Saturday, 27 October 2007


We hurt those we love the most.

This is my room, and my home for the last month.

As you can see, it’s not hotel-deluxe, but for a rig (or drill ship) it’s not bad at all. A bit of space, only two beds, a sofa, desk, and the mixed blessing of the TV. But the chief factor in favour of this room is the window. Almost every other rig room I’ve been in is windowless, and therefore either a dark cell or artificially-lit hell. But with a window comes natural light, a view of outside, and a considerably fresher life to the space I spend over 80% of my time.

Here is a closer shot of my window, and my sea view.

Better still, as well as providing light and a view, the window opens also. As the air conditioning is usually a bit on the cool side, and the Brazilian springtime is pretty warm, this often has the counter-intuitive effect (for the Scottish mindset) of warming up the room. A pleasing breeze can be relief on most days.

So it is unfortunate, that a few days ago, when opening my window, there was a small accident – and my window broke. Not just broke, but shattered, into thousands of pieces. The nature of the fracture though meant that it didn’t explode, rather remained shattered within its frame.

Here we can see:

Thus, I now have a window I can’t see out of, and only lets through half the light of before. My room is darker, my life is darker. Everything takes one step closer towards total darkness.

Have no fear, however, light is at the end of the tunnel. Progress has been made, and this week I’ve actually done about 8-10 hours of work. But even better, on Monday I’m due to be swapped out, so will be off this rig and on my way home. Reports must have filtered through from drill ship to my Aberdeen base of me curled up in dark corners, shaking back and fore, howling.

So freedom, finally, beckons. And so too the bright, shining lights of Aberdeen.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

What Can We Fit In My Hole?

What can we fit inside Nev’s hole?

Not too long ago, you may or may not recall, I wrote on here about the expanding hole in my trousers. One little tear quickly became a brute of a hole, torn right across a buttock and unnervingly near the crotch (especially unnerving for anyone so unwise to be looking there when I sit down). The hole is big, and pretty much puts an end to the life of these trousers come the day I eventually get off this drillship (estimated Jun 2008). And it occurred to me – just how big is my hole?

So I put it to the test. Please, read on, and see if you can guess what will and what won’t fit inside the gaping hole in my trousers.

Here, first of all, is the hole itself.

We begin.

Number 1: The Pen. Does a pen fit through the hole in my trousers?

Verdict: Yes, very easily.

Number 2: The remote control. Does a remote control fit through the hole in my trousers?

Verdict: Yes, very easily. I’m still trying to think of a way I might put this to practical use.

Number 3: The cup. Does a cup (plastic) fit through the hole in my trousers?

Verdict: Yes, without problems.

Number 4: The 1.5 litre bottle of water. Does a 1.5 litre bottle of water fit through the hole in my trousers?

Verdict: Yes, easily. This will likely also apply to 1.5 l bottles of other liquids.

Number 5: The kettle. Does a kettle fit through the hole in my trousers?

No! Well, not quite, but that’s because of a few strands of thread just holding it back.
Verdict: A moral victory, but a no for now.

Number 6: The hardhat. Does my hardhat fit through the hole in my trousers?

Hmm, again the threads hold it back. Would it pass through without them?
Verdict: Not yet, but one for the future.

Number 7: The pillow. Does a pillow fit through the hole in my trousers?

Verdict: Yes, but it needs to be rolled up tight.

Number 8: The laptop. Does my work laptop fit through the hole in my trousers?

Verdict: No.

Number 9: My own leg. Does my own leg fit through the hole in my trousers?

Verdict: Yes, up to just above the knee. Not quite thigh-size yet, and we can see by this that there’s no way I could fit my entire person through the hole so I’m not even going to try.

Number 10: The chair. Does a chair fit through the hole in my trousers?

Verdict: No, of course not. Don’t be stupid.

There we go then, my hole is safely bottle-sized, likely hardhat-sized, pillow-sized with some effort, but definitely not laptop-sized.

Further game suggestions welcome.


( 22 days on this rig now, the last 19 without work, and still no work for the foreseeable future. “The Smiler” was downmanned yesteray, so I am now alone)

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

What Time Is It?

"The Smiler" and I, over lunch-time conversation yesterday, stumbled upon what we realised is a curious inconsistency with temporal nomenclature. That is, that in the English language, we give the days and months names, but the minutes, hours and weeks none at all. Minutes and hours, at least, have numbers allocated, but the weeks are just abstract clumps of septua-days with hardly any identity whatsoever (nobody ever says "Oh, it's week 34 now already!"). We feel this must change.

Hence, we have formulated a plan to replace the numbers with names. Once finished, time will be referred to on a name basis, rather than by a series of numbers. And let's face it, girls are terrible with numbers (that's why they're always late), so it can only make things easier for all.

Much thought has gone into this, of course, and as to what our naming systems will be. The old systems were something like Norse, Germanic and Roman gods for the days, and the months are Roman inspired, with Roman gods, emperors and numbers (all given a bit of a "remix") to make the names. All this is very nice, and very highbrow, but of course only highbrow because it's ancient culture and language. Way back then, I have no doubt, people were saying "You're calling it December? 'Month Ten?' What a boring name. And it's the twelfth month anyway!" or "Augustus? I think 'Clive' sounds nicer." Everything becomes cultured given a couple of thousand years, and so The Smiler and I have opted to go for a contemporary nomenclature that we have no doubt will mature and ripen with the years, until one day be referred to as Scotia-classical.

This is what we have come up with so far (please note, this is as yet unfinished):

Weeks, first of all. In order to give the poor weeks some identity, we've decided to refer to them in the context of a month. To consider them in an annual context would involve an unnecessary change of thinking that we don't feel is beneficial. But in a monthly context, the names are easy to remember, and very helpful indeed to framing the progress of a month. Thus, only five names are required, as there are only four weeks in a month, plus a few days left over. We have decided to name them after popular sauces.

The first week of every month will be called "Tabasco". As in, "It's January, Tabasco".
The second week of every month will be called "Soy". As in, "It's March, Soy".
The third week of every month will be called "Brown". As in, "It's July, Brown".
The fourth week of every month will be called "Mayo". As in, "It's September, Mayo".
And the remaining few days of each month will be called "Honey". As in, "Well, it's already December, Honey".

Trust me, you'll get used to it.

Next, we moved onto the hours of the day. As we know, there are 24 hours in every single day (except when the clocks move forward or back - what is all that about, really?) Right now, we just think of it as being 03:00 or 3am, or 20:00 or 8pm. Very cold and scientific - the product of sterile mathematics rather than joyous, artistic amour. But our naming system pumps the goddamn passion back into the hours. We have decided to name each hour after a 70s, 80s or 90s popular TV show, in most cases a globally recognised one. To inject a little order into it, as there are 24 hours in a day and 26 letters in the alphabet, it seems sensible that each hour has a TV show beginning with the corresponding position of the letter in the alphabet (i.e. A=1, B=2 etc). For Hour 24 (i.e. midnight, or 00:00) X is used, with Y and Z sadly being lopped off, unless time itself is reformed.

We haven't completed this list yet, but it's making good progress. A few tasters for you.

2am (02:00) will from, hereon in be known as "Baywatch". As in, "I'm knackered. What time is it?", "It's half past Baywatch - no wonder!"
11am (11:00) will be called "Knightrider". As in "I´m starving, is it lunch yet? Damn, it's only Half Knightrider."
1pm (13:00) will be called "Monkey". As in "Ok, lunch at Monkey!"
9pm (21:00) will be called "Tales of the Unexpected" though we expect this to be commonly shortened to "Unexpected". As in "That's Unexpected! Doesn't time fly?"

We've got plenty more, but I'll save them for later.

Finally, the minutes. 60 minutes in an hour, always referred to by mere number (except for quarter- and half-past and quarter-to, which of course we would never change). We might say, "It's 4.13pm" or "It's 11.19am". Not very exciting. But our new minute nomenclature injects some excitement into determining the time within the hour. For this we're going to use contemporary, living celebrity names, determined by the age of the celebrity on 1st January 2008. Thus, if a given celebrity is 45 on that date, they would replace the 45th minute. Here are some examples.

The 7th minute will be replaced by Phoenix Chi Brown (Mel B's daughter). So 1.07am would be "It's 1 - Phoenix Chi (Brown)", or even better, "It's A-Team Phoenix Chi".
The 53rd minute will be replaced by Oprah Winfrey. So 4.53am would be "It's 4 - Oprah (Winfrey)", or even better, "It's Dallas Oprah".
The 59th minute will, of course, be replaced by Noel Edmonds. So 5.59pm would be "It's 5 - Noel (Edmonds) pm", or even better, "It's Quincy Noel - almost time for dinner".

There we have it then, a full and complete naming system for time that we have no doubt will considerably reduce the confusion of compound mathematics. Try it! With some of the names I've already given, how would we say the following time: the first Monday of February, at 1.53pm.







Yes, correct. It would be February, Tabasco Monday, at Monkey Oprah. Now tell me that's not an improvement.

(I've been on this rig 19 days now, with not a spot of work or thing to do for the last 17, and without any for the foreseeable future)

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Não fazer nada

In order to help pass the time, I've decided to start walking really, really slowly.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Flat 4

As from today, I am now the proud owner of four flats.

Yes, while I float around somewhere in south Atlantic, doing absolutely no work whatsoever (and with nothing on the horizon for another week), processes have been in motion back in Aberdeen that today sees me acquire my fourth flat. And in contrast to my purchase of my previous three, this one has been astonishingly hassle-free and smooth. A good thing too, as I’m not really in a position to act if things were to get hairy.

For those familiar with my Aberdeen existence, likely you will be vaguely familiar with this flat, as the previous owner until was Green, aka The Swish Fish. A chance conversation on the way to the pub many months ago led to a mutually beneficial deal being struck, that now sees Green move into a swanky West End premise fit for a young professional with disposable income, while I am lumbered with his old decaying property in the hope of getting some innocent students to pay me money to live there.

In fact, his flat – sorry, my flat – isn’t so bad, as long as you avoid the windows, the boiler, the bathroom and the rotting roof. But this is all par for the course for me now, and I’m mightily relieved that floor and walls won’t need done, as I seem to have spent all my Aberdeen year doing those in my first two flats. Windows and rotting roofs are the preserve of the professional, so just need some phonecalls to get someone, and I may do the bathroom myself, but only if I can be bothered. I quite fancy a break to be honest. I’ve only been home 70 days this year, and these 70 days have been either spent AT THE GODDAMN OFFICE, working full steam on my flats, or visiting family back in Dingwall. When I do eventually return from Brazil (mid-November?) I’ll have about a week getting my first flat finished and then, I pray, I can take a little rest.

That’s wishful thinking, of course. Firstly, that I’ll ever get a week back at home, and secondly that I’ll have time to rest. Because I still have my third flat – where I allegedly live despite not having spent over four hours there since getting the flat on August 1st – to do. It has no power, no furniture, needs new windows, central heating, new walls, new floors... you get the idea. Luckily, I may have help here, as I may be joined by two lovely ladies that I have agreed to give free rent for a year in exchange for daily molesta... um... cooked meals and arranging workmen in my absence.

But today is not for dwelling upon my other flats, today is a celebration of my new flat. Two new bedrooms, a new kitchen, a new living room, a new bathroom, a new horse (or is Justin taking that with him), and four new blue chairs. I just hope the roof hasn’t caved in by the time I get to see it all.

Sunday, 7 October 2007


Every day, the rip gets bigger...

About a week ago, it was a mere hole of minuscule proportions, a simple stretch of the fabric around the seat of my trousers. I’d registered the beam of light that could shine through when they were held up to the sun, but I was unconcerned. Although the trousers were on the tight side, they weren’t unduly constrictive, and the blood could flow freely. But a week is a long time in fabric rips, and the picture is now a very different one.

Putting my socks on inflicted the first damage. There was a tremendous tearing sound, and the rush of air. Every movement at that diabolic moment threatened to increase the tear more, and extreme caution had to be exercised in putting my second sock on. But extreme caution is hard to maintain all the time, and as the week has worn on, the wrong bend, splay or means of putting on/removal has contributed to an ever-growing hole. When I am seated I can feel the coldness of the chair below. Now the rip extends and curves along the base of most of my right buttock, and only the aforementioned tightness (of trousers, not buttock) prevents a flap of fabric hanging down and exposing bare flesh to a shocked world.

And these trousers are not a one-off. Another pair, back in Aberdeen, have an obscene hole at the groin – cause for arrest in many countries. The button of a different pair popped off a long time ago. The zip of another (particularly tight) pair had to be repaired by a professional after breaking. An old pair of coveralls had to be binned for the same reason. Two of my T-shirts sport small holes.

All this has happened in the last year. What, I have been pondering, is the cause of all my clothes busting? The answer is simple – foreigners! All my trousers were either bought in Dubai or Korea, and have suffered washing in foreign hotels. The Korean ones have lasted well and paid their dues, I’ll grant, but the Dubai ones have disappointed. Oh, they looked good at first, but failure soon followed.

So, the moral of this story is – don’t shop in Dubai. (and maybe don’t eat as many pies)

Too Much

I’m getting bored of the 24-hour porn channel. It just seems to be repeats.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

BJ Stingers

BJ Stingers: who really wants a BJ Stinger? Not this drillship, it seems, as upon pulling out of hole the BJ Stinger was crushed and bent, with half of it lost deep down hole. Enough to bring tears to a man’s eye.

I arrived here, on the NS-16, a battered old Russian vessel now doing service in the south Atlantic off Rio, a handful of days ago – a Saturday. It took me and my colleague – who I’ll refer to as “The Smiler” – our second attempt to get here, as our first attempt early on Friday morning was rebuffed. Our names were only pencilled in for the chopper, and pencil is not enough, so we were bumped to the following morning. If only it was that simple. Brazil being Brazil and Halliburton being Halliburton meant that schedules are a loose, almost foreign concept, and the Friday involved three hours of hanging around, waiting futilely, and the Saturday had six hours of glorious waiting in a shabby heliport. Both mornings were 5am starts, so neither me nor The Smiler were exuding much joy.

First impressions upon arriving were not good. As blades whirred above our heads, yellow fireproofed figures ushered us along the rim of the helideck and down the usual steep, metal steps. Earplugs muted the racket; nobody spoke. Being a drillship, our position was still lofty, and only the derrick towered above us like an industrial Eiffel Tower, with the rig floor even, along a narrow bridge cluttered with small containers. As ever, length of tubing were being chucked in or yanked out ad infinitum. Our attention was quickly diverted from this thundering machination as a lone figure across the way motioned for us to follow him. With caution, for I was laden with a heavy backpack, a large blue offshore bag slung over a shoulder and a metal case containing equipment clasped in one hand, I ventured down another steep, narrow set of steps. A dirty red hardhat was given to each of us, and we were led on a merry chase.

Most rigs and ships have their accommodation quarters immediately below the helideck: not the NS-16. Down various steps, round tight corners, along claustophobically narrow corridors, having to backpedal sometimes because our passage was blocked, our route to our home for the next month was a winding maze of clanks and screeches. My 5am start and six hour wait did not welcome this trek, which eventually led to a room cast in total blackness. Lights on revealed two Brazilians playing a Playstation game, and a man using the internet. All were turfed out. The shadowy figure who had led us here asked us to be seated, and then said, more or less, “We take pathogens very seriously here.” Forms were quickly signed saying we agreed. The Captain then appeared, sternly searched our bags (I’ve not seen my dildo since) and we were led to our room.

Things then got better. Then they got worse.

The good news was – and still is – that this drillship is pretty damn decent. My only other experience of drillships was of the “Songa Saturn” back in Equatorial Guinea. A groaning hulk of debris, rusting piles of pipe and ancient grease coating every surface, this cramped vessel was barely fit for service, instead only fit for the lizards and cockroaches that scampered the decks. But the NS-16 is much better. The chief point in its favour is the two-man rooms. Not only that, but spacious two-man rooms, with windows to outside, and a TV. While obviously not new, the rooms are clean and well-kept. Likewise, all the accommodation, which is spacious and open. The helideck, being on the aft, is not within commuting distance and thus out of bounds for dedicated circlers such as myself, but on top of the accommodation, above the bridge, is an open space with a great vantage point, and with a few chairs scattered too. The food is unexceptional but edible, though the 3pm and 9pm snacks are delicious. The gym appears excellent, and I’ve considered actually using it. For third party personnel there are three computers with decent internet. And on channel 42 is a 24-hour porn channel.

I’ll repeat that last part – a 24-hour, no holds barred, porn channel. I’ve still not quite come to terms with this.

And so Saturday ended up being spent quite pleasantly. Taking some of our electronics into our cabin, the evening was spent leisurely as we programmed gauges and transmitters, stuck batteries on the ends, O-ringed and greased them up and slid them snugly into housings. Everything seemed to be in order, except for a crappy test coil, which was but a minor inconvenience. Information about run in hole time was vague, but appeared to be the following night, though sometime mid-Monday was also discussed. Therefore we knew we’d have to up early and fresh for a big day.

A big day it was, a gruelling 16 hours of relentless battles, problem solving, and physical exertion. What should have been straightforward, wasn’t. Really, all we had to do was build our carrier and test it with our wireline tool. How difficult can that be? Very – when your container is constantly being craned away to different locations, there is no external power source, your most simple piece of equipment and the backup breaks, and the trek from cabin to carrier involves heavy doors, stairways and repeated use of the claustrophobic corridor used on our ship introduction. The constant shunting around of our container was such a hassle. We’d pop into our quarters to do something, and when we came back out we’d find our container wedged in a corner, unable to be opened. Therefore it was easier to keep everything of importance in our cabin, meaning very soon our room was rammed full of pipes, tools and slabs of electronics alien to anyone outside of my company.

The crisis came with the tool links. Can you believe that? How simple a tool link is, so simple I’ve never before even considered them failing. They just slide into the housing and, as the name suggests, create a physical link between the coils of two other tools. All a tool link is is a hollow metal cylinder with tightly wound copper-plated silver coil round each end with two wires attaching the ends. No electronics, just metal and wire. But our first tool link wouldn’t fit into the housing. And the second one too. We tried both housings, just in case. It was clear both were slightly bent, and the more we forced them the more the wires and the tape holding the wires on the link got scraped. The worst then happened – the coil on one link was nicked. This is irreparable, and the link was now useless. Down to just one, which already had a wire looking very bent and fragile. It still tested ok, so we tried again to wedge it into the housing, involving much force and bending. Finally, it went in – so we screwed in our acoustic transmitter plus our extended coil, rigged it all up to the laptop and pressed go. Failure. The SRO box registered as normal, and the extended coil dumbed fine, but there was no communication with our transmitter. Very evidently our tool link was broken. Bad news.

Fortunately, this one was repairable, though not by us. Seeking out the rig electrician, hiding in an obscure corner far on the other side of the boat under the helideck, we pleaded our case. He spoke no English, but fortunately his room was packed with many other swarthy men, one of whom did. He’d try his best. All our hopes were now resting on this man.

In the meantime, there was the matter of everything else. The carrier was built without problems, though not without effort, as housings were lugged along the now very familiar network of steps up and down, and narrow corridors, due to the carrier skid being nowhere near our container. The worst was the R Nipple – a brute of thick metal – that took all my strength under the Brazilian sun to heave along this passage. Two O-rings onto each housing, plus some incredibly fiddly peek backups, as well as oil traps for the gauges. You don’t need me to tell you that after this effort we were black with grease and soaked with sweat.

Back to the tool link, as it was collected from the electrician and taken to our quarters for insertion into housing and testing. As delicately as possible, we rammed it in. Transmitter and extended coil were then gingerly screwed in. All rigged up to the laptop. SRO box – ok. Dumbed coil – ok. Then the moment of truth, would the acoustic transmitter communicate? There was silence as The Smiler and I exchanged nervous, desperate glances. “Do it,” he urged me, as my finger hovered over the “identify” icon on our specialised software. I wiped my damp brow with a hand dark with the filth of hard graft. “May God have mercy on us,” I said, barely a whisper.

I pressed “identify”...

And it worked. The pressures of a day lifted from our shoulders as our last ditch attempt to save our job was successful. Whooping and cheering, both of us lifted into the air in an ecstasy never before experienced, hugging and pressing our bodies together, until we took a sudden check of ourselves, and vowed to stop watching channel 42 so much.

The day certainly wasn’t over though. We still had to test our carrier with our newly built wireline tool, and the rig’s drastic shortage of external power supplies almost scuppered this. The situation was ridiculous. All we needed was a power supply within 40m of our carrier, and we could conduct a quick twenty minute test. Usually we can borrow someone’s unit, but the only unit around was the wireline unit, ages away and without power. A plug outside would do then, but there were only two. One simply didn’t work, and the other had a socket requiring a plug unlike I’ve ever seen, and couldn’t see in the electrician’s workshop. Finally, after considerable searching, a socket near the rig floor was borrowed, but then the toolpusher – a Brazilian with an unnerving Aberdonian twang – became nervous about our equipment. Was it rated? Was it explosion proof? A spark from a laptop might send this entire gas well to kingdom come. The electrician was fetched, a different guy from before, who spoke English but made me deeply uneasy with his dirty beard and lecherous stare. I was taken to his office, and slowly made to fill in forms, as I smelt the digesting food from his stomach as he breathed over me. A Permit To Work was required, basically a Health and Safety waste of everyone’s time, requiring loads of forms to be filled in by loads of people. involving a chase around the rig to find them. The whole process took near two hours. Our whole test, when finally enough pink and yellow papers had been filled in and filed, never to be seen again, took twenty minutes.

Then there was some rest.

Not for long, as I hauled myself up at 8am to immediately be plunged into another frantic day of set-up and tool failures, this time against the clock. Our carrier had to be pressure tested to 7000 PSI, then function tested again to make sure our gauges were still ticking away. A simple process, in theory, but again the terrible power situation on the rig shot us in the foot.

The pressure test went like a dream. There was a fair amount of hauling of stuff, but the test itself was perfect. I was worried that slippage of the peek backups may have resulted in a less-than-perfect seal, but this didn’t transpire. It was now midday, hot under the cloudless sky, and the time was drawing near for our carrier to be run in hole. But a function test was still required, to make sure the tools still worked after having had pressure applied. Here we ran into our next problem.

This problem was a hangover from the previous day’s. Because this job is a MiniFrac, the first time I’ve run such a job, SRO from the wireline will only be focussed on a short space of time, rather than the days and days of data often required from the shut-in period of a DST. Thus, instead of the usual acoustic means of data acquisition used for STO, inductive comms are required. This means that we use the coils of the wireline tools to line up with the beta talkers of the gauges, and an ARL on the end of the wireline tool latches into the R Nipple immediately below the gauge carrier. Needless to say, that the coils must be exactly aligned so that data can be transferred, and alignment of coils is notoriously tricky. But if we were to run our carrier into hole, we would need to have our ARL set for precise alignment prior to this.

But we couldn’t do it. Painstakingly, we adjusted the ARL bolts, but when running the software the gauges simply wouldn’t be found. I’d correctly dumbed the extended coil as a gauge (rather than as a transmitter, as per usual) and run it all as a direct (rather than APS) system, but nothing. What was I doing wrong? It was that question that I’d fired off back to base via email the night before, and had received a number of detailed replies. The heart of which seemed to be: software bug.

Hours of effort, in filthy coveralls, knackered, sweating, all spent for nothing because of faulty software. I phoned back to base (itself a mission, as making foreign phonecalls from this ship is far from straightforward) and explained that if I couldn’t get this inductive system working in just a few hours, then I’d have to go fully acoustic and dump the ARL, as our carrier would be going in hole shortly. I spoke directly to the tech-expert, who assured me a patch would be winging its way via email very soon, though might be in quite a large file, and also explained how I might be able to access an older, working version of the software if mine or The Smiler’s laptop still had an old installer. Time was ticking, and none of this looked to be a quick process.

Then some good, miraculous even, news: inductive comms would not be required. A valve in the Halliburton carrier immediately above ours would be closed for the Frac, making it impossible for our ARL to run through and latch with the R Nipple. Instead, the bullnose of our wireline tool could simply rest on the valve and conduct a standard STO. Suddenly, a massive weight was relieved from us – now all we had to do was conduct a surface SRO test the usual way.

The power situation was again a complicating factor, but we got round it this time by borrowing a Halliburton boy’s cabin and setting up the laptop there, and running a co-ax from there to the tool. A very improvised set-up, certainly not textbook stuff, but the easiest way under the circumstances.

Now, what followed I’m a little embarrassed about. Because there was then a couple of hours – time for running in hole growing ever closer (and ever shifting) – of tool glitches and mysterious lack of communications. I tried everything – via coils, via extended coils, via different acoustic transmitters, changing cables and SRO boxes. What on earth was wrong? I knew our gauges were sound, but why couldn’t my wireline tool get a good signal? I did eventually get enough data to prove everything was operational, but it was only later that I discovered what the glitch was – me. The settings of a program had been accidently and very subtly changed, meaning that things almost worked, but not quite fully. It was as simple as a mouse-click to remedy hours worth of stress.

By this time, the carrier was safely in hole, and suddenly both myself and The Smiler could sit back with a sigh of relief. A lot of hard work, a lot of running around, a lot of frantic problem solving, and it had all come good in the end; now gentle days and days were ahead of us, sitting in the sun, using the internet, religiously attending 3pm and 9pm snack-time, and watching porn on the sly when the other was out of the room. And so, on the most part, it has been.

Some rigs, the time stretches endlessly and painlessly. But not here. In fact, it’s almost a pleasure. I’ve rigged up my iPod speakers in the room, and so can subject The Smiler to repeated assaults of my music (he has no iPod thus no comeback). The rooms are a pleasure to be in, especially with the window to outside, with the lovely view of a calm blue sea, semi-sub rig a couple of miles away, and the occasional passing fishing boat. If I want a change of scenery, I head upstairs to the roof of the bridge, with its open space and chairs, and views over the ocean, including yet another rig, and numerous boats. The sunset the other day caught one rig in silhouette and against the dramatic orange backdrop made this chunk of barbarian steel seem rather pretty. By the looks of it, I may be here for some time, and I can think of many worse rigs I could be staying. In fact, though not technically the best, this may be my favourite rig to date. It’s just open, and I don’t feel like I’m stuck in a hole.

And it does look like I could be here some time. Yesterday, the string should have passed through the packer, but repeated attempts failed. It was theorised that the Stinger, a BJ tool, must be bent, so a replacement would be in order. So, yesterday evening I watched as kilometres of pipe were pulled out, culminating with our carrier and then the Stinger. Or part of the Stinger.

What came out was this thin, twisted piece of metal. I’m not, mercifully, familiar with BJ Stingers, but it transpired that what I was seeing was only half the tool. The rest was somewhere “down there”, i.e. kilometres underground, down a hole. Maybe on the packer, maybe not. It’s too small to be fished out, so instead the packer has to be pulled. Even if this goes perfectly from now, it’ll be a week before I’m running a wireline. Already, the job is two weeks delayed. I would almost bet upon further delays too.

Then – and only then – will the DST part of the run. And as we all know, the DST can be fraught with difficulty. The MiniFrac is supposed to be the easy part!

Here’s to Christmas, then, on the good ship NS-16.