Monday, 20 April 2009


With my property empire running smoothly and not requiring daily input, I have turned my muscular financial bulk to the world of stocks and shares. As you may have noticed, those of you who closely follow the news, the entire world has caved in on itself upon realising all the money we had was actually just pretend. Thus, my helping hand was required, and from my network of savings I have pumped money into the London Stock Exchange, to the tune of about £100, about six weeks ago. This is how I have progressed:

My first investment was in "Caspian Holdings PLC". My reasoning for this investment, of £25, was somewhat obscure, based upon a stocks and shares TV programme I used to watch about ten years ago called "Show Me The Money". In this lunchtime programme, company overlords would come on and try and "sell" their company to teams of people buying pretend shares, with the knock-on effect that loads of city people on their lunchbreak would promptly buy their shares for real and substantially boost the value of the company by the end of the half hour show. One such company, a small one, was called Atlantic Caspian, which had something to do with oil, and for some reason it remained in my head. I recall the shares being worth about 15p each. Well, now this company has turned into Caspian Holdings PLC and the 15p shares were a bargain 1/2p. What better time to invest? I bought a bumper 4741 shares. My £25 is now worth £21.33, but it should be noted that as this was my first investment online I mistakenly bought immediately rather than the cost-effective delayed way, which cost me £8.50 rather than £1.50, thus my investment of £25 was only £16.50, and thus my loss is actually a profit. I feel I am very quickly coming to grips with how money actually works in the modern world.

My second investment was something called "NCC Group Plc". I have no idea who they are or what they do; my reason for purchase was because NCC are my own initials. And they've done me proud. My 16 shares, costing me £48.91, are now worth £52.64. If I had invested £489,100, I would have made £37,300. Not bad for six weeks work.

Finally, my third investment was in Tullow Oil PLC. I have no idea why I invested in them, as I've never been on a job for them, and have no insider information either. This lack of nous might be why my two shares costing £18 are now worth just £15.72. I think this may have been an unwise investment, but intend to stick it out until I'm back in profit.

It's a step up, I think, from the online betting I did last summer, while on a job. Here I lost £50 on one bet, when the Polish netball team came back from 2-0 down to beat the Brazilian netball team 3-2! Who could have predicted that? I quit in anger, as it demolished all my good work betting on the darts, and learnt a sage lesson.

Anyway, that's all. In other news... nothing. I wake to the same grey surroundings daily, ignore the dull eyes of the same dour faces in the corridors, sit in the same seat in the same grey unit for 12 hours, and relish the oblivion of sleep, my only escape. Every day is a day less of my youth, a day closer to the inevitable oblivion to which there is no awakening. I have seen the future, and it is here, for evermore, on this featurelessly bleak Groundhog Day rig.

Bye for now!

Sunday, 12 April 2009


Happy Easter from the Caspian Sea.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

From A to Z

I arrived, wedged at the back corner of a planeful of boisterous Azeri 13-year-olds who applauded the landing, in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, last Tuesday. I remained there for approximately 12 hours before being choppered into the Caspian Sea, or more precisely, a semi-submersible enigmatically named “Istiglal.” Thus, after almost two weeks, I can tell you a lot about this small metal space, and rather less about the nation of Azerbaijan.

What I do know is based on mere hearsay and colleagues' tales, plus a night-time taxi drive to my hotel, through the city from the airport. Despite being a Muslim country, the locals love their booze and channel 5 of the TV is dedicated to porn: I think they may have strayed from the Koran. I approve heartily of all this, even if the porn wasn't very good. What glimpses of the city I grabbed seemed to have more charm than recent expeditions, and unlike slums like Luanda or the blocky sprawl of Johannesburg (to be fair, I didn't get a proper look), there seemed a sense of style and history. Architecturally inspired by Islam, with the more recent Soviet monster looming high. But the place appeared distinct – and that is a vital quality in any good city. A recent post by Green perfectly expresses this and what constitutes the “soul” of a city, so I will direct you there for his excellently chosen words rather than regurgitate them here.

Azerbaijan is also noted for being the only country in the world to leap from the first letter of the alphabet to the last – not a bad effort for a small nation (though Zambia has a good shot, but gets it the wrong way round). I suppose Brazil gives it a shot too, but takes a few practice letters to get going. It's the fourth country now I've been to containing the letter “z”, and I can now proudly boast that I've met people from six different ex-Soviet nations. Well done. It's also country no. 40 for me, a milestone I've celebrated by vast consumption of cake.

In years to come, when I regale my offshore experiences in excruciating detail to my tiny and very weary grandchildren, my overriding memories of “Istiglal”, apart from not being able to say it, will be of cake. I shall tell little “Murphy”, “Geraldine” and “Shirley-Claire” (or whatever my stupid kids will call them) about the two different varieties of cake that dominated my first week, and the excitement that exploded when a third, colourful, cake appeared. My favourite cake is still the understated brown cake with a light beige icing – but gosh, isn't that sponge moist. It goes particularly well if some of the nuts from cake 2 have rubbed off on it. Cake 2 is a lot flatter and denser, and one is enough for any shift. The third cake, that caused such ripples of wonder, is adorned with green icing and a purple-icing flower. For me, the icing was a little disappointing, though the hefty wedges of light sponge never fail to satisfy.

Unfortunately, as I will then say in a low tone to my grandchildren, their restlessness only tempered by the vast inheritance they stand to one day gain, the rig is also likely to have developed a reputation in my memory for safety pedanticness. Health and safety on a rig is certainly a vital thing, of that I will not argue, but when extended way beyond useful causes, it just becomes a tool for pettiness. It has ended up with all the rig personnel looking for any excuse to catch you out on some utterly minor point. The worst yet was today, being “caught out” for not walking in the centre of a walkway outside. What? It all stems from the obsessive desire from everyone on the rig to write at least one “STOP” card (cards noting good or bad safety behaviour observed) every day. The problem is, when our lead engineer wrote a very sensible card noting some slightly off standards from a rig supervisor, the head of the rig – the OIM – called him up and basically gave him a bollocking for it, making him enemies of two rig supervisors at the same time. Hence, we have learnt to only write good cards. Well, the others have. I've only ever written two cards in my entire life – I'm just really, really not a fan of this kind of mindless bureaucracy - and so far haven't observed any extreme behaviour here, so don't look like I'll be adding to that quite yet. I suppose I could compliment the cakes.

It's not all been cakes and safety though. There's been plenty of assembling of tools, programming, downloading, disassembling, argonning, pressure testing, function testing, playing computer games, and all kinds of stuff that is better suited to official reports than regaling to my beloved audience here. My beloved grandchildren may not get off so lucky though. Currently, we're in the midst of delays, but these may be getting resolved soon, and the threat of work later in this shift looms. In truth, this is quite a big job, but a four-man team and a decent amount of time have made it very manageable.

So from A to Z, Aberdeen to Azerbaijan, a faux-Christian nation to a faux-Muslim nation, Scottish-style dourness to dourness in the way only ex-Soviets can manage, things are steady, if not exactly dramatic. Just another rig, to be honest. But with decent cakes.