.

Irish Water Spaniels have natural instincts that make them suitable for all types of shooting; they have been used as drug and explosives detector dogs; they have competed in agility, working trials and obedience and worked as PAT and therapy dogs.

Irish Water Spaniels are slower to mature than some other breeds, they can be headstrong and wilful, needing a firm but fair and patient owner who will need to gain the dog's respect before it will give of its best. If over trained they become easily bored and stubborn.

And Teresa makes sure that Harley does not feel neglected

A busy bank holiday Monday complete with Game Fair and Motor Racing

An early start as we headed off to the Kilmarsh Game & Country Fair it was a little cold, damp and windy but great fun. Harley behaved impeccably as she experienced chaos and crowds for the first time. We came home just after lunchtime so I went to Mallory Park where British Historic Racing were running a motorcycle event. Some of the riders are older than their bikes Happy

And a bonus from the MotoX next door

Good Friday walk in the park

We have been back from our holiday a week now and what with a hectic time at work and the cold cold weather I really wish I was still away. I have edited a very short (4 minutes) video of the seaplane trip from Male to Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu. The weather was not so great but as ever the trip was fun. I have posted it up on Vimeo and You Tube, click on either to see it but I think the Vimeo quality is better.

This morning was grey and damp but we set off to take Harley for a walk in Coombe Abbey. She is doing well with her training but we need to get her used lots of activity going on around her, for a bank holiday there were not to many people in the park. Anyway Harley looked very beautiful and Teresa did not look to bad either Happy

Tomorrow we head for home

How can two weeks pass so quickly? We are on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do and yet time seems to have flown. It has been a truly fabulous holiday, a great chance to relax and unwind and also a great time to spend together without the hassle of the boring day to day life things getting in the way.

We are going home fitter, more relaxed and a totally different colour.

The resort is fabulous and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

We have spent our last day sitting under the shade on the beach, swimming and saying goodbye to all the fish, and generally regretting that the holiday is over, but it is, and there you have it.

I feel the need to prove that I have been present throughout the two weeks so here are the only two pictures of me on the island, and they were both taken today.

Here are a few last glimpses of Coco Palm taken today.

We leave the island at 07:00 hrs tomorrow morning , so Teresa and I strolled down to the beach to watch our last sunset. The plane that will take us to Male is parked in the lagoon ready for it’s early flight so we sat and watched as the sun sank over the horizon and over our imminent means of departure Sad

Destination Desert Island.

A great day today, early this morning Teresa and I were whisked away on a speedboat to spend the day as the sole inhabitants of the island of Embudhoo. This was no great hardship as we went along with a significant cool-box containing lobster, chicken, salads, fruit and a rice pudding. We also had water, Coke and a bottle of Moet Happy

The Island was quite small you could walk round it in about 10 minutes, and it was a typical Madivian Island in that it had a green interior fringed with soft white sand.

There was no Robinson Cruso hut building for us either, as the island has a rustic but perfectly serviceable hut complete with shower, toilet and a bed.

So we spent the day walking, talking, swimming, all in perfect isolation. It was really excellent to be completely isolated. There was no noise at all except for the gentle sound of the surf and the occasional bird call.

A perfect day!

The first negative comment of the holiday, and it's a biggy!

The dive centre on the island is run by an outfit called “Dive Ocean” They are not cheap but they are not too wide of the mark for the Maldives. A single dive will cost you US$ 48 plus US$ 13 for the boat trip. If you were hiring dive gear too that would add to the price. All the diving staff are great and the guys that work on the boat and on the compressor are really first rate, however the woman that sits behind the desk at the dive centre who I understand is the manager is a real piece of work. The first time I interacted with her I put her self important humorless arrogance down to the fact that she was German and that English was not her first language. In my subsequent dealings with her I have revised that opinion and now I put her self important humorless arrogance down to the fact that she is a self important, humorless arrogant woman who would bend over backwards to be unhelpful. Were it not for the fact that she has a captive cliental, given that there is no other way to dive from the island other than through her, she would not stay in business for too long! Things came to a head today when I was snorkeling on the reef side of the island and the purge valve on my snorkel broke, no problem I nipped to the dive centre, explained what had happened and asked to borrow a snorkel for a couple of hours. “No” she said! OK then can I hire one, No she said we only hire if you are diving. Now I am in the process of putting in excess of US$ 300 into her business, and she would not lend me a snorkel for 2 hours. I guess it goes to prove that if you are running a business where the customer has no other choice you can afford to be as rude and as non customer connected as you like. This is a real shame, as I said all the other staff are really great.

Dive Ocean is a separate company that has the franchise to run the dive centre in the resort, it is not part of the Coco Palm Resort organisation. All the Coco Palm staff have been really excellent and friendly and cannot do enough to help us.

I know that this in not such a big deal, but it will certainly factor into any decision we make when we chose our holiday destinations in the future.

On a lighter note...

Teresa decided that the most appropriate way to watch the sunset last night was in her nightdress. She said no one would notice Happy

When it gets too hot on the beach there is an excellent way to cool down.

I am also conscious that I have captured the same dhoni in a load of my pictures, here it is from the other side. (This was taken with a Canon G9 in its waterproof housing, when returning from a dive)

Dawn with the dolphins

Up at dawn to look for some dolphins, the light was amazing alternating between pink and a subtle gold. We had a very good omen as we headed off, as before we had even left the jetty a turtle swam under our bow.

We headed off towards the edge of the lagoon Teresa keeping her eyes peeled for any sign of dolphins.

Eventually we came upon a large school of dolphins all basking in the glow of a golden dawn and all (according to one of the boat crew) being very lazy.

As we headed back towards the island we twice saw large Manta Rays swimming just below the surface,

And we were back in time for breakfast.

The Island

The Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu island is 660 meters long and 290 meters wide and is roughly half moon shaped. it is fringed with a pure white sandy beach. There are two restaurants on the island one serving a very good buffet style food with a great variety and with chefs busily preparing food to order, we have eaten exclusively there. There is also an “a la carte” restaurant which is ridiculously expensive.

The resort consists of around 80 beach bungalows and 12 water bungalows there are a further 2 “Sunset Lagoon Villas”. We have stayed in Lagoon Villas in the past, and to be honest, whilst they are a novelty, we prefer the access to the beach and vegetation that the beach bungalows afford.

This is our humble abode.

There are few “proper” buildings on the Island. There is the main reception area, the two restaurants , the bar and the dive centre. These are all open at the sides and have a high thatched canopy and the floor is either tiled or simply sand.

This is the main reception building

and this is the bar.

Tomorrow is going to be another lazy day, I will be exploring the house reef looking for turtles then then on Tuesday we are off to spend all day on a deserted Island just the two of us and a very expensive picnic!

The good news (for the Blog) is that we stay dry tomorrow.

Tomorrow we are heading off looking for dolphins, if it is in any way like the time we went whale watching in Iceland, looking for dolphins is exactly what we will be doing. I am not holding my breath.

Todays diving was fun, there were just 4 of us and two were a young Canadian couple from Calgary on their honeymoon. I will give them this picture for their wedding album.

Here are few more wet pictures. I will take some more above the waterline tomorrow as even I am starting to find this endless steam of fishy photos boring.

The safety stop bubble ring contest only had one winner, and as his rings were so much better than mine I refused to take a reasonable picture of them.

This Blog is getting hatder to write

This really is getting difficult, it could really turn into “The Diary of Adrian Mole aged 54 and a bit”

Woke up to great weather,
Had breakfast (Cereal, Fruit & Lussi)
Went diving and saw lots of fish.

You get the picture.......

So rather than bore you some more I will show you some of the more interesting creatures I met today.

Lazy day in the lagoon

We has a particularly lazy day today floating around in the lagoon and exploring the house reef. We met quite a few permanent residents as well as some more transient ones.

Some of them are completely harmless.

Some of them can be just a little bit dangerous

And some of them can be very dangerous indeed !!

So another day passes, oh and by the way, the weather is great Happy

When you get bored on the beach, go underwater.

I have not mentioned the diving yet. In the Maldives, saying the diving is fabulous could become almost as boring as saying the weather is great. But it has to be said, at least once, the diving is fabulous. The corals are in great shape, the dive today was a huge wall of hard corals, not always as pretty as the soft ones but when you look at the scale of some of these coral walls it is really impressive. There was plenty of small fish around doing their best to get out of the way the big clumsy ones blowing bubbles.

This is Laurent one of the instructors here with “Dive Ocean”, as you can see it is compulsory for a frenchman to look cool at all times.

The light changes so fast

The sun is setting at around 19:20 but between 19:00 and 19:45 the light is amazing and It changes so fast. There is a wonderful golden glow as the sun starts to drop to the horizon, then the colours intensify as it gets lower with the clouds picking up the vibrant reds and oranges and then as the sun drops below the horizon the colours become more subtle before disappearing, these three pictures were taken within half an hour of each other.

Above and below the island

I am going to stop saying another beautiful clear sunny day as I am sure you are getting as bored reading it as I am writing it, so take it as a given unless I say otherwise. The island has four or five visits a day from the Twin Otter air taxies that make these more remote from Male Islands viable for tourists. As a treat the pilots take the plane over the Island as they take off to give the passengers one final look at what they are leaving behind, They are fascinating to watch as they stop really quickly when landing and do not require much of run to take off either,

This is a sequence of one heading off this afternoon, I really like the third image in the sequence, I wonder if the woman watching the plane depart would be so happy if her home was this close to an airport.

So that is the activity that takes place over the island, under it is far more busy. There is a terrific house reef that has a great variety of hard corals and fish. Here are a few from today.

Making the most of the last light

We walked the 10 meters to the beach to watch the sunset tonight and came across a very funny sight. The guy with the Nikon was getting very specific instructions (in Italian) from his other half as to how she wanted the picture to look, she would give him his direction, walk down to the water, turn her bikini bottoms into a thong, pose for a moment, then come back to Mr Nikon, chimp the image he had just taken, berate him for not getting it right, then head back to the water for another go. I feel no guilt about capturing the scene, but i do feel a little like a paparazzo but without the payoff.

My images, on the other hand, were far more tame Happy

A morning stroll around the island

A bright sunny morning so I thought I would take a stroll around the island with my camera, after the first 2 minutes I really decided that life without the 24-70 was going to be difficult. Anyway these should give you a feel for the place. Of all the Islands in the Maldives that we have been to, this is by far the largest but it still retains the small island feeling, the beach is powder soft white coral sand, the sea is clear, warm and full of fish, the vegetation is lush and green and the weather is HOT.

The beach can be quite deserted

And then again it can be crowded (this is the busiest it ever gets Happy )

Most of the time it looks like this

here is a bar conveniently sighted at the waters edge

And there are a few taxies floating around to take you diving.

So as you can see life is not too hard on Dhuni Kolhu and we are managing to survive quite well. Teresa has brought her second favorite English rugby player along for company.

First full day and some interesting things in the lagoon

A beautiful sunny day with the temperatures hovering just below 40, I went for a swim on the lagoon side of the island without much expectation of encountering anything interesting, very soon I was in a shoal of 100s of trevally. all slowly circling, I just caught a flash of something moving along the bottom and there was a juvenile grey reef shark (about 1.5 meters) working its way along the bottom, i followed him, filming as I went and all of a sudden he swims over the top of the largest adult stingray I have ever seen. I turned my attention to the ray, he sat on the bottom for a few moments then headed off for about 50 yards before settling back into the sand. The complete encounter captured on some very murky video on my G9.

I discovered one of the drawbacks of packing in a hurry last night. Normally when I travel I only take three lenses, a 16-40, 24-70 and a 100-400. Well last night I reached into my bag for the 24-70 only to find that I had packed a 135mm prime. After calling myself all the twats under the sun, I now look forward to the challange.

We arrive in the Maldives to the first rain in months

The journey has been relatively painless, six hours from London Gatwick to Dubai then a two hour stopover followed by a three and a half hour flight to Male, all went to time and we had over exit seats for both flights so legroom was not a problem. Emirates seems to be an excellent airline and even at midnight I think Dubai airport had the busiest duty free shopping mall I have ever been in. We have just completed the thirty minute sea-plane transfer from Male to Dhuni Kolhu and we are now sitting in a very charming little beach villa looking out at beautiful verdant foliage, pure white sand and torrential rain.

The guys at Male airport, the crew of the Twin Otter and the reception staff here on the island have all taken great pleasure telling us that this is the first rain they have seen in months and that it should not last more than a couple of days, heres hoping.

Afternoon Update

After a few hours sleep to to recover from the trip the sun is out, the sky is blue there is not a cloud to spoil our view (well there are quite a few clouds but they are not a problem)

We are getting a new puppy

I have been looking to get an Irish Water Spaniel for some time now. At the last two CLA Game Fairs I spent some time with the people from The Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club asking about breeders and the chances of getting a puppy from good working parents. This is quite a rare breed and even rarer in the sporting field so I was expecting quite a long wait. To cut a long story short we heard of a couple of litters that were due at the end of Feb this year bred by a Gamekeeper in East Sussex with 35 years experience of working with IWS. I called them just after Christmas and said that we were very keen to get and train an IWS bitch. The first litter arrived and produced 4 dogs and 1 bitch, the breeder is keeping that bitch. Yesterday the second litter arrived and produced 4 bitches and 2 dogs, and we have one of the bitches. We are off to see them on Sunday but they will be little more than liver coloured fur balls at the moment.

Here is a picture of the proud parents

That is Maeve (the bitch) on the left and Bentley (an American import dog) on the right.

Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu - The planning

We have been to The Maldives several times in the past and we have always enjoyed them. The small islands are very quiet and provide a real opportunity to rest and unwind whilst at the same time offering some of the best scuba diving in the world.

This year we have arranged our trip through Maldives Direct and Jim Forrest has been really helpful in getting us a deal that significantly undercuts both Kuoni and Hays & Jarvis.

Dhuni Kolhu looks like an ideal spot, small, in a the more remote Baa Atoll and with a good house reef as well as some excellent sounding dive sites a short boat trip away.

It looks pretty fabulous on Google Maps

I have just had all my scuba kit serviced, and its a good thing I did as there was a hole in the diaphragm of my regulator that could have caused me a few problems.

We are flying with Emirates so will have a short stopover in Dubai in both directions. The transfer from Male will be in a twin Otter seaplane which is always fun.

This is the Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu official website.

A few pictures from previous trips to wet the appetite

To Blog or not to Blog? That is the question

Many people (well one or two) have asked my why I don’t blog. I always say because no one would be interested in what I have to say, when in truth I should say that no one would be interested in what I have to say and I am far to lazy to write one anyway.

Well I shall give it a go for the next few weeks. I shall blog my approaching holiday in the Maldives and see what happens.