Sleeping in a bed of dead puppies. That’s how The Mountie described our situation right now. The precise breakdown of the analogy or metaphor I’m not sure of, but I know it instinctively feels right. These puppies have been dead a few days, there’s a fair bit of mush, and God they stink. Sleeping at night is peculiarly comfortable, but certainly not desirable.
We’re now approaching five weeks in Nigeria and from today are officially further behind than when we first arrived. The rig and the job has been plagued with problems. The fatality last month is naturally the most significant, and was all wrapped up with the catastrophic crane failure. But since then, other problems have followed, all of a technical nature but all with the result that we’re still here, still on the rig, and still waiting. Waiting to work, or just waiting to go home and remember that life takes place in an actual vast world and not just on a floating boat in the anonymous Bight of Benin.
It’s of great frustration. We only have a couple of days of work to do really, but operations just cannot seem to get to that point. Our equipment is working well and we’ve successfully demonstrated our system is ticking away nicely, and rig operations were at the brink – a day away! – of being far enough along so that we could wrap everything up, smile, high five each other with a “job done” holla, and go home. But operations have gone into reverse, equipment is returning from the seabed back to the rig, and we’ve got to start it all over again. It’ll take at least a week to properly being again.
I could bore you with rig operation chat, but it’s all just a bunch of acronyms, pieces of yellow-painted metal, gaskets, valves and all of the aforementioned failing in creative ways. For most of the time, The Mountie and I are just innocent bystanders anyway. We’re set up and ready to go, and have been for some weeks, but even when the starting pistol finally went it turned out to be a false start. And so we mooch around in accommodation, stare blankly at walls, and malign the fact that we are grown men sleeping with dead dogs.
The Mountie has hope, however, even if he doesn’t feel too hopeful. His holidays are approaching and he gets swapped out next week. My own hopes have been gathered together, crushed into a small box the size of a little acorn, and put aside in the back of brain for use at a future date. There are murmurs that I may be swapped in a period of time larger than a week, but I know that if this happens then I’ll be punched hard in the face and sent packing to America, for another job. It’s a more appealing prospect, I’ll admit, than continuing in the Groundhog Day that offshore Nigeria seems to have entered, but it’s not quite the same as arriving back at my sun-kissed cottage in the countryside to be met by my beaming wife and my two lovely children – Rufus aged 4 and Mooshella aged just 2 1/2 , and my haven’t they grown? – rushing up to and embracing me, or whatever it is that normal life is (I forget the precise details now).
But let’s not upset ourselves with vague visions of the future, and concentrate on the plus points of the here and now. Such as my nightly helideck walks, on a helideck that rates very high on my comprehensive helideck index. Or the cakes, which have occasionally been quite nice – the Danishes were spectacular (though they’ve been absent for some
time now...). Or the excitement of getting back laundry and wondering what else has gone missing – I’ve only two pairs of socks now, and The Mountie lost 80% of his wardrobe but went on the warpath and got it all back (except the socks). Or the stairway banisters, which have just the right amount of friction to them. I think that’s all.
Yes, that’s all.