Saturday, 30 May 2015

'A Farewell to Arms'

Title? A nod to Hemingway. He also maintained keeping the first paragraph short...

Actually the real title, 'Farewell to Talisman'. More of this later. Remaining on Hemingway for a moment. He once made a bet claiming he could write a story in 6 words. On a restaurant napkin, he wrote, 'For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn'. He collected his winnings.

My best effort. 15 words. 'Lost Dog: Missing one eye. Missing one leg. Neutered. Answers to the name of 'Lucky'. OK, I agree, not entirely Hemingway...

'A Farewell to Talisman Energy'. May 08th, 2015. The sale to Repsol finally closed. I haven't mentioned Talisman previously. 14 years service there, until end 2013. A sad day to see such an excellent Canadian oil company being taken over. Not too many years previously...well, ...more likely the other way round.

So many memories. Some wonderful times. I learned so much coming from the British Army. I'd never had a real job. The Army is a laugh, an adventure, a journey, a vocation, with a few scary moments thrown in along the way. Turned out the oil sector was similar. OK, perhaps with fewer laughs...

The real glory years lasted until serious management upheaval in 2007, which afterwards began the slow descent towards, 'se vende'. I worked for, and alongside, many special people. The company had a superb CEO, Dr Jim Buckee. A group that represented the best of Canadian values at home, and overseas. My first posting with TLM was Sudan. I lived in Khartoum more than 4 years (below, boat trip on the Nile). Most prolonged 10 years of my life. I later lived in Calgary for 4 years... a real pleasure...


How do you get 43 drunk Canadians out of a swimming pool? Pause, 'please leave the pool'. That's why I love Canadians. The fact being, that old joke was like a badge of honour.

The final day 3 weeks ago rekindled many flashbacks.  The Sudan mostly. Sudan was constant drama and the investment mired in controversy throughout. The company had an early inkling of a bumpy ride ahead when a Cruise missile landed in Khartoum, courtesy of Bill Clinton. Some claimed the target was a chemical weapons factory. Others said a distraction over a certain dalliance in the Oval Office. An oil company Security Manager later commented, if that old warehouse near the Nile was a chemical weapons factory, then his backside was a fire engine...

However, throughout the company never wavered and always did the right thing. We all knew what the company stood for. We all knew the values. I was proud to work for them. TLM successfully defended a massive lawsuit, which ultimately went all the way to the US Supreme Court. Sudan saw 4 rig attacks by SPLA rebels, land-mines, helicopters shot at, an armed attack on the main field base camp (Les, get off the phone, take cover) and plenty more besides. In the words of Cpl Jones, there was a war on... (below, Bentiu, southern Sudan, 2001)



The Army took me all around the world. TLM, on a second lap.

Below, the first visit to Kurdistan, May 2008... sadly a couple of years later several ex-pat sub-contractors died in a hotel fire in Sulaymaniyah.


Colombia saw 23 seismic sub-contractors kidnapped by FARC in 2010. Never a dull moment in overseas oil exploration (below, cocaine all around us, in its rawest form).


Peru. Drilling in the Amazon. Real funny stuff there (Johnny Admin, M2?)...

Vietnam. Indonesia. Malaysia, Algeria. Papua New Guinea (below). Trinidad. Qatar. Worked them all, and others. These were the fun places. I haven't mentioned UK, Australia, Norway, the US & Canada. Dull in comparison.


My final piece of the Talisman story was a posting to Sierra Leone in Sept 2011 (below, testing out my 'jokes' for the blog in the southeast). This initially brought me to Freetown. After one dose of malaria too many I left TLM and set-up a company here. Six months later... well, we were in the grip of Ebola. Those are the breaks.



Many former TLM folk read this blog, many of whom supported the 'Food Basket Appeal'. Canadians are amongst the most generous in the world. Many have, of course, left the company due to downsizing and eventual sale, and are forging new careers. To those remaining with Repsol, especially you Frankie, I wish you all the best.

I've paused writing of Africa to provide this backstory. Back to the regular soap soon...

Africa? Last week a 'funny' story from Guinea. At an Ebola checkpoint, officials became suspicious of a fellow in a taxi. Wearing a white shirt, jeans, hat and sunglasses. Propped up between others. He wasn't saying much. He was dead. He'd died of Ebola. Others were moving the body. They are now in quarantine for 21 days. Should they survive, they'll be charged and probably go to prison. I know this is no laughing matter, but...

Where next for the blog? Well, a real surprise. In fact, quite the turn of events. Next Sunday, it's hello Dubai. A conference for a friend. Can't wait. The contrast will be immense. Only twice away from West Africa since early Sept last year. I'm ready. I might even have a new guest runner for you. I hope my love of Africa comes through. But... and I have to tell you, while this love is all well and good; time in Dubai, oh seriously... can't wait...