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Those of us on this year's Easter scuba-diving trip were:
Staying in the hostel:
Staying at Mel and James's house:
Staying at Manhatten/Brixton:
Included by telephone:
I was going to be meeting Sarah Hopewell at Slough station, picking up Rodney at his sister's gaff, picking up Dindin from his gaff, and then driving down to Plymouth. With all that, we were going to need a big car, and plenty of time. I decided to hire the same car that got 4 of us to Penzance and back last year. I also took the afternoon off, to make sure that we arrived in time for a few beers. Rodney had told me his sister's address last night, so I printed off maps of Reading and Plymouth.
After receiving several text messages from Sarah, I met her at Slough station. With all this sending of text messages, I was amazed that she managed to arrive!
Right, what have i forgotten?
I've lost a boot!
Hi billy... Sorry, running about 15mins late. Shud b there 12.45. Had an application form and forgot deadline was tomorrow!
Sorry, jumped on 12.21 to oxford, first stop slough. Shud be in 1240
Anyway, I met her at Slough station. Back at my place, I offered her a cuppa. "Is there time for tea?", she said. I was shocked - there's always time for tea in my plans. What I hadn't accounted for was having to teach her how to use leaf-tea, and a tea-strainer.
After loading up the car, we got onto the M4, and drove to Reading. Sarah kept on getting confused with the two maps, and kept on trying to use the map of Plymouth to navigate around Reading. After almost navigating me into a multi-storey car-park, Sarah got us to Sister Foo's place. Unfortunately, Sister Foo wasn't there, so I didn't get to meet her. Still, we met Rodney. After getting Rodney and his kit into the car, I wasn't sure how we were going to get Dindin and his kit into the motor. I knew we'd manage it somehow.
It was a fairly easy journey to Bath, but there wasn't much totty on the motorway. I did manage to win the Ponce Mini game by about 20 points to 5. We arrived at Dindin's gaff before he'd finished work. Fortunately, Sam was there to let us in, and make us tea. Rodney had tried to get the tea sorted by sending Sam a text message saying "Make tea, woman". Sam didn't get the text message until after we'd arrived, but, being a nice bird, made tea anyway. It was a bit of a shock seeing Dindin in a shirt and tie, but I got over the shock, and we got on our way.
As tradition dictates, my plan was to switch drivers at Collumpton. However, neither Sarah or Rodney wanted to eat at MacDonald's, so we switched drivers at the previous service station. Changes with tradition are never good, and I was beginning to get worried that things would go downhill because of it. At the service station, I spoke to Emily and Emma, who were both in Plymouth already. Yet another break with tradition meant that I wouldn't be first in the pub. At the service station, I tried to find a present for Becky, but couldn't find anything suitable. I can remember watching Rodney at the sweet counter, hoping to see him pack some fudge into a bag, so I could crack a really funny joke, but he didn't.
We made good time, but I got more concerned about breaks with tradition when we didn't turn off and drive into Brixton. I was beginning to get quite paranoid about it. I kept my mind off things by thinking about the curry that we were going to have, with Stella to accompany it. Emily called while we were trying to find the hostel, so I told her the name of the curry house, and she and Nic went to reserve a table. I got a bit confused on the navigating front, and we ended up at the ferry port. Had I known that the hostel was with all the B&Bs, then I wouldn't have needed a map.
Leaving Dindin to find a parking space, I went to have a word with the hostel guvna. I rang the doorbell, and, as if by magic, a fat bloke with funny ears appeared. "Oh", he said, shaking my hand, "You're Rob Dickson", giving me that knowing look. What had Emily and Nic said to him? He said that they'd had a bit of an accident with the previous guests, but I was relieved when he told me that he'd had to break the lock when they got locked out. I was tempted to come out with a fat gag, when he said that he'd had to "go in like an elephant", but decided against it.
Knowing that Emily and Nic had the code for the door, I found the others, and we went straight into town. I told them that I knew where we were going, but they weren't really convinced. Fortunately, the others didn't have any other ideas about how to get to the curry house, so they followed me, with the occasional sly comment about getting lost. Without any problems, we got to the curry house, and the girls were waiting there for us. We got a table without any problems, ordered Stella, and curry. About half-way through the starters, I realised that we'd forgotten to order poppadoms. All these changes from tradition are bound to end in tears. After the curry, we met Zoe and Becky in the Wetherspoon's opposite the Stella-serving Chinese. It was great to see them again, and there was plenty of other totty to perve at as well. We all went back to the hostel, and somebody started snoring.
[Continued on the train on the way to Chris & Ellie's wedding, after having told someone inconsiderate woman off for using her mobile in the mobile free carriage - she didn't even apologise]
We woke up in good time, and, unsurprisingly, I was first in the kitchen for tea, closely followed by Dindin. I was in charge of tea and toast, and Dindin was in charge of the rest. The grill on the cooker didn't look usable, but some other guest pointed out that the microwave had a grill. It took Dindin ages to figure out how to use it, but I carried on making tea, since I knew I wouldn't manage any better.
Without marg or oil, toast was going to be dry and fried eggs were going to be difficult. We considered using the fat from the sausages and bacon, but decided that Sarah, Nic, and Rodders wouldn't be very impressed. As another break from tradition, I agreed to risk scrambled eggs instead of fried eggs. After all, I didn't expect we would be diving very deep.
Dindin still hadn't learned his way around Plymouth yet, so I directed him, with Zoe and Becky following. I took a slightly wrong route, but there was no hurry. I was pleased to find that we could tune into Pirate. We arrived at Bovie to find Emily and Nic already there (having used TomTom). Fortunately, they hadn't grabbed the good unloading space, so Dindin parked us there for the day.
First things first, I had to head downstairs to get a few teas, and start my tab for the weekend. Emma wasn't feeling very well, so Gordy joined Dindin and me. The journey out to the JEL was fairly uneventful, except for my cap coming off, and falling overboard. I'd only taken 4 caps with me, so I couldn't afford to lose one this early on in the trip. Fortunately, Danny implemented the now well-practised "cap overboard" drill.
We had a pretty good dive on the JEL. We swam around the edge for a while, and then went up and over into the inside. Gordy went down one side of the columns, and Dindin and I went down the other. I then spent a few minutes squeezing between two columns. Dindin, on the other hand, just went back over the top. When it was time to surface, Dindin refused to use his SMB, and Gordy pretended not to have one. Feeling cold, I gave in first, and I used the SMB. I had set a worrying precedent.
Back at Bovie, I was shocked to find out that Dave had stopped selling pasties. Still, the Diver Burgers made an excellent substitute. While eating, I got a surprising text message from Cherryboy - "Guess where i ended up last night? strip joint! it was interesting... scary but interesting. robin". Maybe the now Ex-cherryboy!
Back on the boat for the second dive, Gordy was not impressed to find out that we might be diving the JEL again. Sarah and Smallman really wanted to do the JEL. I was happy doing anything, but there was a risk of a Gordy Sulk. Danny saved the day by suggesting that we dive the stern. Gordy had fun finding lots of swim-throughs, but still pretended not to have an SMB. Dindin gave in this time, and used the SMB. Looking at how long it took him, I think he needed the practice!
The plan was to go to the Stella-serving Chinese, but there was a break-away group of skin-flints who wanted to go to the Wetherspoon's to save money. I'd spoken to my old diving mate Andy Foey (of Great Sea Cucumber Ejaculation Dive fame), who was up for a Chinese, so Gordy, Emma, Rich, Chris, Dindin, and I stuck with the original plan.
After a quick pint in a nice pub almost opposite, we went for a Chinese. I was surprised to find that it was bottled Stella, and not draught, but they still had Stella glasses. Good food, good company, Stella, and totty waitresses - what else could a bloke want? Maybe the sexy bunny girls that the others were seeing in the Wetherspoon's.
I remember Emma pointing out that the rhinoceros was probably a left over from the dinosaur era, and I was amazed to then hear Rich agree with her, saying that it was a valid suggestion. Not only that, but Gordy didn't go on his "VR3s bend people, Suuntos don't" rant - maybe because Emma and he now own VR3s! All these breaks in tradition were happening more often.
Andy, Enda, Dindin, and I had a quick one in the Wetherspoon's (not the one that the others were drinking in). It really had the potential to be a dodgy pub, with a sign in the toilets about access to cash. There was also a fair bit of totty.
On our way back, I realised that we'd left Rodney on his own with 5 women in the hostel. As if to confirm this, I got a text message from Becky - "Yo fellow divers. Rodney said to tell you he's in bed with 5 girls. See you early tmrw! Xx". By the time we got back, they were all tucked up in bed, so we did our best to be quiet.
[just arrived in Winchester .... to be continued .......]
When I went to get the first round of teas in, Dave pointed out that everybody had put their food and drinks on my tab, and it now stood at £35. Bloody cheek. After Gordy's comments in the Chinese last night ("I don't want to dive with those tossers"), he was lucky to find that Emma was feeling better, otherwise he would have been diving on his own. We were planning on going deep on Monday, so were working towards it. Our first dive today was going to be 35m on The Elk. It's a small wreck, and I've dived it enough times that I know exactly what to expect. I was up for swimming alongside the wreck for a bit, to find dive kit, but had forgotten to discuss this with Dindin on the surface.
Dave was still having problems with his back, so Danny was coxing all day today (as he would be on Sunday and Monday, as well). We were worried that this would mean that the propeller would get caught in the shotline, but Danny managed to keep away from it (there's a first time for everything!). I can't remember anything particularly interesting about the dive itself, but when we were swimming off towards the reef, I found a nice shiny new weight-belt. Dindin tied his reel to it, and up we went. Way-hay - we'll get a few quid for that!
Back to Bovie for a Diver Burger and some more tea. Our second dive of the day was going to be a quick guven on the Scylla. This time, Gordy got to dive the wreck that he wanted to. We did the usual wreck penetration, and found lots of swim-throughs. Dindin found a circular hole in the floor, and spent about 5 minutes trying to squeeze through. By the time he'd got halfway through, and then back up again, I needed to do some serious finning to warm up, so didn't show him how it's done! Controversially, I used the SMB without being forced to. Yet another new thing for the weekend.
Dindin and I couldn't decide between Thai and Indian. Andy had suggested a good Thai restaurant, but I fancied trying out the Ganges - an Indian restaurant that I'd had my eyes on for a year or two. When we got back to Bovie, we found that James had suggested going to the Ganges already, so that made our decision for us.
Gordy and Emma had moved from Manhatten to Brixton, but wanted to join us in Plymouth for a curry. We went via Brixton to pick them up, so they only had to get a taxi back to the campsite. As I was walking back from the toilet block to their tent, I saw a woman walking towards them. "Sorry", I heard her say, "but we don't allow youngsters to stay". We were a little bit confused, so I said, "But we've stayed here lots of times before. Baz will vouch for us". She turned and looked at me, and said, "Oh, sorry. I didn't realise that they were with you!". I was not impressed! OK, so I was the oldest in the group, but Gordy is over 30.
We had a quick pint at a pub near the hostel, and then another at a pub near the Ganges, while we were waiting for the others to turn up. While we were in the second pub, we were discussing tri-mix fills. I reminded the others that Neil had told us a way of "analysing" tri-mix using an O2 analyser. They didn't believe me at first, but they did eventually (although we couldn't remember exactly how).
The menu in the Ganges seemed quite expensive, until I realised that there was 50% off everything. That annoyed me straight away - doubling the prices, just so they can put a sign outside offering 50% off. How stupid does the owner think we are? Looking at the rest of the diners, I could see the answer to that straight away! The food wasn't bad, but the service was pants, and they tried to charge us for a bottle of wine that we hadn't ordered. James assured us that it's normally better than that, so I'll probably try it one more time.
Dindin, Nic, and I had a couple of pints (well, I had two pints, Dindin had one pint and water, and Nic had water) in a strange pub next door to the Ganges, before heading back to the hostel for another late night! Sarah was diving at 08:30, but we had swapped her in the car for Nic, so we got to have a bit of a lie in.
After our lie-in (and cleaning all the toothpaste off my glasses, which I'd left on the hand-basin in the dorm room), we arrived at Bovie. Dindin had a bit of a headache, so decided not to dive (unlike the first day in Scapa, when he hoped that a 40m dive would get rid of it). Having had an extra pint last night, I had no headache at all. I therefore got to dive with Gordy and Emma. Unlike Friday's dive (when, without Emma to tell him off, Gordy harassed sea-life on the JEL), Gordy was very well behaved today.
Dannie had tied my SMB onto the shot, so all we had to do at the bottom was put a bit of air into it. Despite knowing that air expands a lot when going up from 30m to the surface, Gordy still filled the SMB as full as it's possible to. If it burst on the way up, he wouldn't hear the last of it! He then swam off to find the ledge down to 40m. I followed him, wondering when he was going to realise that we were going the wrong way. After about 5 minutes, he stopped and turned around. I pointed him in the right direction, and off we went. We found 40m, swam around a bit, came back up to 30m, and then went up. I would have used my SMB, but it was attached to Dannie's shot! The 8 degree water was feeling very cold on the deco stops.
Back on dry land, we started planning our 55m dive on the Medoc (after a Diver Burger, of course). I suggested using a mix of something like 21/25, but Gordy wanted to use 18/30, because that's what we'd used the previous time. Although my suggestion would have been better for us, and cheaper, I couldn't be bothered to argue with him. While we were planning the dive, one of Dave's mates came up, and asked where in the TDI manual, it said that divers should carry fluffy pink pencil cases!
After planning the dive, we had to find somewhere to get a Trimix fill. I wanted to avoid Deep Blue, but, unfortunately, it was the only place that was open and had helium. I had said that the bloke at QAB did Trimix, but nobody believed me. Did Dindin ever pay me the 50p, when we found out that I was right? At QAB, I saw a bloke who looked as if he might be Richie, so I went up to have a word. "The Rob Dickson?", he said, as I introduced myself, "I thought we were on your black list". "You are", I replied, "it's just that nowhere else is open".
We all got our fills (using the mix that Gordy wanted), and also got our stages filled as well. Richie also said that anybody who says that it's possible to analyse trimix using only an O2 analyser is "talking out of his arse". As an apology for the terrible service before, Richie didn't charge us for the 50% fills in the stage cylinders. He is now back in my good books! On the way back to Bovie, Gordy said "You know. We could have got a different mix for this dive". I think it was his way of saying "Actually, Billy, you were right about the mix"!
While we were waiting for the others to finish diving, I had a quick look at the BBC News website, and was highly amused by a story about a BA plane making an emergency landing in Kazakhstan. The airport in Kazakhstan is a horrible airport, but the overall story made me laugh. While I was inside making tea, Emma came in and asked Dave (who was still suffering with his back) whether he had any selotape. He didn't, but I'm glad that he didn't, when I found out what she wanted the tape for. Gordy wanted to sellotape his belly-button fluff into my logbook.
In the evening, we all went over to James's for a chilli. He and Mel have a really nice place, having put a lot of hard work into it. Dindin didn't want to drink, but he knew that the only way to make sure that he didn't give into temptation was to drive. Top man! Remembering that we were doing a 55m dive in the morning, I limited myself to two cans of Stella.
During the evening, we telephoned Mel, and had a transatlantic sing of the Moose Song. We also called Cherryboy to sing to him, but he sounded as if he'd been drinking all day, so we soon got bored of his slurring. Actually, it wasn't bored, I think we actually got a bit scared!
Leaving most of the girls in bed, we left the hostel (after Becky had knocked her hairbrush onto my head), ready for a bit of 55m action. I was worried, since I'd had solid dumps for the whole weekend - another deviation from normal. When we got to Bovie, Dindin and I started a "Billy ONLY" tab, because Rodders had started trying to work out who owes for what for the previous 3 days.
After loading up the boat, we headed off to the Medoc. As usual, I was quite nervous, so made sure that I had plenty of time to visualise the dive. Danny shotted the wreck, and, since we weren't dropping it on the Elk, didn't get caught in the shotline. Gordy and Emma went in first, and Dindin and I followed. We were planning on leaving the bottom by 15 minutes at the latest. By the time we'd descended, tied an SMB onto the shot, and partially filled it with air (note to Gordy - PARTIALLY), we didn't have that long actually diving the wreck. My VR3 seemed to be giving us a very long time to surface, and I then realised that I hadn't turned the 50% mix back on after planning the bail-out option the previous day. Rather than spending ages explaining to Dindin what the problem was, and then even longer fixing it, I just showed my VR3 to Dindin, and he sorted it out. That gave us an extra few minutes at 20m, during which my VR3 thought I was breathing trimix. We also had an extra minute at 6m, and a couple of extra minutes at 4.5m. There was a bit of current running on the stops, but nothing that was worth letting go of the shot-line for. When we got on the boat, we found out that not only did Gordy also forget to turn his 50% mix on, but he also forgot to turn his manifold on!
Back at Bovie, I felt a slight twinge in my left arm when lifting my twin-set onto the side of the boat. I didn't think too much of it, and walked up all those steps with the twin-set on my back. We loaded up a trolley with all our kit, and then pushed it up towards the cars. As Emma pointed out - "If this doesn't give us a bend, then nothing will".
I went down to sort teas out, but, while I was talking to Dave, I felt the twinge in my arm again. It only lasted a few seconds, but Dave saw me rubbing my arm and asked if I was OK. "Actually Dave", I replied, "I'm not sure that I am". Straight-away, I was sitting down, breathing from stage-cylinder, and then one of Dave's mates brought his O2 set. Dave called the DDRC, and the person he spoke to said I should go in. It made sense for Gordy, Emma, and Dindin to come with me as well, so we all piled into Gordy and Emma's motor (with me still breathing the oxygen).
There was a fair bit of totty on the roads, and I wasn't going to let a little thing like a bend stop me from perving. Watching me take the mask away from my mouth as I perved made Dindin smile (I couldn't have the totty thinking I was ill, could I?). I got assessed by a totty doctor, who found that the feeling in my left arm and left knee wasn't as good as it should me. The left knee always gives me jip, but the left arm should be OK. To make sure that I stayed hydrated (being a good boy, I wasn't dehydrated), she put a drip into my arm. Emma started getting aches, but the doctor decided that she was just imagining it, being worried about me getting a bend. The others went back to Bovie, with Dindin driving to Bath, leaving me to get the train. When they got back, ZoŽ asked how I was. "In Dindin's and my expert opinions, Billy doesn't have a bend", Gordy said to her.
I was happy to find out that they'd found a totty medical student to look after me in the pot. I was beginning to regret asking for a hood instead of a mask, since it made communicating with her quite difficult. Instead, we got to watch a few DVDs. The first one was James Bond, and the second was a film with Bob Hoskins. After a few minutes of rape and violence, I asked whether they could put something a little less violent on - the poor little sensitive bloke I am! After about half-an-hour in the pot, the feeling in my left arm had returned to normal.
With all the saline dripping into me, it wasn't long before I needed a pee. There was a small cardboard pot in the corner that I could use. I walked over, and stood there, confused, with the pot in one hand, and my drip bag in the other. I was just about to turn around, and say, "Cop hold of this love", when she found a hook for me to hang the bag on. Bugger!
After the 5-hour treatment, the doctor assessed me, and everything seemed OK. She wanted to check me out again in the morning, so they put me up in the lodge overnight. Dindin had dropped my clothes back at the DDRC, before driving back to Bath with Sarah and Rodders. At the lodge, there were several text messages and voicemail messages, asking if I was OK. Dave had left a message at the DDRC offering a lift to the station in the morning. He'd really looked after me well at Bovie, I definitely owe him a few pints. Two text messages are worth a mention. The first, from Becky, asked me to say "hello" to a doctor if I bumped into him. She doesn't waste an opportunity! The second, from Zoe, said "Hi Billy Just wanted to check ur ok and to tell you what i saw on my journey- passion wagon blue yes, passion wagon line green yes and passion wagon orange no. Hope this keeps you busy!! Speak soon Zoe x". It was nice to hear from her, but I would have to teach her the rules properly!
The worrying thing about this bend (unlike my previous one), was that I can't really point towards something that I did wrong. I was hydrated, hadn't drunk that much the night before, we didn't miss any stops, we did extra safety stops, and we did a textbook dive profile. I was tired, and cold, so that could have contributed to me getting a bend. Based on advice from Richie (via Nick), I'd changed the conservatism setting on the VR3 from 20% to 0%. I think I'll be changing it back to 20% or 30%, since 0% obviously bends me.
I spoke to Dindin on the way back, and he told me that they'd divided up my tab between everybody. Personally, I would have split it equally (if people put stuff on my tab without asking, I can divide it up how I want to!). Fortunately, Rodders worked it out exactly. There were 38 cups of tea unclaimed, so Dindin decided that they were probably down to the two of us! I called James, and he was up for having a bite to eat in the pub near the DDRC. There was a fair bit of totty in the pub, but I thought that I ought to be good, and not have any Stella.
This bend was going to be really expensive. I was going to have to extend the car hire by a day, and also pay for a train from Plymouth to Bath. Still, I got checked out by the totty doctor, and she said that everything was OK, and that I shouldn't fly for 72 hours, or dive for 4 weeks. The DDRC even paid for a taxi to the station.
On the train on the way back, I sat next to this woman who lived in Plymouth, but was going on holiday to Portugal. I found out fairly quickly that she was single, but wasn't sure whether to pull her, or not. She was a little bit old for me! I got her address and phone number, so might look her up next time we're in Plymouth.
I arrived in Bath during Dindin's lunch hour, so he met me at the station, and we went to Flat9 for a cuppa. Sam even made some nice baps (ooh-err). I had to leave pretty quickly, since I needed to get back to work.
In the evening, I spent quite a long time on the phone, chatting to various people. I spoke to Emma, who told me that Gordy and Rich had decided that I had a PFO. The doctor at the DDRC, and my local diving doctor in Berkshire, both doubted that I had a PFO, but I'll have to bow to Gordy and Rich's greater knowledge. After all, in Gordy's "expert opinion", I didn't get a bend! To be fair Gordy and Rich could be right, but I'm not convinced at the moment.
Thanks to everybody for making it a brilliant weekend, and a special thanks to everybody who helped me out on Monday.
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Created on: 18 Apr 2006. Modified on: 29 Apr 2006.
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