Nine Fridays of Summer

aberdeen summer

For the first time in a very long time,  I have four day work weeks to look forward to. The theory behind getting these nine Fridays off is that they have been earned by working an extra thirty minutes each work day. How productive those extra minutes have been remains to be seen, but I suspect their value to our employer lies more in promoting a sense of being cared for in us than anything more tangible. The first of these was spent down south, catching up with friends and reacquainting myself with Stratford and the Olympic park.

Being a creature of routine has its perks – one wakes up, does the needful and shows up at work to deal with whatever is thrown one’s way that day – but without the requirement to go into work, I suddenly have the hassle of trying to find stuff to do. The big rocks are in place already – a trip to London to catch Erwin McManus and Carl Lentz amongst others at the Hillsong Conference Europe is all planned up and good to go, as is an extended weekend in Vienna in August. It is what to do with the rest of these summer Fridays that is the problem. Of course summers in Scotland have a reputation for being wet and windy with dry, sunny spells the exception.

Doing a lot of traveling comes to mind as something to do, particularly given getting to know the West Coast of Scotland is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Besides the time spent in train stations and airport waiting areas this requires, it is also likely to require a significant outlay in cash. A lot needs to be worked out from a logistical perspective to make this happen but I suspect the dividends – pretty interesting pictures and pretend travelouges – might make this a compelling option.

Another option is to spend the time catching up on all that reading I’ve failed dismally at this year. In addition to the books I have on the go, Teju Cole has an eagerly anticipated collection of essays out in August which I am sure I would be keen to read. Laziness though is the greatest obstacle to this objective, one will have to see how this pans out.

I have toyed with the idea of spending my Fridays cranking out a podcast about nothing especially important. The working title for this – which is likely to only be a spoken version of the things I whine about on here – is A Bloke’s Life. Although I do have a penchant for waffling on things of interest only to me, I also happen to know a number of interesting gentlemen who – logistics permitting – I might be able to convince to come on such a show. Don’t hold your breaths on this one though. What is more likely is a return to the online radio station I’ve previously appeared on.

Movies appear to be the easiest, safest option, particularly as I still have a stash of discounted Cineworld tickets to hand, and the beach cinema is less than 10 minutes away from my house by foot. The significantly reduced movie time since May does  lend its support to this argument, not least because a rash of movies are due out in the next few weeks.

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Star Trek Beyond – which I managed to see after a couple of hours at work – was the first of these, after habit had drawn me into work for a couple of hours first. Simon Pegg’s performances in these Star Trek movies have always intrigued me – given his attempts at affecting a ‘Scottish’ accent, and his English heritage. To his credit, he manages to throw enough Scottish colloquialisms in to make his parody recognisable. My ears have however not evolved enough to be able to say definitively that he has it nailed down. I suppose the nod to Scotland on the big screen – spot on or not – has to be celebrated and accepted?

#96 – Forward Motion

#96 - forward motion

From the movie Brooklyn, based on the book by Irish writer  Colm Tóibín which I finally saw:

You’ll feel so homesick that you’ll want to die, and there’s nothing you can do about it apart from endure it. But you will, and it won’t kill you. And one day, the sun will come out you might not even notice straight away-it’ll be that faint. And then you’ll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone who’s only yours. And you’ll realize that this is where your life is.

#ForwardMotion

#90 – Persevering..

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We saw Eddie the Eagle today – after much planning, to-ing and fro-ing as has become the norm with us – as did a couple of people I know from work and church.. Cue a few awkward silences and dodgy moments where I wondered how much information to share as part of the customary introductions, given one of the work guys is the head honcho and this fluid undefined phase we are in… 

As for the movie, it was good, the substantially modified version on display doing enough to sell itself as a tale of triumph against all odds and redemption. I suspect it is one I might watch again, once it is out on iTunes or on DVD.. To the underdog then!!! .

#Perseverance

#31 – Of Movies and Etiquette

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At the movies with L to see The Revenant – as much an endurance test for viewers who have to sit through all 2 hours 36 minutes of it as it is for Leonardo Di Caprio’s character, stumbling through the frozen lands he must to reach home and find a closure of sorts – I find myself wondering what the  etiquette for movie watching is these days. Given how the action drags, I am tempted to try to make small talk, keen to not miss the opportunity finally getting a chance to catch up at the 8th or 9th time of trying affords.

In the end, I settle for the odd throw away comment when the musical score peaks, hoping that my voice is sufficiently masked by the sound to not carry too far to the irritation of others.. A different evening than is usual for me on a Tuesday, all things considered. I could get used to this…

#7 – Of Mentors

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Watching Whiplash again reminded me of the power mentors (or more correctly in this case, people who we look up to and whose opinions we cherish) can have over us, driving us to become singularly focused on achieving, thereby impressing them. The merits and demerits of the influence of  Fletcher on Andrew may be open to interpretation – the methods certainly are – but the intensity with which that final scene was delivered might make up for every thing.

I have had the blessing of both being helped – and hounded  – by workplace mentors. What comes to mind again and again is how the intensity of those formative years have stood me in good stead and influenced my work ethic. Over a decade later, those mentoring relationships have lasted, and when I pop into Houston for work or pass through Lagos (for those still there), meeting up for a drink or a meal is never up for debate. We make it happen.

So for the moral, a useful reminder for me to celebrate the mentors – past and present – in my life.

 

Of Rust, and Metaphors

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[Source]

Amidst the hurly burly that was the last quarter of 2014 at work – not helped by the unease set off by sliding oil prices, and questions around the future viability of North Sea oil and gas given lifting costs and taxes – the crazy gang team at work made time out to head across town for a day to reflect on how we’d performed through the year and agree objectives for the 2015. For what it’s worth it was good craic, much better than I expected given the strong personalities within the team, and the sense of simmering conflict, even though it was a tad too reliant on woozy, zen-ish things like sitting in a circle and taking time out to reflect in silence.

 As we huddled around the sandwich tables chewing away on sandwiches and bacon rolls and sipping coffees, we were offered a question for reflection, one we would expatiate on later over the course of the morning. The question was to come up with a movie or a song that best described how we felt about our day job. The responses were as interesting as they were varied, ranging from It’s a Hard Knock Life from the musical Annie to Ocean Rain by Echo and the Bunny Men, indicative of the general sense of being overwhelmed by fighting fires and being under appreciated across the group. I might have over thought it a bit – my repertoire of movies isn’t exactly exhaustive – before I eventually settled for Raid on Entebbe.

Based on the 1976 rescue of the passengers and crew of Air France flight AF-139 from Tel Aviv following its hijack by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, it chronicled the difficult deliberations involved in reaching a decision to sanction a commando operation in Entebbe, Uganda, 2500 miles and several hostile countries away. In the end, although largely a success, Yonatan Netanyahu, and 3 hostages ended up dead; a fourth hostage was murdered, ostensibly on Idi Amin’s orders, having been sent to the hospital due to illness. Certainly not Africa’s brightest hour by all accounts.

Looking back, I suspect I went for Raid on Entebbe largely because my role over the last few years has increasingly felt more like that of a commando than a rust geek, putting out fires rather than pontificating over their remote and immediate causes. Ultimately, it has been about managing risk  – identifying, quantifying, evaluating and mitigating the risk to the environment, people and the business from the interactions of materials and the internal and external service environments we put them in. In an ideal world, I’d replace every bit of leaking pipe with 25Cr or Titanium, significantly reducing the probability (in most cases) of a repeat failure. The reality though is that the cost of doing that on a large scale would be entirely prohibitive; which is where I earn my bacon, pretending to find finding non-obvious solutions to corrosion and materials problems which represent value for money – the best bang for the buck within reason.

Sadly, or thankfully, Rust never sleeps, likewise I have to keep trying…