Friday, 20 June 2008


Leonard Cohen played a fantastic gig to a sold out crowd in Dublin last Friday. At least that's what I gather from a few reviews on the internet, because among that awestruck crowd were two empty seats. Many miles away, incarcerated aboard my latest floating prison, I was warming the seat in my two-man room, watching the football on a tiny television and finding it hard to conceive that, but for a convergence of chance events, I would have been watching Cohen by the side of a dark-haired Irish beauty.

Eight-and-a-half months ago, fresh from his 21st birthday spent offshore Brazil with me, the wrung-out Spinxy returned from the land of samba to Arbroath and impregnated his girlfriend before lighting up another cigarette. Then, last month, young Mutton Balloon injured his hand in some vague incident, as yet undetermined. And finally, at about the same time, down in Angola, a little error of calculation by Mr Calm let to unmitigated disaster offshore as several large chunks of metal were lost, gnarled and broken, kilometers underground during a large oil well test. This latter incident has so far cost about $15,000,000 and has somewhat overshadowed my own recent effort (merely $30,000 - $50,000) and cost the job of the guy in charge (of the contracting oil company), and has meant a re-test is required. Thus four extra personnel are needed, and together with the aforementioned out-of-action colleagues, suddenly nobody of my experience was available for a job in the North Sea... except me. Thus, last Thursday was spent packing my bag for offshore, rather than for Ireland, and was spent in numerous phonecalls cancelling various plans. I had time to briefly wish Green a happy 30th birthday, but couldn't even go out to eat as I had to sort stuff out. And due to the short notice, I wasn't even able to send the Cohen tickets to Ireland, so that at least someone might enjoy them. Last Thursday and Friday weren't much fun.

We'll not even mention that my first few days offshore were spent doing virtually nothing, as delays have put things back several days, and that I could have gone to Ireland after all. No, let's not mention that.

My initial fury has since evolved into mere grumpiness, then apathetic lethargy, and has finally settled upon a kind of faux-contented resignation as to my cirumstances. Cohen has come and gone, as has most thoughts of the outside world. Instead, my focus has slowly shifted to the task in hand, and the situation that surrounds me. Which, as far as the offshore world goes, is actually pretty comfortable.

The rig is one of the better ones I've been on. No, one of the best, in fact. The two-man rooms are good, and after the insomnia of Aberdeen (I don't have curtains yet) I've been sleeping very soundly. I've been able to watch all the football so far. The food is unquestionably the best I've ever had offshore: massive, hearty, tasty, varied, and always eagerly anticipated. A few days ago I had to lay down the law and ban myself from second helpings, as I was practically eating my bodyweight daily. Our workspace is great - a new unit to ourselves, with speedy internet. And unlike the mania of Equatorial Guinea - 24 hours to rig up seven large pieces of equipment - we've had tons of time to rig up very little equipment. It has been very leisurely. A good thing too, as myself and the first man, Mr Vinegar, who was also in Equatorial Guinea with me, have really not been firing on all cylinders.

The team I'm with are good as well. This is my third job with Mr Vinegar this year, so we're pretty familiar with how we operate. Joining us are the livewire "Baracus", a cheeky and hilarious Dubai operator from India, and a new boy, "Scallion", who is charmingly obedient. I worked with Baracus only once before, a week on base in Malaysia last year, and he brings great entertainment to the jaded leadership. He's had four-and-a-half months off this year (!) and so is keen and motivated, and chatters incessantly. He spent ten minutes yesterday, during pressure testing, eagerly rehearsing his PA announcement, "Attention all personnel. Pressure testing on the pipe deck is now complete. Thank-you very much!", which involved much gesticulation and oratory booming. He's been taught to speak "Scottish", and so frequently comes out with, "Aye min," and "Fit like loon?" as well as many other unpublishable comments, all of which seem amusingly out of place with his Indian accent.

I've just started to go on nightshift from yesterday, and expect a little bit of action in the next day or two, but then a week of further insouciance. Then home? No. Because we're currently still rigging up just the first test of two, so I can expect at least another three weeks here. Three weeks of good food, fast internet, crazy Indians and a diminishing concept of home and reality.

But hopefully back for July 16th. Why? Because I've got more Leonard Cohen tickets, this time for Edinburgh. Lightning, surely, can't strike twice. Cohen, you don't escape me that easily.

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