Tuesday, 26 August 2008


So I was in Durham this weekend. All I knew about Durham before visiting was that it was the origin of the legendary birdwatching fanatic, Kitchen Mark, so already Durham had a giant gold star in my book. However, Kitchen Mark has been soiling the streets of Aberdeen for over a decade, and there's a new kid on the block in Durham, the legendary literary deconstructionist, non-kitchen Maebh. In fact, Maebh has been in Durham for two years and I'd been promising from way back then to visit, only finally now being true to my word.

And, well, wasn't it a lovely visit? I thought I was fully prepared to deal with Maebh's awesome beauty, but somehow she'd cranked up the honey factor yet another gear, leaving me convinced that within her DNA the very secret of eternal youth must lurk. Truly a scientific wonder. And a literary one too, as she ploughs through a PhD on deconstructionist maestro Derrida, a topic my very own PA, herself an English PhD student (a criticial analysis of a Walter Scott poem) described as "difficult".

The Friday evening I arrived was one of Maebh's housewarming party, in a real house, which in a nutshell was a gathering of Durham uberstudents drinking tons and tons of red wine. Very enjoyable, and I regaled to one and all my tales of the seas, aboard destitute rigs in hostile climes. All the girls swooned, I'm happy to report.

Remarkably, my health wasn't ruined the next day, save for some fuzziness, and so Maebh and I took a little wander round Durham, and I admired its beauty and she reminded me it was in fact really quite small and the nightlife wasn't raging. As we know each other from Korea, we remembered these days fondly, harking back to that carefree lifestyle and the quirks and mania of rather a unique nation. And of course, we took a look at Durham cathedral, which I can confirm is really quite big. And thus I shall end my writing now, and bombard you with photos.

Or I would if I could get this damn thing to work. Screw this, I'm hungry, I'll put these photos up later.

Friday, 22 August 2008

My Poor Late PA

My poor PA was late last night.

For those who know me well, they will also know that it's best not to be late for an appointment with me. I regard myself as extremely punctual - a family trait that would see us in the car, leaving for a holiday at precisely 8am each time. If I arrange to meet my sister somewhere, we'll arrive at exactly the same time, five minutes before the time agreed. My ten minute walk to school would have each road crossing and landmark timed to the second, with the bell going just as I came into view of the main door. I would rather be twenty minutes early than five minutes late and pride myself on never being late. Let's not mention helicopters here though...

As I say, my friends are well versed in this. Most of my friends are pretty good with time anyway, but some have had to learn the hard way. For though I'll forgive the occasional lapse, and I'm aware that sometimes unexpected delays can occur, when it comes to chronic late time-keeping my patience wears extremely thin, and it's one of the few faux pas that can still turn me from a gentle sweet man to a raging fury. My good friend Emily suffered heavily some years back. With a genetic disposition for being twenty or more minutes late for everything, our friendship creaked under the strain of her late arrival and my built-up temper; it is with great pride that I can say that these days she is never late, for me at least. I broke up with my girlfriend in Korea in large part due to her lateness. She would almost always be half an hour late for every meeting we ever had. This soon became a major issue. Because our meetings would inevitably begin with me ranting or in a mad huff, and with her in a panicked fluster. "Korean girls are always late - it's Korean culture," she would claim, but that didn't wash me with me. She became scared to even meet me if she knew she'd be more than five minutes late, and one time this fear translated into not turning up at all. As you can imagine, things didn't last long after that.

On my part, I feel my impatience is justified. You wouldn't be late for a job interview, or a meeting with your boss, so why should you be late for a friend? Especially if someone is waiting outside, it's just plain rude to leave them hanging around there. I'm not unreasonable, I allow for five minutes of lateness, but once we enter that sixth minute my blood begins to boil. And no, a text message at the agreed time of meeting warning of lateness will not do. In fact, it just makes it worse.

And so my poor PA came a cropper of this pet hate of mine.

For a couple of weeks, there's been a double bed in my van. My PA put it there, as it was being moved from a friend's flat to her mother's home. I've not needed the van much in the last two weeks so it's been no big deal, but I was hoping she'd sort it out sooner rather than later. However, as she's not insured to drive it, it was kind of dependent upon me getting round to it. Then, two days ago, new sofas were delivered to my fifth flat, and so I suddenly needed the van to take away the old crappy ones. Two or three times we arranged to get the bed delivered, but each time was cancelled, because of her mother being out, or forgetting to leave the keys , or something. Fortunately, the new tenants of the fifth flat haven't moved in yet, but they've started paying and could move in at any time, therefore it was only professional of me to make sure their new home wasn't clogged up with sofas, so I was very keen to get them out as quickly as possible.

Finally, a time of 8pm yesterday was set, and set in stone as far as I could tell. Rather, her mother would be home at this time, therefore I reckoned if we were ready to at about 7.40pm, the timing would work out well. My PA wasn't in when I went to fetch the van, through the pouring rain, and when I tried calling her her phoned appeared to be switched off our out of batteries. I parked the van on double yellow lines and came back to the flat, but she still wasn't around. It was still before 8 though, and so I supposed she'd just be back for then. Her phone still didn't respond.

At 8.05pm I received a text message - "here in twenty minutes!" Hmm, one, now two cardinal sins. I put some music on, tried to relax, but found myself getting wound up and unjable to concentrate. Twenty minutes passed, no sign, and still no phone response. Thirty minutes, forty, then fifty, and by now by blood was fully boiled. The album I'd put on had finished and my rage had peaked. "Given up. We do this 9am tomorrow" I texted her, and stormed out of the flat, and went round to Green's for a beer and Seinfeld, and to calm down.

My PA arrived back about ten minutes later, it seems, and tried to phone me but I ignored her calls. This was for the best, as I was in a fully-aware rage and fully aware I would be extremely impolite and unreasonable if I spoke to her, so just sent her a message telling her stop phoning me and I'd be calmed down in a while. It was a lucky break for her she didn't see me then because it's the biggest rage I've had in a while - but then, no-one's been late for me in quite a while. And when I did get back, I was returned to a nice mellow state, and was able to greet my poor PA merrily, with no inclination to snap at her. She was almost in tears, and I felt quite bad to be honest, but at least it will have taught her to be dead on time in future. We moved the bed and sofa today, a mere half-hour job, and the air was again rosy.

In other news, I've now passed the six week mark at home, which is a personal record for the last two years, and am actually getting quite impatient to go away again. Not just for financial reasons, but just because I miss the smell of the rigs, the burning fumes, the sweaty men, and the salty sea air. It looks like I'll be on a mini-job next week, but only for a few days. Still no big jobs imminent.

For today, I'm going to Durham in a couple of hours, to reunite with the divine Maebh, for whom adjectives cannot ever adequately describe her radiance, and whom I've not seen in over two and half years, despite many broken promises to visit her. But finally I've made the time. The train leaves at 1.21pm today. I won't be late (and it better not be).

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Small Party

Look at my new camera. What do you think?

In fact, it's not mine, but was left in my flat on Friday, after somewhat of a mangling party. I think it may be the neighour's, Yates's, but I've decided to keep it until he claims it, and maybe sell it on Ebay. Looking through his photos, it's rather heartening to see he's almost as bad as I with regards to this alleged art, but his collection was redeemed by a photo of me, on the roof.

Friday's party was a rather sprawling and unplanned affair, that left me almost entirely physically disabled on Saturday. It started off with a few civilised drinks with my sister and her friends, but ended up with a motley crew of colleagues, neighbours and strangers on my roof at 7am. The main instigators of it all - for I was blameless - were Burness (a perennial bad influence), my PA and the neighbour Yates, who seemed to drag half a clubful of people back to the flat at 3am. It was all very enjoyable, though I was very glad I've opted for floorboards only in my flat, for the flat was awash with spilt drink. My PA very gallantly cleaned everything up the next day too, as I slinked off to Green's empty flat to hide, and to watch the football and Olympics.

As all this may suggest, I'm not in Norway and still lounging about at home. The job in Norway was cancelled this week, and nothing else seems immediately imminent. It's almost six weeks at home now - a record, I think. With all my flats finished and rented, I find I don't have much pressing business to do, and have become incredibly lazy, so I really intend to make better use of my time this week. I may even pop into the office - yes, it's got that desperate. I won't actually do anything there except drink coffee and pester people, but I should remind everyone of my continued existence, and see what jobs are coming up.

And that's it.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Becky's Wedding

I sit here, in the little alcove of my exquisitely furnished living room, DJing to a near-professional level (despite lack of headphones), drinking dodgy Polish beer. My PA is studiously catching up with three years of a neglected PhD in the kitchen, dropping her hard work only to fetch me another drink, which I communicate to her by text message. Outside, the light dims, but the screeches of the universally-despised seagulls remain bright and loud, with the higher pitches of the pathetic baby seagull also registering: oh, how I wish for a national cull. Perhaps a little later, I'll tire of my "dex-skillz" and progress to the snooker room, and knock around my shiny new snooker balls. Until finally, when the beer has run out and I decide against the cognac, I'll stumble up the dangerous stairway to my attic haven and fall into a delicious sleep in my massive, extremely accommodating bed. And throughout all of this, I will make no mistake: this is Aberdeen, and not Norway.

I was supposed to be in Norway by now; at least, I would be in some parallel universe where oil schedules meant something. Fortunately they don't, and on Friday morning, as I emerged from deep sleep into a world of hangover ruin, I received a phonecall with the very welcome news that Saturday's voyage to Norway had been postponed.

That news ultimately made for a far more enjoyable Friday evening, though it barely made a blip on the vile misery that Friday morning turned out to be. I found myself in a country house near Birmingham, then in a dining room with a bride, a groom and their family and friends, and then in a small car with a six hour drive ahead. The most ghastly of the misery - a deep nausea receiving little sympathy from the teetotal honey, Roxana - passed after the first couple of hours, mercifully, but I apologise to anyone who happened to venture into a service station toilet between Birmingham and Carlisle anytime after 10am that morning.

It was all worth it though, because the Thursday that caused the damage was terrific. I'd been invited down to see an old friend, Becky, get married. Becky was an integral part of "back in the day", when I lived in a castle and didn't sleep, only pass out. She wasn't in the last bit a good influence, instead preferring to phone at the moment I was about to drive home, and persuade me to venture to some seedy nightclub. She wisely jumped ship just before the whole scene dissolved into the darkest of mania, but to hear of her getting married, presumably forever, was still quite a surprise. This was someone from a group of people for whom commitment meant remembering to be at the pub for 10pm. The sobering influence on her life is a man, and very charming and pleasant he turned out to be, with the impressive name of "Hereward", an old friend from before "back in the day", who has nursed Becky into a healthier world and convinced her to be a dutiful wife.

I arrived into Birmingham very late on Wednesday, so late in fact it was actually Thursday, the wedding day. After meeting Rox, the driver, in Edinburgh, traffic and then weather had been horrendous, and we'd slipped way behind schedule; nonetheless, Becky was happy to direct us as we entered the unknown and deeply murky world of Birmingham, and greet us as we finally found her house. I stayed with a couple of her friends, and survived a whole night of being stared at by their unsettled cat. I won the contest, and it missed its tray when crapping, so buoyed by this victory I was in good form going into the wedding.

I didn't know anyone there except for the aforementioned Rox and Becky, but this turned out not to really matter, because it was a fairly small wedding (about 60 people) and a very friendly one, where everyone got on. Of course, the steady drinking from 2.30pm didn't hurt, and the fact that the country house hosting the wedding was also the hotel for everyone.

Anyway, I was going to write more, but my PA has just poured me a White Russian, and I kind of feel like venturing on to the snooker room, where the activities will demand more of my attention rather than my DJ exertions. So I will briefly reiterate that the wedding was really enjoyable, praise the 7-year-old boy who stole the dancefloor, express concern as to the drinkability of a whisky and Amaretto, and look forward to the next drinks I buy being about £15 a pint in Norway.