I’ve been away almost a week, and on this rig for five days now: how much work have I done? How much? None.
Actually, that’s perhaps not entirely true, as when I arrived I spent quite a while running around just trying to locate my equipment, and the following day I set it up and tested it all, but in terms of actual work, that is actually carrying out the work that is the reason I am here, I have done nothing.
The lack of work involved in my job never ceases to amaze me. Before getting into this job I had spent two years as a teacher, and about fifteen years or something as a professional dishwasher. Both these jobs were pretty demanding. Teaching especially is knackering, as if you take your eye off the ball for just one second, some filthy child has smeared his faeces across the wall. It is like being the continual focus of a performance, with all eyes watching you, and any laziness on your part just results in a wilder, noisier, more exhausting class, and thus more work. And dishwashing, well... To be fair, I spent a considerable percentage of my dishwashing career inconceivably wasted, which only made things worse, but it could sometimes be a truly shattering job, physically. As you might imagine, the mental faculties aren’t overly strained in your average day of washing dishes, but on a busy night these goddam dishes just never stop coming. I worked in three kitchens: the first was a mixture of extreme tedium but hilarious chef banter/antics and sudden spurts of activity, which never failed to infuriate the kitchen who by this stage in the evening just wanted to go out and get drunk (again); the second also had great banter but was usually ridiculously busy and I’d be left by the end of the day a sweaty, dripping, weakened shell of a man; and the third and final in a soulless but inordinately popular teashop-restaurant hybrid in Inverness was just about the most physically demanding experience I’ve ever had to endure – 8+ hours of sometimes literally running about the place to keep up with what was going on, without a word of thanks, and sectioned off from the abysmal kitchen chat (the chefs were all commoners) by a giant wall. I lasted a month, before heading off to Korea, and anybody who would have been willing to work there longer would have to be a retard – especially as McDonald’s were paying 50p more an hour.
My point is, then, that all these previous jobs actually involved having to work, as one might imagine with a job. So imagine my surprise last year when I found myself with a job – a good, interesting, well-paid job – that only involved the barest minimum of work.
I love my job, and enjoy the working just as much as the non-working.. And sometimes I do have to work very hard, but the work seems to come in chunks of 18 hours shifts, followed by a week off, sitting around and ensuring a coffee is to hand. There’s certainly more at stake because if I mess up badly here it’s not a matter of a noisy class, or not enough clean dishes, it could be a matter of millions of pounds wasted and disaster for the oil company contracting my company. But really, if I screw things in the right way and press the right buttons on my computer, it should usually be fine.
So it’s a matter of maintaining focus at the right moments, I suppose, which mercifully I’ve managed to do in my short career so far. But it’s the other moments, the many, many other stray moments that fill my days or weeks that don’t require focus and just require passing – how does a young man fill his empty days on a rig with only burly, tobacco-spitting men?
To give you an idea of what life is like in captivity, here is the rough outline of my days.
6.25am: Wake up.
6.30am: Go to the morning meeting. This is the most important meeting of the day, because it’s where all the supervisors and guys in charge convene to discuss what’s going on. I like this meeting a lot, because I’m young, inexperienced and clearly have no idea what these guys are talking about, but have to go because I’m the only representative from my company. However, because I wear my glasses in the morning, these guys all think I’m intellectual.
7am: Get a hearty breakfast. Take my morning nap.
8am: Go to the “Positioning Room”. This is a great little room on this rig that no-one ever goes in, so I can sit back and relax here. In here, these days, I do a mixture of studying French, writing, drinking coffee and simply nothing. I might sometimes pop to the third party office to check my email.
10.30am: Go for my exercise, walking round the helideck, listening to music.
11.30am: Get a hearty lunch. Go to bed, read a little, then take my afternoon nap.
1pm: See 8am
4.30pm: Some more helideck walking.
5.30pm: Get a hearty dinner. Go to bed, read a little. then take my evening nap.
7pm: See 8am and 1pm.
9pm: Go to bed, read a little.
10pm: Sleep well.
As you can see, it’s a simple existence, but a strangely satisfying one. I think routine is important to all people, and so in a life that sometimes isn’t very routine it’s good to carve out a little one for yourself. In fact, of all my jobs so far, I’m enjoying this routine the best, as it’s relaxed, utilises several locations, and as long as I don’t become fluent in French or finish my book (the 1500 page, 1000 year old Japanese “Tale Of Genji”) has enough to occupy me.
But lest you worry that eveyr day becomes the same, don’t fear – I still obey the regular working week and take weekends off. Because the weekends means football, and in foreign countries this means 12 to 7pm nonstop English Premiership action, and so I can promise you that tomorrow I’ll be spending seven hours prostrate on a sofa in the recreation room, with just the occasional lifting of my hand to signal to one of the Egyptian boys to fetch me a coffee. In this job, as I’m sure you must have gathered, it’s important to know when to relax.