Wide awake, with not even a lingering hint of sleep to becloud my eyes, I pause to ponder the day that lies ahead of me. Difficult as it may be to wrap my head around them, the facts are what they are. It is very nearly six months since I last made the journey that lies ahead of me. Back then, LK was the developing conundrum, one that those days spent in the middle of nowhere ended up resolving, ultimately to my pain – not that I knew that at the time. My alarm snaps me out of my little reverie – I have a 6.00am check-in at the other end of town to contend with, and a 15 minute walk to catch the bus that will haul me across town – small margins for error given it is already 4.05am.
A bath, shave and a quick swig of water done, I heft my two bags onto my shoulders – two changes of clothes and work boots and covies in one, my laptop in the other – and make my way down King’s Street and then across to Broad Street where it turns out I have a ten minute wait till the 727 chugs along to pick us up. There is one other person in the bitter cold, she hops on to the number 11 after a few minutes, leaving me all along again till ta second co traveller appears at ten minutes past the hour. He doesn’t disappear – into the number 17 when it comes. The quiet wetness is that bit more bearable for company – silent though it is.
On to the 727 we are the only ones who are aboard, the driver’s reply to my muttered greeting is terse – a hint of an Eastern European accent to boot. Ear phones plugged in, I settle in to my chair , Tenth Avenue North my music of choice on this bitter cold morning. Somewhere between the Great Northern Road stop and the Bucksburn Police station, five or so others hop on, and my silent companion from Broad Street morphing into a pilot’s uniform, with as much efficiency as women who go from hag to wag on the tube.
We arrive at the airport at 5.30am – good time seeing the advertised time of arrival was meant to be 5.35am. My flight is only the second one so check-in for the first flight is still ongoing – it stretches for a further fifteen minutes, due , it turns out to particularly stringent checks today. I have to flash my passport and vantage card, get patted down quite intrusively and have my bag unpacked and repacked by the young lady who is conducting the baggage checks for me. My inner jacket doesn’t fit into my knapsack when she tries to fit it. She is apologetic about it – a small hassle for me – I opt to have it on me for addition to the big bag that gets tacked on to the flight for jackets and other small items.
The flight to Scatsta is quick – Scatsta ends up drier – and feels warmer – than Aberdeen does, even though it is nearly 300 miles closer to the North Pole. The quirks of my wet, cold and windy corner of Ruralshire I guess. The call to suit up comes at about 10.00am. It should take just under an hour but we end up with our feet on fairly stable ground – for what it’s worth – in an hour and thirty minutes. We make a pit stop on the NS platform, where the helicopter gets refuelled – and one of the pilots vanishes for nearly fifteen minutes. It is the first time in my six trips offshore where this has happened. If the motions the other passengers who like me are forced to disembark whilst all this goes on are anything to go by – the pilot has had the need to take a sudden shit.
It is very nearly 11.30m before I get to squirm out of my boiler suit, go through the shortened version of an induction and then dump my bags in the room I’ve been assigned. Long day coming up from the looks of it, given it is still not yet 12.00 noon.
The room I am assigned, it turns out, I will have to share with a chap on the night shift. The slight positive is that it will give us both a measure of privacy – whilst I am sleeping he will be working, and vice versa. It does means too though that my morning ablutions are completed in a tip-toe of sorts. By 6.00 am I am done, and I head out to the galley to grab a cup of tea to kick start my day. On the way I run into G from my last trip. We shake hands, a little too firmly as we exchange pleasantries in the hallway. Six months ago, we had bonded over bad weather and a delayed flight that meant that a two day trip for me – and a three week one for him – ended up stretching an additional five days. This time, he is due off the day before I am to go. ‘Thank goodness’ he says, ‘at least you won’t be a Jonah on my flight this time’. I smile and walk away – his acerbic wit is one that is growing on me.
I run into G again at 9.30am, the small matter of a spread of bacon rolls, cheese toast and cheese cake attracting a small crowd of six for a tea break and a natter. G is sat in the massage chair across from me, one of the guys, a Ross County football fan is the butt of his wit this time. The night before a couple of contentious referring decisions gifted G’s home town club a win over County, and he never one to miss the chance to goad a fellow human obliges. For once I am glad to be out of the eye of the storm.
I dig into a bacon roll – doubled and a lorne sausage for good measure and enjoy the spectacle. M has a bacon roll too, and having downed that, at G’s encouragement digs into half a cheese toast. That, as I find out over the next few days provides plenty fodder for G to rib M about his weight.
Just after lunch B stops by to alert me to the fact that my flight out on Monday is over booked – I’ll thus be spending an additional day. A bit of a nuisance given I have driving lessons booked for Tuesday evening. I toy with cancelling them to avoid losing my fee but decide to hold fire just yet. I guess given my luck, there was always the sneaky suspicion that it might come to this (it’s the fourth time out of six i’ll be delayed an extra day at least
Sunday starts off early for me, the situation with the bloke on the night shift not exactly helping matters. At the mid-morning tea break, a new face shows up – a Canadian drilling engineer with a love for dirt bikes and trucks. He seems a pleasant enough guy, and take no offence to G’s ribbing about his love for cheese cake and the pin-ups splashed across his computer desktop.
Lunch is beef roast. I grab a couple of slices of roast beef with a small portion of curried rice – my nod to my stop start low carb diet, and at the chef’s insistence some haggis. Between mouthfuls of roast beef, I get sucked into a conversation on cars. A number of the guys are eyeing up sports cars – Jaguars, Audis and the like – out of my price range, even if I did not have the small matter of passing the driving test to contend with. I hum and ahm at the right moment, taking in the brake horse power, the number of cylinders and the acceleration stats with the right amount of (feigned) admiration I hope. For dessert, I have pick up two pieces of cheese cake – #4 and 5 over the last three days. On my return, I find the seat next to mine has been filled by K. The conversation has taken a slight detour into diet territory. K’s on a modified Atkins one, where he’s sworn off carbs. Uncomfortable territory given how much cheese cake I have downed so far.
Sometime after dinner, P stops by with slightly more relevant news – a medevac on Monday means a second flight will be put on, and I just might make it to the beach on the same day I am planned for a change – some consolation. J emails to check up on me – I give her a call and we chat about how the weekend has panned out. Hectic at hers, slightly less so at mine but plenty to look forward to on Monday.
Monday passes in a blur – tense anticipation ruling the day as first I am informed the original flight I should be on has been cancelled. I am promised a later one will arrive at 1.45pm. In the end, it arrives at 4.00pm. Late enough to have had lunch but not dinner. By the time it touches down in Scatsta, it is nearly 6.15pm. We spend another 30 minutes waiting, before we wing our way back to the ‘Deen.
I am far too tired to care at this stage – I must come across as a right grump to the cab driver as after three or so attempts to make small talk, the ride passes in somewhat uncomfortable silence. All that is left by the time I arrive at my door, at very nearly 7.30pm, is to order a large Papa Johns, devour it in short order and fall into my bed fully clothed till the gentle vibration of my phone alarm the next morning jolts me back to life.