Sharmed Out!

People ask me why I go diving in Sharm el Sheikh twice a year.  Here are three good reasons to go diving in Sharm:

  1. It is a relatively short flight (5 hours) to get to an area that is warm all year around and the closest place to the UK with coral reefs.
  2. Most of the dive sites are healthy with beautiful corals and a wide variety of colourful fish.
  3. It is relatively cheap.

I just came back from my 10th or 11th trip to Sharm.  I normally go for two weeks twice a year, but this time I went for three weeks.  My partner was going to finish his Dive Master the first two weeks with one week of fun diving with me.  Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan.

I was feeling slightly under the weather the day we left the UK and I ended up with a bout of sinusitis.  I managed to complete my first (and 200th) dive on the first day with no problems.  However, when attempting my second dive of the day, I felt stabbing pains around my eyes at three meters and had to come back to the surface.  Not good!  I attempted to dive on the second day, but couldn’t get past a meter, so the rest of that day was spent sleeping on the boat and the next couple of days were spent by the pool.  A hard life you may think, but if you have purchased a 15 day dive package over three weeks, it kills you to think of losing any diving days.  I spent my days by the pool (in the shade), reading a book, and napping, while my partner and friends were out on the boat diving and enjoying themselves.  By the time I was feeling better, my partner was feeling worse and got what I had.  He had to put off his Dive Master course and fun diving as he wasn’t able to clear his sinuses.  The poor soul is sitting here next to me still all blocked up!  At least he managed to get a week of diving in before it all went pear-shaped.

So, what is a soul to do in a diver’s paradise when they can’t do any diving?  Fuck all really.  How much time can you spend surfing the net, sunbathing, going to the gym, sleeping, reading, drinking, eating, etc?  I can manage two days tops.  My partner had to endure about two weeks.  We are action people, which is why we go diving.  We get up early to go diving.  You can sleep on the boat in between dives.  There is not a lot to do in Sharm.  There is no culture.  It is a resort, not a town.  There was nothing there when people first started diving in that part of The Red Sea.  Development for tourism really didn’t take off until the early 80’s.  The place is full of hotels, some of which will never be completed.

When you have paid for and organised your holiday around diving, it can go against the grain to spend any more money on excursions that don’t live up to the hype.  Shopping  for cheap tat is also not an option.  There is nothing that we want to buy as we really don’t need anything.  All that was left to do was to suck it up and accept the situation as best as we could.  I had a day off after my first full week of diving in order to keep my buddy company.  I took the opportunity to have my legs sugared!  It killed an hour.  The rest of the time we hung out by the pool and took advantage of the all-inclusive.  Meaning:  we started drinking at 11am.

There is nothing to see and nothing to do.  How people who live there can say they are living the dream is beyond my comprehension.  The last few years, most of what I have heard is negativity and a lot of complaining.  If living in the sun and diving every day is your dream, great!  However, I can think of better places to do it, where you can actually do things and get a bit of culture to boot.  A few people I know that have left to go back to the UK say that the only things they miss about Sharm is the diving, the weather, and their friends.  Nothing else.  I think that sums things up.

I realise that my frustration about Sharm probably has more to do with the fact that I have been going to the same place for too long and twice a year.  If I only went for a week once a year, I might not feel the same way.  I personally like more variety in my life as I feel that there are so many places to visit and things to do.  I have dived most of the dive sites at Sharm, and although you can do the same dive site twice and it will be different each time, it can get monotonous.  If anything, this trip has taught me that I need to try something else and go somewhere different.  I doubt that diving in Marsa Alam or El Ghouna is going to offer anything on the culture front, but at least the dive sites won’t be so familiar to me.  I might even consider doing a Live-aboard in the future.

Being ill on this trip has showed me that I need to re-think my holidays in order to get more out of them in case things don’t go according to plan.  Diving will still be on the agenda, but it will be a long time before I go back to Sharm again.  I can’t say the same for my partner as he will now have to go out again in May to complete his Dive Master course and then go straight in to do the Instructor’s course.  It can be a tough life for some, eh?

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Decorating with Shells – Please Don’t

Let’s face it, shells are beautiful.  The bigger the better.  As a child, we used to collect shells on our weekly summer visits to the (New) Jersey Shore.  Most of the time, we just used them to decorate sand castles we built and left them behind.

Fast forward many years later to when I learned how to scuba dive.  I did my open water in The Maldives.  The Maldives are many atolls with a resort built on them.  Most of the beaches on the atolls are made up of coral.  It is against the law to take any shells or coral that is washed up on the beach or to take anything from the sea.  I have tried to respect this law – it is really difficult when you see a beautiful piece of coral washed up onto the beach, but it isn’t worth the fine or the time in jail.  Many islands in the Caribbean have beaches made up of coral.  Just think about it.

I currently live near the sea.  You would think that it would be natural to go for the beachy look when decorating your home.  Well, I live in the UK and the light isn’t always right for the light and airy beach look.  It only looks good on sunny days and we don’t always get many of those even though I live on the ‘Sunshine Coast’.  At this time of year, the blogosphere is rampant with ideas for decorating with shells.  Google it yourself and see.  I am not posting any photos with shells used as accessories in decor as I do not want to encourage this trend.  We do have a few shops that sell seashells, by the seashore.  They are most likely imported.  It isn’t something I want to encourage and so I don’t buy, even though they are beautiful.  There is a price to be paid for decorating our homes with shells and I don’t want to be responsible for the outcome.

By the way, I have not been immune to shell buying in the past.  I have some shells.  However, there is no point in throwing them out as the deed had been done.  I don’t buy them anymore.  There are a few companies that make faux or artificial shells.  I would buy them if there were any in the UK, but they seem to be made in the good ole USA.  Instead, I try to decorate my home with shell inspired items or paintings that depict the sea or seaside life.

Here are some beach inspired items I have purchased for my home…

This is a wooden shell sculpture that I purchased at Home Sense.  I love how it looks like a shell, but it obviously isn’t.

This vase reminds me of a sea urchin skeleton.

This vase has colours like mother of pearl.  This and the vase above were also purchased at Home Sense.

You don’t have to limit yourself to vases, sculptures or painting to get the seaside effect.  The colours of your home can give it that seaside feeling or you can put up photographs of shells.

Here is a photograph I took earlier in the year on one of my diving holidays…

This is what those giant clams look like in the sea, where they belong.   When they die, they stay where they are and the coral moves in to make a new home.  You would have to dive down and take this off of the reef and kill it if you wanted to sell it.  You would never find a clam shell such as this on the beach.

Nowadays, when we decorate our home, I think it is just as important to think about the effect on our environment as well as the look we are trying to achieve.  Might be time to start thinking out of the box to get the seaside look for your home.

Back in the Groove – With Art

Creating art has taken a bit of a back seat lately.  I have been painting a lot of furniture.  I love painting furniture.  It is creative and practical.  I’m a practical lady.  Besides, I have all of this furniture in my house that needs painting.

The creative process has many forms.  People, whether they realise it or not, are very creative.  They just need to find out where the creativity lies and work out what they are good at.  I am quite good at painting things for practical use.  I am learning to develop my artistic side – to make something just because it looks good or interesting or beautiful.

I find it challenging to make something from nothing, just from my head.  Painting walls and furniture is easy for me.  Working out what to stick on a piece of paper or canvas can test you to the limit.  That is why I like to paint things.  I like to paint things that I see like fruit and flowers.  It is easy to get a hold of these things.  Sometimes I paint things from photos that I have taken.

Photography is another aspect of my art.  I don’t just take holiday snaps.  I don’t just document aspects of my life.  I try to capture something seen from a different viewpoint.  I take a picture to report.  I take a photo of something because I think it is interesting or to use as an example as part of my writing.  After many years of scuba diving, I have only just gotten into underwater photography.  It is a challenge to take a picture of a creature without damaging the reef in the process.  I am surprised at the many newly qualified divers who take pictures without getting their buoyancy under total control first.

Since I started painting just over a year ago, I sometimes use my photos as inspiration to make paintings.  Since my diving holiday in August 2012, I have taken some underwater photos that I wanted to make paintings of.  Not all of the photos are great, but they give me ideas, many ideas!

After working on a mirror that I just couldn’t for the life of me get to grips with, I started a new painting instead.  I had some fun paint that I wanted to try out too!  So this is what I painted…

Red Sea Squid

This is an acrylic painting on A4 canvas.  The canvas is one I had painted earlier in the year that I was going to use for something else.  Obviously, waiting had its advantages.

I saw this Squid in The Red Sea on a dive with a friend of mine.  I hadn’t seen one before.  There were a few of them in the water.  This one looks like it is in a defensive pose.  Because this fish is fairly translucent, it can be tricky to see in bright sunlight.  This photo was taken near the surface.  You can’t really tell from the picture how iridescent the fish is.  However, because I had seen the fish, I could try to portray this in a painting.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a really great photo of my painting.  The fish shimmers and floats.  I used special paint and mediums to make it so.  Here it is again…

I am really happy with how it turned out and I had great fun painting it.  I am now working on a series based on my diving photos.   Just don’t expect your normal fish paintings.