I leave for the airport mid-afternoon after flinging my new gear in my new bag.

Last night I went to the Mares dealer and splurged. I'm now the proud new owner of a Mares Metal Proton 42 along with Mares octopus and triple console, plus a rather nice bag to put them in.

Jeddah airport is even more ghastly than usual. One of the check-in baggage belts appears to have broken down and there's luggage and containers of zam-zam water littering the entire check-in area. The queue for check-in isn't going anywhere. It's unclear whether that's baggage-related or due to the fact they changed the plane from a 747 to a 777 and it's now full.

Being business class gets me served and my bag is soon on the floor on its way to who knows where.

The Jeddah First Class Lounge is rubbish.

As usual, the flight information boards simply show you the schedule, and fail to reflect what's happening on the ground. There's still no-one going through the gate as it ticks over to Final Call. It's 1 ¾ hours late when it leaves.

Posted Tue Apr 5 00:00:00 2011 Tags: squandering

Time to pack all the (mostly diving) crap I've bought in Britain. I now own a dive computer to stop me dying underwater, and a camera with a waterproof case, to capture me not dying. And now all this has to be carted home via Syria and Jordan.

Lunchtime flight to Damascus, arriving in Syria late. Our Syrian fixer, Sherif meets us off the plane. He swiftly makes our visas happen and then collects us again after we get our bags.

Driving into the city, we try to find out how many others will join the tour. Sherif just looks blank - it turns out it will be just us, Sherif and a driver.

Posted Fri Mar 26 00:00:00 2010 Tags: squandering

Up at a dreaded 6:45 in the morning. I don't approve of this getting up early at the weekends. The diving bus is supposed to be leaving for the beach at 7:15ish although we end up waiting for a couple of people who didn't get the memo. Still, an hour or so later we're there.

A couple of nights earlier, when I heard we were heading to this beach, I took a trip into Jeddah to buy snorkelling gear. The stuff for hire here isn't great, and they have a bad habit of running out; hence the early start. Happily, the bits I need are available - if somewhat poorer quality than last week's - and I'm soon ready to christen my new gear.

The first dive is noticeably murky - there's a layer of red scum and jellyfish on the surface and as we get further down visibility remains poor. There's also a fairly strong current today. On top of that, the creatures all appear to be hiding. The general agreement on reaching the surface is that it's all a bit of a write-off.

The second dive is a great improvement on the first. The water's cleaner on entry, and as we end up a little shallower, visibility is also better. Most importantly, the beasties have come out to play. Best finds were The World's Largest Puffer Fish, and a couple of amorous Moray Eels.

Others' photos at http://picasaweb.google.com/116464135101732783065/AlBiladBeachDiveMarch112010#, or youtubery at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIm6l-H5g64.

Back to KAUST for the afternoon, and I'm promised Fun at the Kite Fun Day. There isn't really enough wind or space for my kite, however, so I have to get my fun from the free food. Little things...

Bowling in the evening. I don't get stomped that badly.

Posted Thu Mar 11 00:00:00 2010 Tags: squandering

Left the house at 7am for the third weekend running. It's the final day of my open water scuba diving course, and I need to be in Jeddah at eight in the morning. The destination is a private beach on Jeddah's North Cornische.

Last week there was a substantial swell, which meant a fairly hairy entry to the water. This week it's much calmer and easier. Which is good, because we have a bunch of surface skills to do - towing tired divers, removing and replacing weight belts and scuba gear, other stuff. As we head in the direction of down, I find I'm getting better at quieting the part of my brain that's yelling "no, stop, air's that way."

It's much easier than the first dive though, and I'm getting better at remembering to breathe from the regulator. Breathing through my mask tends to be less successful. There's some neutral buoyancy exercises and general fooling around on the bottom, and that's the end of the first dive.

The next dive goes straight down, unattended rather than on a line which feels much less crushed them having five divers holding onto the same piece of string. Once I get to the bottom, I discover I haven't cleaned the anti-fog from my mask very effectively, and my left eye is gradually drowning in bubbles. Happily, it's my most hated exercise next - flooding my mask and clearing it. Much as I dislike it, it solves the problem.

The dive ends with an Emergency Ascent. That's the one where you swim slowly up from about 30 feet, all the time blowing bubbles. No, it doesn't sound like a good idea to me either.

The final dive has one skill (use a compass), and the rest of the time is just arsing about. I practice managing my depth by swooping low over the coral using only the power of breathing. The instructor finds a lionfish in all its glory sitting nonchalantly outside its cave, and mimes getting stung by it and being dead.

By the end of the third dive, it's becoming noticeable that I'm getting the hang of this breathing thing. In about the same time period of time - 40 minutes - I used up 2200 PSI of air on today's first dive and last week's. By the last one I'm using 1500 in the same time.

We agitate to finish the exam and paperwork the same day so we don't have to come back into Jeddah to do it, and by the end of the day I'm a certified open water scuba diver.

(This weekend also marks the end of KAUST's "Winter Enrichment Period", which is a month of not-specifically-course-related lectures and workshops to complement the formal courses as well as offering staff some learning opportunities. My learning for the month besides diving has been a week of Arabic and an introduction to playing the guitar.)

Back to today, and it's time to start playing in Jeddah's Thursday Evening Traffic of Doom. I have the choice of getting a taxi back to Thuwal (10 - 20 pounds) or wait for a shopping bus back. They don't leave until 11pm, so I take the opportunity to while away a few hours at coffee in Ian's hotel.

In conversation with other members of the hotel, we discover that the eye of the higher-ups has turned to getting people on campus. Reportedly, everyone has at least been allocated a place, even if some of them are still awaiting cleaning and fixing. It should be noted that I'm still sharing. I guess I count as on-campus at least.

I allow lots of time to get to the site of the bus, and head out into the TEToD again in a taxi. It takes just as forever as I'm expecting, and the way is powered more by beeping tham petrol. Just as I get onto the bus, there's a minute or so of rain!

One of my busmates reveals himself to work in the watersports group. He reports that the beach and first phase of activities will be ready to go in a week or so. That apparently includes sea-kayaking, snorkelling, maybe wind-surfing. The next phase, which will offer sailing among other things, won't be for a few months.

I finally reach my bed shortly before 1am.

Posted Thu Feb 11 00:00:00 2010 Tags: squandering

Day out in London. It's another early morning as I have an appointment at Australia House at midday. I killed my last Australian passport with coffee and I've had to wait until I got back to Blighty before I could find someone who met the requirements for signing my photo. It all goes very smoothly, and I've soon back on track. A relaxed lunch at a boozer behind the British Museum later and I'm on the prowl for gadgets down the Tottenham Court Road.

Turns out Apple parts are ridiculously expensive. Who knew?

So I largely fail at most of the things I want. I suspect BOSE QC 15s are the right noise-cancelling headphones to replace my slightly shoddy Sennheisers, but I fail to find any to apply the comfort test. And surprisingly, Panamas are thin on the ground on a rainy December afternoon in London. My one success is $NEWTOY. Shiny.

Next stop Wandsworth for good boozes and good company, with one pub I particularly approve of, despite the overly trendy decor, because of its community centre feel.

Posted Wed Dec 9 00:00:00 2009 Tags: squandering

Bought a Wii.

That is all.

Posted Thu Oct 22 00:00:00 2009 Tags: squandering