Hello reader, sorry for not posting anything for a week but I have been incredibly
.We have been “ooop north” and are no back “daaahn saarf” still laying [pipe in the Gulf of Thailand.
Here are the fab sounds for today
I work 6 weeks on and 6 weeks off so I have to round trip commute 4 times a year. Here is the routine of my commute when coming to work this time.
I will usually leave France and head to the UK on the overnight ferry to either Plymouth or Portsmouth the day before I fly out to the ship.
I prefer the ferry arrival at Portsmouth because, once clear of the immigration queue, it is one set of lights, turn left and you are on the motorway, although even at 6.30 in the morning it will still be three lanes chock a block at 40 mph, at least you are clear of the city and away.
The last time we arrived at Plymouth was at 0630 on a Saturday morning and we experienced what, at best, could be described as a slightly off colour “welcome to England”.
We had cleared the immigration and pulled up to the first set of lights:- you bear right to head to Exeter, and left to head to Cornwall. There is a pub on the left hand side at the lights and a KFC to the right.
There were half a dozen men brawling in the pub car park, being screamed at, or cried at, or ignored, by about 30 bystanders, (including what appeared to be doormen), as well as two or three young chaps who appeared to be asleep or in a drunken stupor slumped by the wall of the pub.
As we turned right we noticed that the kebab shop was still doing a roaring trade at this early hour, with about 25 people inside and a queue of about 10 more outside in the street, one of whom was projectile vomiting out into the road, no doubt making room for his kebab or unloading one already consumed.
One of his friends obviously thought he should help hose it down by flopping out his penis and urinating into the road.
Along this 500 meter stretch of road in among the vomiters, the brawlers, the piddlers, the staggering blind drunks and the aggressive staring drunks, were about half a dozen “ladies of the night” who, it has to be said, didn’t look to alluring in the cold light of dawn and would probably be best advised to only ply their trade at night (very very dark nights) but to give them credit for recognising a potential business opportunity, they were still gamely trying to sell their wares, not only to the thin pickings available from the punters on the pavement but also by casting a hopeful “glad eye” onto the passing, newly arrived ferry traffic.
As we drove away from this somewhat disturbing scene we were at a bit of a loss to elucidate our feelings on such a spectacle, however after some effort “disappointment” came high up the list as did revulsion, pity, and thankfulness that we have made various life choices that resulted in a different outcome as opposed to what was on display.
Once in West Dorset I have my hire car delivered and then gad about seeing my mother in law, and my children, I do anything that needs doing in terms of helping out the family and organize any personal bits and pieces that need sorting. Then I will nip up to Curry Rival (out on the Somerset levels) to see my own mother for a coffee and a natter.
From there I will zoom up the A303 and drive up to the Holiday Inn at Heathrow. Depending on the time of night I get there I may have a feed, but I always manage to have a few beers and then grab some sleep.
Talking of the Heathrow Holiday Inn, it has to be said that they have elevated some of their bar prices to a level where it has become a spectator sport for me seeing the shock on people’s faces when presented with the bill. This time a couple came to the bar and the lady ordered a vodka and lemonade and the man a glass of Merlot. The barman prepared the drinks and said “That’s 17 pounds please”
I thought the lady was going to fall over as her shock was obvious. She was almost giggling with disbelief when she asked him to check and he said “Oh yes that’s 7.50 for a 125ml glass of Merlot, 7.00 for the Vodka and 2.50 for the lemonade”
Her voice aghast and loud with incredulity, she said “2.50 for a small splash of lemonade??????”
He said “Yes madam it is on the price list”. She wandered off muttering about thieving hotel chains and I have to say I did have a twinge of sympathy for her, however the Vodka was a double as that’s all they serve. Stella is 4 quid a pint, which is just within the realm of acceptability however if you want a 330ml bottle of beer (ie Becks ) to take to your room it is 4.50. They are indeed robbing bastards.
Later another woman came up to the barman and asked if he had any bottled water. He showed her a 330ml glass bottle of spring water and she asked how much. 2.50 came the cheery reply. Given the rapid rise of her eyebrows she was a bit taken aback, but she made me chuckle when she asked if the tap water was safe to drink and would she be charged for it and if not how much was it to hire a glass to put it in for the night .
It is all well and good getting a room for 70 quid, or sometimes less, but the price rockets if you have some wine or a mediocre dinner.
( I should note at this stage that my airline tickets, hire car costs, bed and food, are claimed back on expenses, my booze and any other treats come out of my own pocket)
In the morning I wake at 7 have a shower, settle the bill, drop the hire car back to the rental agency and take advantage of their free courtesy bus for a lift to Terminal 3 arriving at about 8ish.
The Singapore Airlines desk is usually open by then and as I have already checked in online I go to the short queue for online check-ins and pick up my boarding pass.
It is surprising the amount of grumbles, stares of disdain and muted moans I have received when bypassing the normal queue and standing at the front of the normally empty internet check-in queue. It was no different this time as the check-in lady waved me forward to complete the check in a couple at the front of the queue next to me rushed across to the check-in desk (that had waved me forward) saying “We were her first and he has just pushed in”
I found it impossible to restrain the grin as she said “No he is in the correct queue for “Internet Check In”” then looked around them and beckoned me forward again, whilst pointing to the front of the desk that said “Internet Check In” for the benefit of the disgruntled ones who assumed I was pushing in.
I gave them my best gallic shrug and said “These new modern fangled computer things are marvelous once you get the hang of them eh?” I don’t think they were too chuffed about it but it really was their own problem and not mine and although “smug” is not a feeling I am used (nor would I want to get used to) but I did have a twinge of it on that occasion. Had they the bottle to ask if I was pushing in I would have happily explained about the internet queue, but their huffing and puffing, and raised eyebrows left me a little immune to their displeasure.
I normally only ever take a small backpack as hand luggage with any new books, my android pad, 2 spare pants and a shirt or two. This time I had bought a new 12 string guitar (with a hard travel case) and was taking it back to the ship for a practice. Because I was having to put that in the hold I decided to take a small suitcase as well crammed with new books that will last me about three 6 week trips.
It should be noted at this stage that winter or summer I always travel dressed in the same garb which is flip flops T shirt and long-ish shorts with plenty of pockets. This probably explains why I never get offered an upgrade but the last thing I want to do is get out of the airport in Asia wearing warm western clothes and then have to carry them around. In the UK longest I have to spend outside of a warm area is the 45 seconds it takes me from the car-drop to the bus and then from the T3 bus stop to the departures hall. Even with snow on the ground I can cope with that.
It is the same on the return journey and the longest I have had to wait for a hire-car courtesy bus is 10 minutes which even when the temp is below zero is still manageable. I must admit if I stop for breakfast on the way down to Dorset to see the family it can be the cause of some strange looks from people in the middle of winter. When I fly back direct to France I don’t venture outside from getting off the plane to getting off the TVR at Rennes.
Once checked in I will see how long I have (normally 3 or more hours before take-off as I always arrange to be there at least 3 or 4 hours early) and then will go airside and use my Priority Pass card. This nifty bit of kit (message me for details) gains me access to lounges at nearly all international airports and gives me access to comfortable quiet seating, free wifi, food, booze, and other drinks. It costs about 200 quid a year and I get ten entries for that (so not free food and booze but it is well worth it for the amount of time I spend in airports IMO). I use it in Heathrow T3 and CDG every time as they are appalling airports to be waiting for a flight, whereas the lounges offered are very peaceful and civilised. I will have some breakfast, check my mails and a few large G&Ts as the flight I am normally booked on leaves at 1130 and arrives in Singapore at 0700. (13.5 hour flight time) I find that a few large G&Ts allows me to get some kip in on route.
Once boarded I will have some lunch and maybe another G&T or wine, watch a movie or two, play the in-flight trivia quiz and snooze till breakfast and arrival at Singapore.
I may be overnighting in Singapore, if so I claim my baggage and make my way to the edge of Chinatown to Duxton Road and the Hotel Berjaya, ( a bit of old school Singapore) where I will have a room booked. I travel there on the MRT (which is a modern, well run, clean and airy tube train and costs 1.50 quid to travel most of the way across Singapore) from Changi to Tanjong Pagar and then a five minute walk.
If not overnighting in Singapore I will be flying up to Hat Yai in Thailand at about 1300 from the Budget terminal, so I tend to hang about at the arrivals in Changi and have some good food at one of the many great food outlets there and maybe treat myself to an early beer. The reason I stay at the main Changi arrivals is because the only food outlet at the Budget terminal is the appalling, multi national, Mc Donalds. If I were the Singapore government I would hang my head in shame for allowing these peddlers of junk to open an outlet in one of the most diverse cuisine areas of the world.
McShiteburger has to be the only food in the world that has more nutritional value on the way out that in does on the way in. It probably tastes better too.
So after a breakfast, hanging about using the free wifi and catching up with emails and stuff it is a 5 minute free bus ride to the budget terminal and onto a Tiger Airways flight up to Hat Lai arriving about 2.30 local time.
As I emerge from the arrivals the company shipping agent will be waiting for me. She has a really easy welcoming nature and is always laughing and joking about, and often brings her girlfriend along for the 45 minute drive to Songklah.
They are both fascinated with life in Europe (and Europeans more liberal stance on lesbian relationships) and spend the time asking all sorts of questions, but (in their own words) they have no desire to go and live in a country that spends a substantial part of the year with temperatures lower than the inside of their fridge.
She is excellent at her job and always drops me off at the hotel with the information of what time she will be back for me in the morning, whether it is a chopper or crew boat out to the vessel, and who else is staying at the hotel from the ship so we can meet up for a beer.
My normal routine then is to drop my bag in the room, have a shower, change my underwear and T shirt and nip down to the bar for a few beers to “take the edge off the journey” and see who else is up and about.
At some stage, as the evening progresses, I will have a lovely local seafood meal, go to my room and fall into a deep, long awaited, proper sleep in a proper bed. Ah bliss.
If it is a chopper flight I will be up at 6.30 have a shower and some coffee and quick breakfast and then a three hour drive up along the low lying coastline to the heliport.
There is little of note on the way except a series of poorly constructed concrete villages with the occasional glimpses of the sea and mangrove swamps. At the chopper station we are breathalysed for booze and p!ss tested for drug use and when shown clear you board your chopper for the flight out to the vessel.
If you are not clear and fail either test it is a straight “red card” and you need to look for another job and a way of getting back to your country of origin. The dismissal is instant and you are left to fend for yourself and make your own way home. If the company owe you any wages they will organise a ticket and transport but will deduct it form your due.
The flight out to the vessel is anywhere between 45 mins and 1 and half hours, the first 5 mins is over land and then it is just the Gulf of Thailand.
As the Senior DPO (Dynamic Positioning Officer) I am on the midnight to midday watch so if I arrive after midday I can unpack and take it easy till midnight.
If it is a boat-trip out we are normally picked up from the hotel at about 9ish and taken down to the crew boat quay where we undergo the same drug and alcohol tests and if clean join the crewboat.
This will be about 30 meters long and have seating accommodation inside for up to 50 persons in aircraft style seating. There will be coffee making facilities and drinking water as well as a packed lunch of sorts. The trip out to this field can take anywhere between 6 and 14 hours depending where the vessel is. Once on board the vessel I am either immediately on watch or get some time for a lay down before my first watch.
It normally only takes one watch and one sleep on board to get into the new time zone although when travelling west and heading home it seems to take longer and I can still be feeling discombobulated up to 3 or 4 days later.
So that explains how I get to work, next I post I will describe a day in the life on board.