Just under six months ago, I returned from a job in the North Sea and declared myself "burnt out". It was true. I'd been away for nine months of the previous twelve for the past two years. Even on my time at home, I was busy; when avoiding being dragged into base, I was working hard on any one of my five flats, three of which had been bought in the space of a year, and some of which were requiring a hell of a lot of work. So, at the start of July 2008, I was tired. A month off, what a dream that would be. A month to refresh and regenerate. A glorious, but optimistic, dream.
Little did I know that through a combination of cirumstances, it wouldn't be until the start of 2009 that I'd be called to go away again. Pack my dirty blue bags, make a little prayer to the gods of oil, and be whisked off to another fun-filled, action-packed, glitz-and-glamour, journey-of-a-lifetime boy's own adventure, courtesy of my employers. This time to South Africa and Mozambique, armed only with an illicit penknife and a plastic hardhat, to fight off the natives and plunder their land for all the goddamn oil I can get my hands on. Six months of being idle, and I'm rather looking forward to going away. It's like being an offshore virgin again, eager to dive into this chaotic mechanical mess. But unlike a virgin, of course, my firm hand of experience will guide me smoothly through the coming ordeal, and leave one and all more satisfied for my slick actions.
Though I'm inclined to think my last six months have been quiet, in actuality they have been fairly busy. Fair enough, not as notable as the first half of 2007, which saw jaunts in Trinidad, Brazil and Equatorial Guinea, with all their associated japes and scrapes, but nonetheless with plenty of moments of note. I got four of my five flats finished, and rented out, and my own effectively ready for habitation and fit for a pleasant party.
Some pleasant parties.
I also discovered the joys of my rooftop, and partook in neighbourly barbecues up there. Relations with the neighbours have remained friendly, though their noisy night-time excursions into the middle shared attic have met with furious remonstrations from myself - but I think they've learnt the lesson. My flat has also hosted my 30th birthday, a poker night, a dinner party, lots of cigar and pipe smoking, my first self-cooked meal in many a moon, but most of all, hours and hours of playing pool.
I'm still rubbish.
I've ventured out of my flat on numerous occasions. Not just to scrouge food off Green, or to meet Kitchen Mark and French Claire for a few pints, or even to buy tons of pies and booze from Morrison's, but I've actually ventured out of the Greater Aberdeen Metropolis to distant cities, such as Dingwall, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Durham, Birmingham and even London. Dingwall was usually to see my delightful mother, but also for my cousin's wedding at the end of November. Edinburgh was notably to see Leonard Cohen live - the best live performance I've ever seen. His cover version of X-Factor sensation A. Burke's "Hallelujah" is much better, in my opinion. Glasgow was for all kinds of reasons, a funeral unfortunately the most notable. I've described my Durham visit before, but very soon I'll deliver one of my long-promised photos. Birmingham was for the wedding of my friend Becky, and London was for all kinds of reasons, like seeing friends, my cousin, Leonard Cohen again (he says hi, by the way) and confusing Natural History with Science.
Speaking to a relative at my cousin's wedding. In the foreground, my mother ogles a naked man, or something like that.
My brother and I harass an old lady.
Becky gets married.
In amongst all this inter-city jetting and jiving, I even had time for a lovely girlfriend! But then we broke up. Dear me!
She didn't like getting her photo taken, but she was quite pretty, I promise.
However, lest you think my last demi-year has been one of excess alcohol, daily pool, weddings, jaunts and japes, staring lovingly at my girlfriend, parties, late mornings, boasting to poor people about my property empire and politely declining the hundreds of hookers outside my door, you may be surprised, nay horrified, to learn that I have been forced to do a little work. In December, I went into the office and felt obliged to do several half-days, and in early October I went on a little boat trip off Great Yarmouth. This was quite an interesting job and a bit of a diversion from my usual work, involving hanging around on a boat, chucking a heavy thing overboard and then seeing if this heavy thing could communicate with some crazy device on the seabed by means of magic (yes, actual magic). Remarkably, it all worked, eventually, after some perseverance and a moment of inspiration from a Polish man.
My inspired Polish colleague.
And so that, in a nutshell, has kept me going during my unexpected extended holiday. That's the highlights at least, I don't need to tell you of the hours and days of loneliness, of the tears that have wracked my body and soaked my bed (it was tears, honestly!), of the hardship of having to let a loved one go - yes, I took my van to the scrapyard. But I got £50 for it, which I was pretty delighted about.
So, tomorrow, I wave goodbye to my home and set foot on a mighty airborne monster, destined for South Africa and then Mozambique. By the sound of it, my time will be mostly spent offshore, so I won't have much time onshore to try and catch AIDS from the natives, but regardless, I'm looking quite forward to it. It's a three man job, and my colleagues are The Hamiltonian (formerly known as "Len", but I'm renaming him by the nickname given by my departed Cognac Colleague) and "Biff", making his offshore debut but who has plenty of base experience and seems like a reliable chap. Holiday's over - now let the fun begin.