Saturday, 30 May 2015

'Early Morning Run... A Farewell to Arms'

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

The real title, 'Farewell to Talisman'. Later.

Remaining on Hemingway for a moment. He once made a bet claiming he could write a story in six 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, not entirely in the same class.

'A Farewell to Talisman Energy'. 8-May 2015. The sale to Repsol finally closed. I haven't mentioned Talisman previously. 14 years service, until end 2013. A sad day to see such an excellent Canadian oil company being taken over. Not too many years ago; 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. It turned out the oil sector was similar. OK, perhaps fewer laughs.

The real glory years lasted until a significant management upheaval in 2007, which afterwards began the slow descent towards, 'se vende'. I worked for, and alongside, many special people. Dr Jim Buckee, the CEO, led the company superbly. A group of people who represented the best of Canadian values at home, and overseas. My first posting with TLM was in Sudan. I lived in Khartoum more than four years (below, boat trip on the Nile). The most protracted ten years of my life. I later lived in Calgary for four years. A 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, this old joke was like a badge of honour.

The final day three weeks ago rekindled many flashbacks.  Of Sudan mostly. Sudan was constant drama and the investment mired in controversy. 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 the 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 four 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.

Vietnam. Indonesia. Malaysia, Algeria. Papua New Guinea (below). Trinidad. Qatar. I 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 this blog in the southeast of the country). This posting first brought me to Freetown. After one dose of malaria too many I left TLM and co-founded a company here. Six months later; well, we were in the iron 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 the 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 about 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. He was wearing a white shirt, jeans, hat and sunglasses. He was propped up among others. He wasn't saying much. He was dead. He'd died of Ebola. Others were illegally moving his 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? Next Sunday, it's hello Dubai. A conference with a friend. The contrast will be immense. Only twice away from West Africa since Sept last year. I'm ready.

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, can't wait...