Sunday, March 29, 2009

2nd week in Egypt...

The start of this week saw Nick and I hauling ourselves up and down the swimming pool at the Dive School, attempting to pass the divemaster timed swim tests. As it happens we did quite well, and our score was higher than we'd hoped. I suspect that John our instructor was surprised at my times. Lets just say I don't look like a finely honed althete at the best of times. This is the pool at the dive school:

We also had another exam this week on Supervising Student Divers. We both got 100% again. Either we are geniuses or the exams are a bit easy!

Along side all the training drills and dive theory lectures we had to deal with hotel problems, which has resulted in us moving to a different place. A bad combination of an internet hotel seller selling rooms they didn't have, coupled with a hotel that was overbooked anyway means we are now in a nicer hotel at a not such nice price.

On thursday we took a holiday from our holiday and went to Luxor, then Cairo, then Alexandria. Now I am totally exhausted but Wow, what an amzing 3 days. We did a whistlestop tour of the Valley of the kings, Karnak Temple (utterly staggering and my favourite place of the trip) Queen Hatshautsut's temple, The Pyramids and Sphinx, The Cairo museum (lots of Mummies and everything from Tutenkhamun's tomb)The Alexandria library and roman catacombs.

I could write for hours about what we saw but I'm in an internet cafe so time is limited. Here are a few snaps:

Valley of the kings. (no cameras allowed insdie the tombs)

Karnak temple (a tiny bit of it - it is MASSIVE, and 4000 years old.)

Nick at Karnak

The sphinx. After dark we went to the Pyramid Sound and Light show. James Bonds fans will know it from The spy who loved me. It was hilariously tacky but still cool.

Thats all for now folks. We have got 2 days of diving for fun coming up, and then we start back on the course on wednesday.

Note for Ed and Jon:

In the name of research for our new library in Edinburgh, I visited the amazing library in Alexandria for some ideas. What do you think? Should we include palm trees? It's on a slightly different scale admittedly. The ancient library was nearly totally destroyed, only 7 million scrolls and books remain from antiquity. This was just 10% of what was there originally!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Photos from our technical diving course

Nick with his twin-set and wing on the dive boat.

This is Nick and John Kean, our instructor. John is a brilliant diver, an absolute perfectionist and is not giving us an easy ride. He has a slate which he writes on during dives if we cock up. We call it the slate of Dooooom. It's a bit like being on a permanent driving test and seeing the examiner draw a big cross on your sheet.

Here I am ready to jump in. When tec diving you have to have 2 of everything in case of an emergency. So I've got 3 regulators connected to 3 seperate air sources, 2 computers, 2 masks, etc. I wish I has 2 brains to remember where everything is!

First update from my Scubatical

5 days in Sharm and the days are already flying. We have been so busy! We are here for 5 weeks to do our Divemsater course, which is the first step to becoming a professional diver.

We kicked off on the first morning with some technical diving tuition. We have learnt some pretty advanced dive theory which scrambled our brains and got us doing maths the likes of which I haven't done since I was 18. Then it was into the Red Sea with twin-set tanks and another tank slung at the side. This is not your normal recreational diving! The kit I'm wearing weighs over 50kg and I struggle to stand up.

Because we are on a course we had to carry out some pretty tough skills to test our reactions to kit failure and stress. The most difficult skills were the ones without wearing a mask. Your visibility is vitually nil and taking off all this equipment and putting it back, underwater, hovering at a constant depth and blind is no easy task. We both managed though, and it was a good confidence boost. Our instructor said to me afterwards: 'you have very good problem solving skills. Unfortunately you also have good problem creation skills'. I don't know what he could mean!

Tomorrow is the last day of our decommpression diving course and we will be going down to 45m for 22mins - the deepest dive we have ever done. The penalty for going so deep for so long is that we have to decompress for an hour afterwards, breathing 60% oxygen. (yum, I could get addicted!)

Just to dispell the myth that we are here on a jolly holiday I would like to confirm that we have been meeting John (our instructor) at 7.45 every morning and finishing up with theory sessions after 7.00pm. By then we are so knackered it's straight off for food and then sleep. I've been here for 5 days and not drunk a single G&T, so there's no way this is classed as a holiday!

Sharm is it's usual self, full of horn-tooting mad taxi drivers, persistant shop keepers and mosquitos. You should see the state of my legs after a night without repellant spray. Thankfully egyptian pharmacuticals seem much stronger than British equivalents (600mg ibruprofen!?!) and the antihistamines are sorting out the infernal itching.

Our hotel is great for a place that only costs £110 a week. This is lucky because the exchange rate is terrible for us brits at the moment. Last year Egypt was a cheap place to visit with 10LE to £1. Now it is just 7LE to £1 so our budget is much tighter than we hoped. Still, if things get tight our back up plan is to covertly make cheese sarnies at breakfast and smuggle them out to eat for tea. Pikey? most certainly.

Monday we start the divemaster properly with some skill circuits in the pool, and the dreaded swim tests. I'll let you know how we get on.

bye for now x

PS photos to come - just need to sort out my memory stick issues

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bad Taste Day

I've been ill. Oh have I been ill. Properly shivering, aching, shitting, moaning and groaning ill.

Luckily I recovered enough just in time for Bad Taste day at work, in aid of Comic Relief. Due to my midweek bedridden status I didn't have much time to prepare. Instead I threw myself at the mercy of the ladies in the Cancer Research charity shop, telling them to find me the most horric outfit they could. Here are the snaps:

Ian, looking fabulous in shell suit bottoms, a ladies blouse and tanks top, disney tie and leopard skin hat. He's been wolf whistled on the street today. 3 times.

Martin, in full 80's ski gear. He is currently sitting at his computer, working in sallopettes and goggles. He's taken off the skis though because they were getting tangled in the cables.

Ed as 1970's cop. Can't really tell but that tie is a shocker. The main problem with Ed's outfit is that there are quite a few people who still dress like this. Not Ed though, no. Snappy dresser is Ed. Normally.

Fiona in bad jewellry and gas polo top. Her excuse for not wearing anything worse was that she has to go to the bank this afternoon for business purposes. Hmm. what a cop-out!

Jon is available for childrens parties on most Saturdays. He's not that good at balloon animals though, and tends to make small children cry.

Martin heading for the pistes of Linlithgow

Tracey, demure as ever and hoping for a big break in catalogue modelling if architecture deosn't work out.

we raised exactly £99 for Comic relief.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Dayroom yellow

Last month there was a fierce debate in the office about whether or not I had blonde hair. I said yes. Jon was non-committal. Tracey said definitely yes. Ian said no, it was light brown, and used the Farrow and Ball paint chart to prove that my hair was the colour of ‘mouse's back'. What an outrage.

I was bearing this in mind on Saturday when discussing my imminent highlights with the hairdresser. ‘I want to be blonder for my holiday’ I said ‘How blonde? She asked. ‘Very’ I said. ‘And make sure it’s not yellowy – I want it more ashy.’

Oh how I wish I’d had the Farrow and Ball paint chart. ‘Pale Hound no71’ I could have replied with accuracy.

This morning I flounced into the office tossing my newly bleached to buggery hair like a wag on a catwalk. ‘You’ve gone blonde!’ said Jon. ‘No she hasn’t’ said Ian holding up his paint chart. ‘I’d say it was more Dayroom yellow’.

The very cheek of it. I had to retire to the bog to check.

Goddammit. I am dayroom yellow.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

beware of eavesdropping

I’ve got the builders in. (still) They have been doing my new bathroom, utility and bedroom for yonks. My colleague also used the same company to do some plastering yesterday. The plasterer didn’t realise we knew each other and had this conversation with Ian

Plasterer: I’ve been doing a job for a bird in Kirkintilloch
Ian: (realising it’s me he’s talking about) Oh yeah?
Plasterer: yeah – god man she lives in a fucking massive hoose. It’s fucking bonkers man.
Ian: Really?
Plasterer: She must be fucking minted man.
Ian: Oh right?
Plasterer: Fucking massive. And it’s full of diving shit everywhere man!

Contemplating my inevitable demise

I came across a CD in my car this morning. It was of all the music I sang with my choir Sine Nomine at the Prestiegne Festival last August. I bunged it on and found myself inexplicably crying my eyes out – Not a good idea while driving at 50 miles an hour on country roads in the snow.

The culprit was the song Sleep by Eric Whitacre. We sang it alot last year and it always brought tears to my eyes then too. It is, in my humble opinion, one of the most perfect pieces of choral music ever written. It has everything: beautiful words, fabulous stomach crunching harmonies and a line that builds to the most heart wrenching climax. I am always amazed at the power of that song to give me physical pain in the guts.

Do yourself a favour: buy it and spend 6 minutes contemplating your own mortality. Oh, and if I die prematurely then I want Sine Nomine to sing this at my funeral. And you all have to cry.

It’s what I would have wanted.

PS I haven't actually listened to this youtube clip because I don't have speakers on my work computer - I hope it's actually the right piece of music!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Rules of CAD

The no.1 Rule if you are working in my CAD drawings:


Rule No.2


Rule no.3


I seem to remember doing a post about this over 4 years ago. Sigh. Some things in architectural practice are universal and will never change.
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