February 8 1999
401B Concrete Shacks
CARPOOL C68 4VZ
Thank you for your most impressive piece of correspondence. I just hope that (eventually) my own life turns out to contain as much success as your own . . .
However, I am afraid that I have difficulties to relate. Mandie has been deluging me with unwanted – and lovelorn – notes through the letter box. She says, ‘I know I can make you love me in the end.’ I have also had to disconnect the phone and depart from Concrete Flats in a variety of bushy disguises. I don’t know how long I can go on like this.
I am considering – in my extremis – applying for a job as assistant to the Health and Safety Officer on Tartan Theta. And as Tartan Theta is an offshore oil drilling rig (where staff apparently work, and live, in 3-month rotations) I should be safe from any on-going pursuit by Mandie! I can hear you asking, Auntie, what possible experience could I bring to bear on a North Sea drilling rig? And I admit that my experience is, indeed, tenuous. I did – once – assist a lady called Joan (the Complaints Officer on the Concrete Shacks Residents Association) with an inspection of communal areas. But this mostly took the form of noting down her observations of slippery walkways (urine voiding after dark); missing light bulbs; non-operational lifts; obscene graffiti; used needles and syringes under foot, and the like.
The other qualification which may stand me in good stead with my application is (you may find this hard to believe) a SCUBA diving qualification. Admittedly, my attraction to this sport may have had something to do with the fact that the fair Estella had also signed up (at Freshers Fair). And if I had any other thoughts about it at all, it was that the dive experience might be obtained in the sort of environment one imagines to be associated with Bondi beach: clear blue skies, sandy beaches, and clear – warm – water. The reality, of course, turned out to be somewhat different, and much worse.
Naturally, I decided to save on ‘start-up’ costs for this enterprise, by ordering up a wet suit kit by mail order. And this comprised a very large roll of 6mm-thick neoprene and a pattern. The idea was that you cut the various pieces out and glued them together (using up, I might say, my much-needed supply of Glu-stik). I discovered – too late of course – that everyone else had bought a 4mm thickness of this neoprene and that, once I was attired in my own suit, I was disporting the buoyancy of an over-sized walrus! The dratted thing was such an impediment (to sinking) on our training course – in the freezing, murky, waters of the UK – that I was almost unable to complete the final task, which was to retrieve a handful of gravel from the bottom of the sea. I can still recall the diving equivalent of Miss Whiplash telling me that I could, under no circumstances, exit the water until I had completed the task. And do you know Auntie, she actually pushed me under water with an oar in order to induce me to comply! Needless to say, I was completely ignored by the fair Estella, who went off with someone in a much slimmer version of the diving wet suit.
However, I did at least secure a diver certificate, and it may now come in handy. The application form for a post on Tartan Theta clearly states that all personnel are required to take a turn as ‘relief diver’ should the occasion demand it. They further say that applicants with a Deep Sea Divers Welding Certificate are to be preferred but that it is not obligatory. Well it is lucky that it is not obligatory, because I do not have one! And could I really bring myself to leap off the heli-deck – at some 50m above sea level – in order to enter the water? (The company – Oil, Petroleum, and Gas Consortium (OPG) – has sent me a colour brochure, on hi-gloss paper, which illustrates the platform divers engaged in this leap!)
What do you think Auntie? I know it sounds a bit drastic, but even Mandie will surely not motor across the North Sea with more notes describing how she is pining away in my absence!
Your loving nephew