So the days have slipped by, cycles of five and four and five. It has been a tussle between flying and cycling and restless nights, with the first casualty of war being the cycling due to the frequent flat tyres I have been sustaining. My cycle shop chap, Sharil, asked with genuine curiosity, "Where are you cycling that you keep picking up these tiny wires all the time?" He then suggested alternate routes, but I believe that you can sustain a flat anywhere. However, I realise that all of us fall off this fitness programme wagon, and the only thing to do is to get right back on again. It is much like a bad debt: you can't recover it to pre-debt status, but closing shop is not the way forward when there is so much at hand to do yet.
|Stratocumulus mirrored on the sea, with "God's Rays"|
The haze has been unrelenting, while the wind has remained stubbornly south-westerly, disallowing me even the most minor enjoyment of conducting a stabilised approach to the majority of the rigs as the wind direction placed the obstructions on the captain's side and hence, making them all his approach. I understand that it is not much longer that I will have to wait for the winds to turn around with the return of the north-east monsoon. However, the couple between the haze and the winds make for varied weather and visbility. Some days the haze wins, and as the air conditioning is a deferred defect on a number of aircraft, when you slide open the hatch to let some air in, the opaque air outside carries a distinctive insecticide-like odour. Then some days the winds beat the ashen skies back and rolls open the heavens to stable-atmosphere cloud formations of stratocumulus for miles on end.
|FSO Abu, courtesy of Wikipedia|
The occasional chance I do get for approaches with the prevailing winds as they blow now, are over the Floating Storages Offshore (FSOs), such as FSO Abu, FSO Putri Dulang and the occasional barge oriented transverse to the mother rig, as the FSOs, being refurbished ships, normally weathervane into the prevailing wind, allowing me a shot at sharpening my approaches. Some ships such as FSO Perintis have the platform cantilevered on the starboard side, so no matter what, it's mine own to execute the approach.
|A platform cantilevered to starboard of an FSO|
While the winds have blown stronger, making approaches easier, this hasn't always translated into rougher seas. The consistently pitchy Global Sapphire, a barge co-located at Angsi-D, exhibited a pitch-and-roll of 2 degrees, allowing me a landing this week, and providing a view of its "widow-maker" from deck-level instead of looking down from Angsi-D's platform. In a 2-degree toss, the widow-maker still looked formidable to me. However, the offshore boys were walking up and down the gangways nonchalantly, sure-footed as mountain goats, pausing briefly as the gap narrowed to a step's breadth before they crossed to the lower gangplank. Other rigs have seriously menacing widow-makers, with mercy flights in the past for fatalities, but it has been many a month since I have flown to the likes of Rowan Gorilla 2.
|The mini widow-maker on Global Sapphire|
I confess that I am less than inspired to blog because the images I capture on my point-and-shoot 3.2 megapixel Nokia are supremely disappointing. They do not even begin to reflect what my mind's eye sees, and therefore the emotions and thoughts belonging to that time-space do not come forth upon seeing them reproduced on my laptop. I tried for a sortie or two, using a digital camera which by all lines of reason would be purpose-built for shutterbugging, but they are more finicky than dating a twenty-something. The results of my hamfistedness with or without flying gloves rendered images that looked like they were shot from inside an aquarium that had not had its keeper clean it out in a fortnight leastways. Fiddling with a camera while reading out the finals checklist does seem a tad indulgent and definitely deviant to my role as co-pilot first and always, hence a surreptitiously operated cellphone camera will remain the means by which to attain this end. Without a proper capturing device, I fear a hiatus is nigh.
But as an adult on the verge of packing the first of his three offspring away to college, running off to snatch up a Samsung Galaxy SIII is not as casual an idea as popping over to Mesra Mall for a packet of Twinnings teabags. I am new on the job, a mere First Officer, and the paycheque of an aircraft captain has not even surfaced on the distant horizon yet. Till a few things are known for certain, for instance, if a full-scale scholarship frees up some breathing space for me to fumble in my pockets for loose change, I cannot set a short-term date for the SII even, let alone the ultimate SIII.
It is in that spirit that I have come up with a whole new and more eloquent defense strategy than the ill-heard "no" against pushy credit-card agents, some of whom have taken to infesting the departure hall at the airport.
One accosted me most earnestly yesterday and flashed me a glossy brochure. I said no before he could start. But he was persistent and said "Brother, you sign now and I give you the card now, with a free coffee-maker!! Come, let me show you."
"I have my own coffee machine at home, mate."
He pursued me further. "Brother, I give you good credit limit one lor. Just spend me five minutes of your time."
I spun on my heel and faced him squarely as he towered over me. That near everybody towers over me is irrelevant in this instance.
"Mate, unless you have a Samsung Galaxy SIII to tempt me with, this conversation is over."
It took all of three seconds for it to sink in, and realising that he had no counter-argument to that, he stood there laughing out loudly to himself as I walked away from him, pursued no more.