Review - "Like Sandpaper, Wet, Dry and Mixed" with Penny & Spike Piddock, 15 Feb 2021

A review by Jane Tearle - "Like Sandpaper, Wet, Dry and Mixed" with Penny Piddock DPAGB EFIAP & Spike Piddock DPAGB EFIAP, 15 Feb 2021
The Piddocks did us proud, taking us places many of us would never dare go, (the wet sandpaper) though many of us might like to dream of going (the dry and mixed sandpaper)! Ambon, on one of the Maluku Islands of Indonesia was the destination for tonight’s adventures.

From the air, idyllic blue seas and sandy beaches beckoned. The airport approach coming in very low over the sea. The town of Ambon with its mixed history of ownership, the Portuguese with the English and Dutch alternating their hold back through the centuries left their imprint on these Spice Islands before the Japanese captured it in 1942.

However, under the waves, where much would have remained the same through those times we were treated to the brilliance and originality of the fish species with the expertise of Spike and his extensive camera gear despite the limitations of weight imposed by the airlines - his photographic jacket weighing 15kg alone. He and Penny were travelling with the British Society of Underwater Photographers to this place for its specialness and the variety of its rare fish. We have seen many of Spike’s winning images in competitions but this talk showed us how many other fish there are in the sea, all with an originality and story of their own.

Pipe fish, scorpion fish, blind fish; looking out for crinoids which match it; fish that use a beer bottle or a pipe for a home; frog fish which can change their colour to match the sponge they are next to; polyps that come out at night; the red and white hermaphrodites with 2 penises; the Magnificent Sea Slug…and he was!; the stonefish, the most poisonous fish in the sea! Spike gave us lots of names and dangerous details that made some of us wonder how he dared go there! Harlequin shrimps, Emperor Shrimps. even an unknown shrimp!(A new species Spike? And could be called the ‘Piddock Shrimp’, maybe?) We were left in awe at the colours, patterns and makeup of the never ending array of underwater life in Indonesia. Totally awesome!

A break gave us time to catch our breath before getting a sense of place; the islands and settlements on shore. Penny’s images of the children in the bright and colourful places were fun to see; their enthusiasm for performing in front of the camera, green sweets in hand, a bit frustrating for the photographer but so unabashed and full on from the participants. Penny had found it difficult to locate worthwhile snorkelling areas due debris and silt on the sea floor so she enlisted the help of someone from the dive centre to take her around the island, on one journey travelling as ‘the Queen’ to a local King. The mixed religious influences, Muslim and Christian all seemed to work harmoniously, although Penny said things may have changed since their visit. The result of a devastating flood was evidenced by the road falling away into the sea as well as the destruction of one village. The pink, green and blue graveyard, so in keeping with the nature of these islands. The river where sacred eels appeared regularly as the women did their washing and the children played, handling them without fear!
The cruise ships are beginning to arrive. How will this affect life? The beaches were a mess of litter. The dive school set about the clear up of one of these, showing the locals what could be achieved and how much better it looked. Now to wonder if they have maintained the effort to dispose of their rubbish more suitably. … oh and then there was the story of the reticulated snake and the amazement of the locals that Spike was prepared to hold it and be photographed. What an evening!

An evening to scratch that travel itch many of us are experiencing! A wonderful show of photography and stories from a far foreign part. Many thanks to our own two members for taking us there, Penny and Spike Piddock.

~ Jane Tearle