Friday, 25 April 2008

Mistakes Past As Drinks Await

So I find myself in Glasgow, in my cousin's flat, with a pleasant sense of nothing to do. A different kind of nothing-to-do than the listlessness of a hotel's, or clanking claustrophobia of a rig's. Here is quiet, with space, although my first time here the surroundings are still familiar. My cousin bought her flat just six months ago, and it's a terrific place. Not in the best part of town, therefore fairly cheap especially as all the furniture came with it, it has three good double bedrooms, improbably cluttered kitchen and debris-strewn living room including three large and slowly-dying plants. It needs all kinds of work done to it but is currently fully functional, and full of charm. It's precisely the sort of property that attracts me, and so I cannot help but cast my critical eye and imagine the happy weeks I could spend here dismantling everything, accidently electrocuting myself, but finally and in the space of a couple of days the finished article appearing, as if my magic.

An appraisal of my cousin's flat, however, is not what brings me to Glasgow. A thorough catch-up with old faces is. Despite Glasgow being less than three hours train journey away, I've not been here for over 18 months. A lot of my friends live here, possibly more even than in Aberdeen, and so this is a long time to have gone without seeing them. I've simply been too busy. Last year I effectively only had about three months at home, with the other nine being abroad for work and (a little) holidays. And in my three months at home I was even busier. Looking back now, it seems quite amazing. This time last year I had only two flats, neither of them leased out and both them in a state of disrepair and needing some heavy work. In my few months at home, I managed to get them both finished, buy another two flats - both needing a lot of work - and to my immense relief, three of four are now happily rented out, one is my home, and like an impatient mother, a fifth is on the way.

Yes, that was the good news story of my return. I arrived in Aberdeen at 2.30pm on Monday afternoon, looked round one flat only, and less than 24 hours later my offer had been accepted. No hassles, negotiations or delays. The survey came in yesterday and was almost perfect. The only criticism was weeds in the gutter, mere unshaved legs on a beautiful girl.

So that's been good. Also good was my weekend home in Dingwall, and Inverness. I saw my first Ross County game in two years, with them comfortably beating the might of Cowdenbeath 3-0 and being awarded the Division 2 trophy at the end. Various people there I'd not seen in years, and fresh back from Brazil it was a perfectly formed afternoon of homely familiarity, even down to the crisp, fresh weather. Plenty of whisky was then drunk that evening, with Varwell and my brother, and Sunday was spent in gleeful indolence at my mother's, as she made food for me and her fancyman slaved away in the garden (I'm convinced she only has this fancyman for gardening and occasional dinners).

So, all very nice. But, alas, the echoes of Brazil came back to haunt me. On Wednesday I went into the office. It wasn't my finest moment.

A job screwed up, for us and other companies. Tens, even hundreds, of thousands of pounds lost. A complete overhaul in procedures required. A likely written warning for me next week.

And I'm now banned from Brazil.


No, I'm not really taking this too lightly. I admit, the thought of not returning to Brazil does make me want to sing and dance and enter into a musical, leaping and twirling round lamp posts. It's kind of like a reward for being an idiot. But it's a terrible black mark against my name that, for work, I effectively cannot go back. NRBed, not required back; as a friend and collerague of mine (who has been NRBed from Equatorial Guinea) put it, "Welcome to the Papa non Grata club".

Reflecting on my error, which I've done much of, and the more I learn about it, I realise quite how unfortunate it was. Careless by me, yes, very, but also very unlucky, and in any normal situation the mistake wouldn't have been so costly. The error was, simply, I screwed stuff in wrong. For some reason, the carrier I was using was upside-down, something I have never encountered before or knew existed. A thorough pre-check should have highlighted this, but I made an assumption based on all my previous jobs that I thought safe, but I now know wasn't. My mistake, in a nutshell, was assuming too much.

And missing a helicopter flight. But I don't even want to go into that.

But it's all behind me, well, except for meeting the big boss next week and having another "discussion" (my error is his pet-hate, so I just have to hope he's mellow from his holiday this week). That nightmare of an eight weeks in Brazil is over, and isn't to be repeated imminently. Next stop - Equatorial Guinea, perhaps next week. Not by desire, but out of necessity. I volunteered for it because it gives me a better chance of being home for early June, for which I couldn't get holidays for, and have a wedding, a 30th, a music festival and a Leonard Cohen concert in Dublin all in the space of a week. Plus, of course, the keys to my fifth flat.

All that is ahead. For now I'm only thinking of tonight and tomorrow, where I'll be re-united with old friends and their stories, and can wash my mind away in a torrent of beer and nonsense.

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