I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW LONG I'VE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS. I joined the club at the end of last summer, and all winter I've been doing the lectures and the pool training and everything, and now I'm going to do a proper dive for the very first time ever.
I know some of the lads at the club are a bit sniffy about inland sites, but this is going to be my first proper dive and I'm just so excited about it. We use a nearby quarry that's just opened up as a dive centre. The one we used to use was much further away and got too busy at weekends. You had to get up before you went to bed to be there in time to get a parking space, even in February like it is now. I don't know what to expect, really, but I'm sure it'll be really great!
Just to make sure I didn't forget anything I made a list, and then packed my kit into two of the big plastic boxes my mate Dave nicked from work for me, with the smaller bits and bobs in a net bag my mate Jim nicked from his work for me.
Here I am! Here I am!
Oh. Well, I didn't know what to expect, but somehow it wasn't this. I mean, it's just an open space with a lake. It's a big lake, granted, but a lake is a lake is a lake. I should have known, I suppose, but I've been looking forward to this for so long that I'd built it up in my mind to be something special.
Hang on a minute, though, now I'm a diver it'll be the stuff under the water that counts! I bet that'll be just brilliant!
Looks like I'm the first here, so I get to choose where to park. Just over there looks good, nice and close to the jetty. I assume we'll get in the water there and oh, good grief! That was close! Why on earth did you jump out in front of the car, you dozy...
You're collecting the entrance money.
Ah. Yes. Of course you are. Sorry, my fault, only this is going to be my first dive and I'm really excited about it and I was thinking about diving instead of concentrating on where I was going. Sorry. You weren't hurt too badly, were you? Only, if you have to go to A&E, do you think you could wait until after we've finished diving, because this is going to be my first dive and I don't want to miss it.
Might as well unpack the gear and start to get ready. Andy is taking me in and he said he'd be here early. No sign of him yet, though. It's bloomin' cold, but least it isn't raining.
Well, not yet, though the forecast wasn't good. The metal of the cylinder and reg set is so cold, it feels like it's burning! There, all ready and here's Andy! Hey, he's already got his undersuit on! Why didn't I think of that? Stripping down to my shreddies on a day like today wasn't a bundle of laughs, let me tell you. Right, Andy, what are we doing?
First thing is a cup of hot tea, and you've brought a flask, so I can have a brew? Well, I could if I liked my tea weak, milky and with three sugars. Kind offer, but I think I'll give it a miss and make a mental note to bring my own for next time.
Time to get kitted up and do our buddy checks. This is where it gets serious. How did Andy get into his suit so fast? I haven't even got my drysuit unrolled, and he's just about ready to go!
It must be an experience thing. One day I may be that fast.
I'll climb into the bottom half of the suit first, then talc the cuffs and neck seal. Use more talc? How much more? Loads more, by the look of it.
I wonder how long it'll be before the talc cloud settles? Have you any idea how much that talc cost me? Anyway, I'm in the suit now, so if you could just zip me up that'd be great.
Yes, I know the zip is a little tight, I put on a few extra layers 'cos I thought it was going to be very cold this morning, and I wasn't wrong. Thank you! Oh, no - the talc has gone all over the car seats. Better close the door, and I might as well lock it.
Keys. Where am I going to put the blasted keys? My pockets are in my undersuit, which is under my drysuit, which is nicely zipped up. Off comes the suit, keys in pocket and back on with suit, then carry on kitting up.
When we did this at the pool I was so hot I nearly passed out, but this morning the suit is keeping me nicely warm, though my hands are still freezing.
You'll pick up my set so I can get into it? Let me see, left arm first, then the right, then pull the straps tight and I've got the weight, thanks, mate.
Oh, that was just showing off! Andy stood behind his cylinder and chucked it up and over his head. I'll have to try that some time, it looked really flash!
Hang on, that's my mobile ringing. Forget it, it's in the car, so it can ring and I'll call back after the dive.
Bugger! It isn't in the car, it's in my pocket.
Off with the cylinder, off with the suit, out with the phone. It's stopped ringing, but I've got a message from the other half wishing me a good dive. Get the keys out of the pocket and bung the phone in the car, then lock up, put keys in pocket and kit up again. Sorry, Andy!
Right, that's me ready for the buddy check. Suit direct feed! Oops, glad you spotted that! Air on? Actually, no, not yet. Would you do the honours? Computer? It's here on my wrist.
It isn't. It's in the blindin' car. Do I really need it? No, but I ought to get used to using it. Fair comment.
Now, slacken the BC straps a bit and swing it off and... what was that? Remember to remove the suit direct feed! Right. No problem. There we go.
OK, suit back on, kit in place and ready to dive. Buddy check? You've done a buddy check and I'm fine. You want me to do one on you. Of course you do. Sorry. Not turning out to be much good at this, am I?
Right, air in, air out, direct feeds, straps done up, weightbelt on, reg working fine. Looking good!
This is the exciting part. We're walking across the actual car park of an actual dive site to the actual jetty to actually get in the water, and in just a few minutes I'm going to be in the water and swimming around and I'll be a real diver!
You first, then me. Right, here I go. Regulator in, mask in place, right hand holding them lightly in place, left arm across chest and belly to secure the rest of the kit and a giant stride forward and I'm in and who kicked me in the face?
It is sooo cold. I don't think I can breathe. I wasn't ready for this. I knew it'd be cold, but not like this. The worst headache I've ever had was more fun. Oh thank goodness for that, the pain is easing, it's just agonising now. I suppose I must be getting used to the temperature.
Am I OK? No, not really, but I'll probably live. Doesn't the cold bother you? You get used to it. Sure. Surface-swim over to the buoy, then submerge? OK. I suppose.
Here's the buoy, so exchange signals, dump air and down I go. I knew it would be different, but who turned off the lights? We're on the bottom. How far down? Six metres. That's nearly 20 feet! I can't see the surface, but I can tell which way is up.
Andy's asking if I'm OK. I am now. He was right, I'm getting used to the temperature and my face just feels numb.
What do we do now? Fin pivots? No problem. Just like the pool, except my fingers are clumsy from the cold and a thick pair of gloves. Now what? Mask and DV clearing.
Tip the mask and let water in, then clear it out. Easy. Well, apart from the temperature, but that's getting to be an old complaint now. Then take the mask right off, re-fit and clear.
Off was no problem, but refitting with sausage-size fingers with no feeling seems to be beyond me. Keep breathing and persevere. That wasn't easy, but I did it.
DV removal, clear and re-fit. Yes, I know what to do, it's just that, well, in the pool it seemed simple, but out here that regulator is the only thing keeping me alive, and I don't want to take it out of my mouth. I suppose I'll have to. There, done it.
What now? A swim around.
Whassat? A car. My first wreck on my first dive, brilliant!
It's an old Reliant Robin. I suppose it'd have to be an old one, nobody would put a new one down here, would they? And it has a towbar. If anyone ever says I'm sad for diving in quarries, I can point out that whoever put a towbar on a Reliant blindin' Robin was much sadder than me.
Andy's swum through it, but I don't think I'm ready for wreck penetration yet.
Time to go up. Andy's brought us back right to the jetty and I can go straight up the steps. Now to get the kit off. My fingers are so cold, I can't feel the clips on my harness. Cheers Andy, bacon butties on me! Ready for a second dive?
I just hope kitting up goes more smoothly this time. Well, not kitting up, more remembering keys and such. I think I learned loads on that first dive, but most of it in the car park!
Anyway, here we go again!
Well, that was better than the first dive. I remember more about it and it didn't seem as cold, though I felt a bit chilly after 10 minutes or so. Still we did a full half-hour, and that was only 29 minutes more than we needed to see everything there is to see in there. Time to pack up and drive home.
Try not to run anyone over as I leave, and get the heater on.
Hellfire, the feeling is coming back into my hands! My fingers feel like they're going to explode and my lips are burning!
Still, I'm a diver now.