Name Mel Thomas, 25 Occupation Commercial diver Salary From pounds 18,000 Address Stoke Newington, north London

Too much Jacques Cousteau, when you were young, was it?

Not exactly, although I have been scuba diving since I was nine. I had a gift for it and I knew I wanted to make it my job, which meant I had two choices, either to become a ship's diver in the Royal Navy or to become a commercial diver. I applied to join the Navy but I'd lived all over the world with my family and they wanted the names of everyone my parents and I knew. It was impossible. So I got a loan and took a 14-week course in Fort William in north-west Scotland. It cost pounds 8,000 plus pounds 2,000 for living expenses.

Heavens! I hope you're paid enough to meet the interest...

It's hard to earn that money back to be honest. There is big money in diving but only in the oil fields. I can't get to the Gulf to work because I'm a woman, and in the North Sea you have to know someone who already has a job.

What did you do?

I worked very hard to get a job and eventually got two days inspection diving in Liverpool. Then I travelled for a while, and when I came back I landed my present job for Arkal, a marine and underwater civil engineering company. We repair walls and bridges and do specialist work like putting in a concrete mattress to plug a leaking waterbed. We do a lot of work for the Environmental Agency. You name it we do it. I've been here for three years on and off and I've been working full time for the past year.

So it's up in the morning and into your wet-suit is it?

I still dive but now I'm the office manager as well, which means that I do site visits and check to see that everything is going to schedule. I don't want to be a diver for the rest of my life, I want to climb the industry ladder. It's a young industry and as you get older your body can't handle it. You get pains and ailments, sore knees and elbows. Already I don't have pretty hands. Your body has an expiry date. If your eardrums, your joints or lungs go your career is history. The oldest divers I know are between 45 and 50.

It must be lovely, spending your days looking at fish

If only! Visibility is terrible - we're normally working in the dark. You have to carry in your head a black-and-white image of what you are supposed to see. It freaks some people out but I like it, I like the challenge.

Is it a man's world?

Yes, there's a lot of banter in the industry. I can either be one of the lads or a flirt, so I try to be one of the lads. I set out to gain the trust of the guys I work with, which is important because we work in teams of four: a diver, a standby diver, a supervisor and a tender. If the diver gets into trouble the standby has to go in and get him and the tender has to have the strength to pull him back. I was a power lifter when I was younger so they know I have the strength.

And after work? We socialise; I'm one of the lads. We go for a drink after work and if we are away from London we'll go to a club. I buy my round and give the boys tips on chat-up lines.

Any underwater lurve?

I'm too busy organising my career for a relationship. As my mum says, get your independence first, girl. But I'm leaving the door open...

Dinners for one then?

No way! I flatshare with three friends. We shop in pairs and have a big meal together on Sundays. But during the weeks it's Navy rules: if you want to eat something, you go get it.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Corporate Tax Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

    Relationship Manager

    £500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

    Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

    £15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

    Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

    £250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home