2011

Happy New Year from Harley & Sookie

We took the dogs to Bosworth Water Trust today for a New Year's Eve swim. The weather is so mild compared to this time last year but I still would not fancy a swim in the lake, the dogs loved it. Before they got wet we took a few end of year portraits.

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The Atherstone Boxing Day Hunt

My nephew was riding in the Atherstone Hunt Boxing Day outing today so we went down to see them off. They set off from the town of Market Bosworth which was the site of the penultimate battle of The War of the Roses in 1485. It is a small town and was absolutely crammed with people, horses and hounds. Taking any sort of coherent pictures would have been very very difficult so I thought I would just take a few pictures to try and show just how diverse a group of people hunt, all ages and backgrounds enjoy this traditional country sport and it is great to see so many young people out there. The only thing that is a bit disappointing is just how bad the posture is with some of the younger riders, the Army riding instructors that I used to know would be having a fit

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Jacob and Oliver meet Santa Claus

On Sunday we took our nephews Jacob (4) and Oliver (2) to see Father Christmas. The afternoon was put on at Syston Masonic Hall just outside Leicester. The boys really enjoyed Bonkers the Clown and his naughty dog Dusty. Father Christmas arrived with his helpers and the kids really were excited. Life is so much ore fun when you are 4 and 2 years old.


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The car has just been cleaned, it would be a shame not to take some pictures

Teresa took the cars to be cleaned and as we recently swapped the Mercedes for another BMW it seemed like a good idea to take a few pictures, this is our second Z4 and to be honest I wish it was our third, the Mercedes SLK was a big mistake. This is a BMW Z4 30i sDrive M Sport Highline Edition and it is a serious risk to my licence.


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Teresa not quite getting the top down enjoy the sunshine lifestyle Happy

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The dogs and I were nice and warm though

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Ladies Day Shoot - Wear It Pink

A good friend of mine, Louise Bailey, organised a Ladies Day Shoot, as a fund raiser for The Breast Cancer Campaign as part of their Wear it Pink Day.

It was a fabulous day, everything came together, the weather, the wonderful autumn colours, the birds, the ducks and everyone who took part.

The day started with a wonderful soft mist and then the sun rose and started to burn it off as the first drive started, a great drive with a good number of ducks flying over at decent intervals. The day carried on in much the same way and the last drive of the day was really spectacular. As of today the event has raised £1712.

You can see all the pictures from the day
HERE but as a small taster …


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SIWSC Any Variety Retriever Gundog Working Test

It was a wonderful day at Westbrook Farm in Derbyshire where the Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club ran an all variety retriever gundog working test. The weather was, if anything, a little too hot but given that the same event last year was held in torrential rain no one was complaining. The dogs looked wonderful and most worked really well. It was a real pleasure to see some really Fox Red Labradors, and truly golden Golden Retrievers.


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Ride To The Wall

Today was the 5th annual Ride To The Wall. This is a mass ride by bikers, many of them ex armed services, from all over the British Isles to the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire.

I set off with a group of about 500 other motorcycles fro the Leicester East services and we rode the 60 miles to the NMA with amazing support from both the police and the RTTW marshals. I have no idea how many bikes finnaly converged at the arboretum but it was way up in the several thousands.

The weather was glorious, and although it is a fairly solemn occasion you could not have a gathering of several thousand ex armed forces bikers without having a pretty good time to.

I met up with an old army buddy, Steve Bartlett who I have not seen for over 25 years. Unfortunately he still has a lot more hair than me.



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The Midland Game Fair

We had a very busy (and long) weekend at The Midland Game Fair at Weston Park, Shropshire. We had to be on site by 07:00 hrs each day which meant getting up at 05:00 to get the dogs sorted and to drive there. The show was smaller than it has been in the past but there were plenty of “last show of the season bargains”. There was no arena display or working for the Irish Water Spaniels but we did have a presence in the Gun Dog Pavilion, and as we only had 4 dogs there we did spend a lot of time in the pen. There were just over 100 Irish Water Spaniel puppies registered with the Kennel Club last year against over 40000 Labradors, yet when it came to the parade of gun dogs there were no labs to be seen so Harley had to step into the breach and Teresa had her introduction the display ring.

One of the great benefits of being out and about in the early morning,particularly in Autumn is the quality of the light and the combination of the golden morning light and the start of the rusty fall colours is stunning.

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The ring had been set up for scurries so it made getting decent pictures quite difficult, but you should be able to pick out some of the more interesting characters Happy

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An evenings stalking in West Sussex

It was a lovely night stalking with Darren Phizacklea of Viscount Stalking. The season for Fallow Stags started on the 1st August so it is still early. We were on the Paddockhurst Estate near Turners Hill. It was a fine evening and we set out at around 18:00 hrs. The bracken is still really high and this makes it very difficult to see into the cover. Over the next two and a half hours we worked our way around the estate, he saw several fallow does and even caught a couple of fleeting glimpses of muntjac. As the light continued to fade we spotted a doe in a ride about 240 yards away, we were in the open in a large sloping field that had recently been cut for silage.. We stood and watched her for a while and after about 10 minutes two fallow prickets came into the ride sparing with each other. We were far to exposed to move freely so we started a long crawl to get into a reasonable position to take a shot. I took the shot downhill from 130 yards (we checked it with a range finder after the shot). The shot placed perfectly in his chest and he dropped instantly. He was a good looking melanistic 2 year old buck, that weighed in at 76 lb. as a dressed carcass.

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Problems with new Elinchrom studio lights.

Warehouseexpress.com had a great deal on an Elinchrom BXRi 250/500 Twin Flash Head Kit so unable to resist the “bargain” I went for it. Unfortunately it looks like one of the units (the 500) has been assembled incorrectly in that the lugs that the modifiers key onto are in the wrong place. I spent several hours trying to sort it out as I was almost sure it was down to me being dumb, but I had both softboxes assembled identically as you can see.

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but when they are attached to the heads the one on the 250 is square whilst the one on the 500 is not, as you can see.

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Looking at the lights side by side you can see that the locating lugs are about 45 degrees different, the yellow line psasses through the lugs.

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I have come to the conclusion that it is a fault and not just me being very dense so they are going back on Monday.

I took a few pictures with them before I packed them up and despite the wonky fitting they appear to work well.

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CLA Game Fair, Blenheim Palace - 22nd - 24th July 2011

We have just returned from n excellent but exhausting weekend at the Country Landowners Association Game Fair at Blenheim Palace.

I was there with the
Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club, where we were giving demonstrations of the dogs working as well as having dogs in the Working Dogs Pavilion for people to see and ask questions of their owners / handlers.

Whilst we were primarily there to work the dogs, we also had a thoroughly good time, I can also now cross hijack and take a mobility scooter for a ride off my bucket list.

Even though I was there for the full three days I did not get to see too much in the main arena, but I did make the time to watch the final of the Arena Polo competition that had been t=running for the three days. Europe beat South America 6 - 5 in the final.

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Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club Gundog Working & Water Test

The weekend of the 9th and 10th of July saw the annual running of the Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club Water Test and Working Gundog Test in the grounds of Chillington Hall in Staffordshire.

I had hoped to run my IWS bitch Sookie in the Puppies 12 - 18 months class, but with her impeccable timing she came into season a couple of weeks ago so I could not take her.

It was an excellent weekend the venue was glorious and the weather was very kind indeed. I think Sookie would have done well as she is easily at or above the standard of the other dogs in her class, mind you it is easy for me to say that given that she was not there Happy

Here are a few pictures from a great weekend.

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This is John Rolfe the Chairman of the Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club running his dog Corcoran Cass

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Our last day, heading home in the morning

So today was our last full day on the island, all we have to look forward to tomorrow is a knock on our door at 05:30, a swift breakfast followed by a 35 minute seaplane trip to Male, a couple of hours kicking our heels at Male Airport and then an 11 hour flight to Gatwick and a 3 hour drive home. After two weeks of doing very little indeed the itinerary for tomorrow is grim. As if to rub salt into the wounds the weather today has been perfect, clear blue sunny skies all day culminating in an almost perfect sunset.

As they say, “All good things must come to an end” and it looks as if they are right Sad

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All the wildlife was in the mood for posing today.

It’s our last full day on the island tomorrow so the weather did it’s best today to really rub in how much we are going to miss it. Last chance to dive today as there is an enforced 24 hour between the last dive and the flight so I went down to say good by to all my new found fishy friends and it seemed that today was the day that everything wanted it’s picture taken, even a parrot fish decided to show me his best side.

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And this little fellow was doing his best to look as cute as possible

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This trigger fish even wanted to show me how clean he kept his teeth Happy

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And it was not jus the little stuff that was anxious to be recorded for posterity, these chaps also wanted to get in on the act.

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On the surface, this guy was happy to hang around and have is portrait taken.

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So the only wildlife that really wasn’t playing was T

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We watched an air taxi depart this afternoon knowing that the day after tomorrow we will also be departing, the only thing I am looking forward to getting back to is the dogs.

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24th and 25th The weather was not so good.

Our plans to get away to a deserted island for our wedding anniversary on the 25th did not work out well. We had a storm of wind , rain, thunder and lightning that lasted all day, discretion being the greater part of valour we decided to stay on Angaga and catch up on some sleep.

The weather today could not be a greater contrast blazing sunshine all day, I kicked off the day with a dive and then spent the rest of the day doing as little as possible, with the exception of discovering that the barman makes a very strong “Long Island Iced Tea”

This is Michael Schauppner from Seelze in Germany, he has been my regular dive buddy, which is pretty good going considering he is here on his honeymoon!

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This is not Michael
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And this is Teresa my Non-Dive Buddy Happy

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It had to happen, a day of rain Sad

The day started off nice and bright. We went to wave off a couple that we met on the island, they were leaving on the 10:30 air taxi to Male, it was sunny and warm, their plane was slightly delayed, and they left at about 11. We waved them off, walked back to our bungalow and the rain started, it is now three feature films later and it is still raining.


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It’s coming on for 19:30 and it’s still raining.

A quiet Sunday

We had a very relaxed and quiet Sunday today, a latish breakfast and then a stroll around the island. We had a relaxed swim to cool off, and then decided to have a snorkle along the reef, so minus camera we set off and had a great drift along the coral, Teresa getting very excited as she spotted the shark Happy. then it was back to chilling and relaxing, Chillaxing is the new term I understand.

I took a few pictures around the island today, these should give you some idea of just how small the island is. The water bungalows look ok but we have stayed in them on a previous trip to another island and both Teresa and I prefer to be on the beach.

We are heading off to an even smaller island soon as we are being cast adrift on our own deserted island to celebrate our wedding anniversary on the 25th.

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If you look really closely below you can just make out Teresa reading her book in the shade.
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Tomorrow is Sunday so I will stay dry.

We have been here almost a week now, and I seem to have spent all my time either in or under the water, it is not surprising as there is so much to see, every trip turns into a veritable beauty parade of marine life. Teresa is going a lovely golden brown and I remain white and wrinkled (from the water not from age tut tut)

It is not just the “Big Stuff” that is exciting underwater, some of the shrimps that work the cleaning stations are almost glass like and unbelievably delicate.

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But the big stuff is also fun, we had a great display from some eagle rays that almost looked like they were showing off.

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You can’t visit the Maldives without trying to get the “Ultimate Maldives Cliche Shot” so here it is Happy

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As we came to the end of the reef and started to ascend up the sand we came upon a very knackerd shark that was trying to get a bit of shut eye. Unfortunately we woke him up.

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And just because I really like them here is a Batfish for you.
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The flattest calmest day ...... EVER

We awoke this morning to the most amazingly calm day, there was not a movement on the water and you genuinely could not work out where the water stopped and the sky began, I went for a dive at 10 o’cock and the water was as clear as gin. Unfortunately with there being no breeze you really feel the temperature, but we are definitely not complaining.

Another interesting trip under the water today. You must have seen films of sharks swimming with other fish stuck firmly to their undersides (I can’t remember what they are called, it’s an age thing) well today my dive buddy and I swam thorough a group of them who promptly decided that they could not be bothered to wait for sharks any longer and that we were the next best thing, they were a real nuisance for a while.

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Here are some pretty yellow fish, because I like pretty yellow fish.

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And now for a “Beauty and the Beast” moment, some of the things you find in the Indian Ocean are very ferocious and ugly, others are completely serene and beautiful, I will let you be the judges Happy

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The weather continues to be hot hot hot

When we arrived everyone told us that the weather had been hot overcast and very wet the previous week, well we have seen none of that, we have had dawn to dusk sunshine since we arrived. The island really is very small but there is lots of palms and mangroves and plenty of crabs, herons, fruit bats and some other very friendly birds that I have not found out the names of yet.

I have not taken too many pictures above the water yet, I am sure I will get round to it eventually. Here are a couple from today to give you a bit of a feel for the place. The first is the jetty where the dive boats set off from and the second two are “Our little bit of beach” directly outside our beach bungalow.

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Another interesting day under the water, so here are a couple of highlights ...
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First full day on the island

The island is tiny, which is great, you can walk around it in less than 10 minutes, the sand is soft and white, the water clear and warm and the villa is clean and comfortable, what more could you ask for? Well a good house reef for a start and by any standards this one is not so bad Happy

I spent a wee bit of time in the water today just to get used to the new camera housing, I still need to practice practice practice but for a first effort they are not so bad.

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Teresa went to the spa for a massage this afternoon and on the way there (all of 100 yards we came across this guy.

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An interesting flight

Unfortunately it was an interesting and very long flight. Spending10 hours in seats with a 30 inch rake is not ideal when you are a 6’6” fat boy. And that was in premium the best upgrade we could get (for get read pay for). About 4 hours into the flight the Captain came on the PA telling us that he was considering diverting to Turkey to unload the passenger who was incapable of going 10 hours without a cigarette and lit up in one of the toilets. What is it with some people, just how weak and selfish do you have to be to do that? Anyway, we did not divert to Turkey and I have no idea what happened to the miscreant when we arrived in Male.

Male was hot and humid when we arrived and it was a about an hour and a half before we set off in a Twin Otter air taxi to the island of Angaga.


Male must have one of the busiest air taxi ranks in the world, there are at least 3 companies working out of there and flights are departing and coming in every minute or so.


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Our pilot was a cool looking dude and despite the fact that they must fly these routes all the time sat nav is still the way to go.

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After a 30 minute flight we got our first look at what is to be our home for the next two weeks.
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So we had the longest day possible up at 0600:hrs Sunday to sort out the dogs and cats, a drive to Gatwick the nonsense 3 hours kicking around at the airport a 10 hour flight with no sleep, a couple of hours waiting for the air taxi and the flight and then we arrived.

This is Teresa sitting in reception awaiting the keys to our villa, I wish I looked this good after 30 hours without sleep!

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It's Holiday (Vacation) time again

It’s almost time to pack the bags and the dive gear and head off to the Maldives. This year we are going to be staying on Angaga Island Resort in the South Ari Atol. We have chosen Angaga as it reputedly has one of the best house reefs in the Maldives, I have a new underwater housing for may Canon EOS 7D so hopefully there should be some good pictures coming back.

It has been a really tough 6 months at work so I am really looking forward to the break. Interestingly there is some civil unrest in the Maldives at the moment but given the nature and geography of the islands it is very unlikely that we will even notice. I am not sure what the web access is like on the island, but if possible I will try and post updates pretty regularly.