So, is this the beginning of the end  or just the end of a beginning?

Mum died on August 14th. She was 82, had dementia and a right leg shorter than her left leg by some three inches and ………  she’d picked up clostridium difficile from somewhere and that’s what killed her in the end. The end of an era.

Bro was booked to be away from his Western Australian home for a while, closest of the older cousins were in a similar quandary and allatsea was due to be, allatsea on the Dogger Bank.

The end result was that the funeral took place some six weeks after her death. It was in two parts, a short service at her local RC church and then a civil secular service at the crematorium. As these things go, both were poignant and heartfelt and, thankfully, well attended. She was a popular lady known, to many, as generous and kind-hearted. Her send-off was fitting. Hopefully.

Now all is quiet. The last of the visitors from afar have gone, memsahib allatsea is back at work. Allatsea will get of his lazy bottom at the end of the week and travel north to Newcastle for a two week spooling attendance. Crushingly boring usually, but fitting in this case and frankly, welcome. Life, as it is, will become ‘normal’ again, probably.

Over the last five years or so, with stresses put in place by the needs of our two oldies, a great desire for a state of play, notionally referred to as ‘normal’, has been expressed here at the Towers. The concept of a ‘normal’ life seemed as out of reach as it was hard to imagine. Now, with both oldies gone (UB in March and mum recently), the spectre of ‘Normality’ looms large and, sad to say, does not seem as utopian or as tangible as was expected.

Yet another lesson to learn it seems.


Yum yum mmmm

Liver, bacon and onions, mmmm.

Bacon, liver and onions mmm.

Just onions, mmmm.

Oooh the liberals don’t like this at all, ooh no. Far too ‘offal’, far too ….. meaty. Apart from the ‘just onions’ option, obviously.

I still think she’s ‘off track’, that woman (what woman?) and I wonder, frequently, why we tolerate it?

Probably because we’re not bothered, either way …..anymore. There’s no point to being bothered, it makes for  a frustrating and disappointing life. Adaption, evolution, acceptance, despite qualms, acceptance, the all governing term, acceptance. It sorts everything.

Kind of? Now then, lets talk bollard pull trials, off the Ligurian coast. Paradise  if there there is such a thing,  Liguria. If there is a god then Italians are God’s chosen people, the custodians of Liguria……aaaah. That said, Sardinia will run it a close race. Also Italian of course. God really really really liked them. Not so the residents of Middlesbrough I fear.

Riva Trigosa

So then, the answer is,

‘Two sugars, 3/5 of brandy, a spurt of chilli and an organic pitta bread.


The Delta Blues- A Nigerian perspective

From the NY Times:
Just after sunrise, hundreds of unarmed women commandeered a boat and infiltrated the terminal, fanning out across the docks and the airstrip, entering office buildings where Chevron managers worked and homes where they slept. For the next 10 days they occupied the terminal in a peaceful protest, the first one led by women. Chevron allowed them to stay on and entered negotiations. On their side of the creek, these women live in shacks with no phones or indoor plumbing, so to see inside Chevron amounted to an epiphany.

“The Bible describes paradise as a beautiful place where there is everything,” said Roli Ododoh, 33, a mother of two. “When we got in there, it was really like paradise.” All their lives they had heard of America, but now, as 66-year-old Anirejotse Esuku said, “I saw America there.” For Mrs. Ododoh, much was inspiring in the new world of Chevron: the air-conditioning, the tarred roads, the countless phones, the fresh salads, the odd machine called a “microwave,” the good foam in the beds.

Things unimagined. But the women were also enraged at what they saw. This wealth had been drawn, over four decades, from the land around them. Yet virtually none of it had benefited a community confined on the wrong side of the creek. The people of the delta feel abandoned by their corrupt government and are turning to Americans, whom they see both as the source of their suffering and as the solution.

Referring to Chevron, Felicia Atsepoyi, a leader known here as Mama Ayo, said: “They achieved something from this community for 40 years. Can’t they help us achieve something?” That question is taken seriously by Chevron. Word of the women’s raid quickly spread from this remote village to London, where Chevron executives cut short a management meeting to rush to Nigeria.

ChevronTexaco’s giant terminal the size of 583 football fields is protected by barbed-wire fences and moatlike waterways. But, as the executives knew, it is also surrounded by tens of thousands of Africans who have grown poorer and angrier. Americans rarely set foot in those villages, flying in and out of the terminal aboard helicopters and planes.

But how long these two worlds can coexist in such proximity without inflaming violence is a question that increasingly preoccupies the top management of ChevronTexaco. In the years ahead, the company, which operates in 186 countries and is the top American investor in sub-Saharan Africa, will pump more of its oil in places where people live on “less than $1 a day,” said its chief executive, David J. O’Reilly. “The big challenge it’s an enormous challenge is to ensure that as a human race we provide an environment in which these billions of people achieve the standard of living that the majority of the people in the world have come to expect,”

Mr. O’Reilly said in an interview at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco. “Does it have to be the same living? No. But should it have a standard? Yes.” Commenting on a recent trip he made to the Niger Delta, he said: “There are tremendous needs. We can’t fill them all. There’s no question. But we have to play a role.”

During the women’s 10-day occupation, Chevron representatives repeatedly crossed the creek to negotiate with village leaders. Much was at stake. Executives at the Escravos Terminal dispatched regular updates to Chevron headquarters in San Francisco on the fate of the 350,000 barrels of crude that is supposed to be shipped out daily. So far, there is a truce that allows the output to continue.

The Industry

An Enterprise Rises, and a Village Sinks

Many of the women are old enough to remember the Americans’ arrival here in the 1960’s. They watched the terminal grow over time, the giant red-and-white communications tower rise into the sky, and the first helicopters and planes land on the terminal airstrip.

Meanwhile, on their side of the creek, life deteriorated. Ugborodo, a fishing village, is sinking into the water, a fact that villagers attribute to company actions to widen the creek and a nearby river. Oil wealth has brought few modern amenities. Outhouses made of corrugated zinc line the nearby shore; the villagers follow raised planks to them and defecate directly into the same water where they fish for crabs.

Ugborodo may sit across from Chevron’s largest terminal in the delta, but the village does not have a gas station. Villagers buy their gasoline upriver and have it shipped here, paying three times what the rest of Nigeria pays. These issues impinge on American interests, too, as the demonstrations show. In the coming years, the United States will increasingly rely on oil from the mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta, already its fifth-largest source of imported oil.

Seeking new sources of oil outside the Middle East, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has been courting big African producers like Nigeria and Angola, as well as upstarts Equatorial Guinea, Sí£o Tomé and Prí­ncipe. The United States imports 15 percent of its crude oil from Africa, but the share is expected to rise to as much as 25 percent in a decade, with most of the world’s new oil reserves coming out of this continent. The output of Nigeria itself is expected to increase 50 percent, to three million barrels a day, by 2007.

These days, when Chevron signs a contract with an African government in Nigeria, 40 percent of the oil revenue goes to Chevron, 60 percent to the government it is often only the beginning of the company’s negotiations. The Nigerian government has spent little of its 60 percent share to improve the lives of more than 120 million Nigerians. The generals in power for most of the country’s oil-producing history funneled an extraordinarily large amount of money into an extraordinarily small number of hands.

The dictator Gen. Sani Abacha, who died in office in 1998, stole perhaps $3 billion during his half-decade in power, an amount that Mobutu Sese Seko, the former dictator of Zaire, which is now Congo, took three decades to amass. The thievery has not abated since the election of a civilian government in 1999, although the money now trickles down to a wider circle of leaders, by common agreement.

The women’s occupation of the Escravos Terminal set off three other women-led protests against ChevronTexaco and one against Royal Dutch/Shell the first time women spearheaded demonstrations against the Western oil giants. In response, ChevronTexaco officials now say they will significantly increase the money the company spends to build schools, roads and hospitals, and to provide electricity, water and other essentials to their African neighbors. The women who have now seen inside Chevron wonder, could this be true? Can they trust Chevron this time?

Jay Pryor, the American in charge of ChevronTexaco’s Nigerian operations, raced back from the London meeting to Nigeria while trying to monitor events in the delta. Such protests were not new. In recent years groups of men had used the same tactic, but they usually targeted small oil flow stations. The women of Ugborodo went straight for the big prize: the heart of ChevronTexaco’s operations in the delta.

The government that took over three years ago remains corrupt and brutal. Soon after the current government took office in 1999, it put down ethnic riots in the delta town of Odi by razing it and, according to human rights organizations, killing hundreds of people.

Here in Ugborodo, among the many buildings destroyed during ethnic riots that same year was an 18-bed hospital that ChevronTexaco had built in 1992. Government forces and Chevron’s private security were at the terminal, but Mr. Pryor gave orders that they not evict the women. He consulted with government officials; he sent his general manager of asset management, an American named Dick Filgate, to negotiate with the people of Ugborodo.

In discussing the takeover, Mr. Pryor was careful not to sound inflammatory. Indeed, he described the women’s protest this way: “There was an organized effort to try to give us, I would say, what was characterized to me, as try to give us some feedback, to try to get more attention to their plight.” Mr. Pryor, who is 45, conveys a passionate determination to understand the delta’s problems. He has an engineer’s practical belief that rigorous analysis will lead to comprehension and has learned his craft in a number of overseas postings, starting a decade ago in Kazakhstan.

He was born in a small Mississippi town, the son of a teacher and a pharmacist. By the time he entered Mississippi State University, he knew he wanted to be a petroleum engineer. He felt the oil industry, more than any other branch of engineering, suited his personality.

Asked who is responsible for using the oil money to raise the people’s living standards, he said: “The oil companies, us included, the governments, all have responsibility. The major responsibility I would say is the governments’.”

He says he is not satisfied with the results of the $36 million the company has spent on community development in the last decade. In addition to increasing the community development budget to $80 million over the next five years, Mr. Pryor says the company will create a “longer term strategic plan” for community development. Worldwide, Mr. O’Reilly, the chief executive, said the company would focus on “sustainable development” projects in education and the creation of local businesses, working with organizations like USAID and the United Nations (news – web sites). Perhaps then the money will be less likely to disappear.

Across the delta, there is little to show for the $36 million spent by Chevron or an additional $54 million spent by the government on community development in the last decade. Over the years, the oil companies have handed out large numbers of development contracts to chiefs and other delta leaders. But like the country’s top rulers who stashed away billions in Swiss bank accounts or built fabulous villas, the local leaders used their contracts to build large houses in Warri or Lagos. They left behind a delta littered with half-finished or shoddy projects.

Privately, oil company officials have long singled out this local corruption as the central obstacle to development; their critics, however, say that oil companies cynically give contracts to these local leaders to buy their silence.

Mr. Pryor is careful not to point fingers, though he suggests that some people of the delta have not given back enough to their community. “We’ve hired a number of people from those communities,” Mr. Pryor said. “How much have they done to help their community is something we’ve got to work on.”

Though he has never visited Ugborodo he has been to two delta villages and seems to understand how the neighbors of ChevronTexaco’s terminal might feel. “Put yourself in their situation,” he mused. “If you lived in New York City in a slum and you saw this big mansion sitting right next to you, and the people in the mansion had new cars, color TV, everything, and you grew up that way from 20 to 30 years, what would you think? You would think that what you had wasn’t good enough anymore.”

The Anger

Tapping African Oil, Striking African Rage

Africans these days are quicker to express their anger. That was true even inside Chevron’s Nigerian headquarters in Lagos. Chevron security guards, Nigerian men, played a tape of “I.T.T.,” a song by Fela, Nigeria’s best-known singer and political critic. The 1981 song, in Fela’s pidgin English, is an attack on American multinational companies like the old conglomerate I.T.T. and the Nigerian politicians who side with the corporations, and it captures a mood that is close to the surface here. The lyrics go like this: International thief thief! I.T.T.! International thief thief! International rogue!

The big newspapers in Lagos eventually compared Ugborodo’s women to the legendary Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Nigeria’s most celebrated campaigner for women’s rights and the mother of Fela. In 1997, when Victor Omunu first saw ChevronTexaco’s national headquarters in Lagos, with its large office buildings and elegant residences, he fell into a depression.

“I almost felt like killing myself,” he said. “This was our oil.” Few Ugborodo residents have seen the ChevronTexaco headquarters that is a couple of hundred miles away in Lagos. But Mr. Omunu, 40, was part of Ugborodo’s elite, one of perhaps 20 boys of his generation who had gone on from the town to a university.

For years delta rulers dealt exclusively with the oil companies, demanding money and development for their communities, but mostly enriching themselves. This contributed to the rage of young men who, in 1998, occupied oil stations and kidnapped workers all over the delta, at one point shutting down half of Nigeria’s daily oil production. In response, the oil giants paid ransoms or protection money.

The delta’s young educated men, like Mr. Omunu, then took the lead in dealing with the oil companies. As the secretary general of Ugborodo’s Manpower and Social Development Forum, Mr. Omunu became a powerful figure. The oil companies and foreign contractors hire some workers through his organization.

One Dutch dredging company servicing ChevronTexaco employs about 40 workers and pays Mr. Omunu $420 a month as a “community liaison officer.” Mr. Omunu lives in Warri, 40 miles east of here, but comes regularly to Ugborodo. In the last year, he married, had a son and was able to buy his first car, a secondhand Opel.

On an October morning, Mr. Omunu joined a reporter making the descent from Warri to Ugborodo aboard a small, twin-engine boat. As the rain clattered on its roof, the boat made its way down the Escravos River, which feeds into the creeks that are eroding Ugborodo. “Every year, the place is sinking,” Mr. Omunu said. “Over the next 20 or 30 years, if nothing is done, we will disappear.”

Attached to his shirt pocket was a card that identified him as a community liaison officer for the company and allowed him to enter ChevronTexaco’s terminal. Dark wraparound sunglasses masked his nervous energy. He had not visited Ugborodo in a few weeks and was dreading coming back. He knew that the young men he employed would bombard him with complaints, and he had not slept well the night before.

Mr. Omunu shouted to be heard above the rain and the roar of the boat engines. Yes, he said, the federal government had failed in its responsibility, but he blamed ChevronTexaco and the United States more. “We know the Americans influence the policies of this government,” he said. “If you have the interests of this community at heart, why is it that you can’t draw the attention of the federal government? The Americans are so particular about certain things. `Take this I.M.F. loan.’ `Don’t take this I.M.F. loan.’ ”

He continued: “The Americans who claim to be freedom fighters, the Americans who claim to want to better mankind for us, they are the devil. They are worse than Lucifer. Can you tell me they are not worse than Saddam Hussein (news – web sites) or Osama bin Laden (news – web sites)? To me, they are worse. I want to be clear. Americans are like terrorists to us. They come, take and leave without putting back.

“The only security is for them to improve the lot of the people. If they don’t, Chevron is sitting on a powder keg.” He grew silent. His anger seemed to have drained him, and his big body was slumped forward. The boat’s roof leaked, rain dripping down on his left shoulder.

Soon Chevron’s Escravos Terminal came into view. Even the terminal’s name seemed to demean him. Escravos means “slaves” in Portuguese. He knows that Portuguese slave traders once took his ancestors from the hinterland and shipped them down this river to the New World. Victor Omunu’s first stop was the house of Ugborodo’s traditional leader, or eghare aja, whom he called Pa.

The eghare aja, Wellington Ojogor, 70, glared. He was upset because a section of Ugborodo called Ode-Ugborodo had been without electricity for three days. Like most delta villages, the community depends on a generator for light. Every month, ChevronTexaco gives Ode-Ugborodo eight 53-gallon drums of diesel to run its generator; Shell gives 10 drums. The village limits the generator’s use to several hours each evening.

Even so, the generator had run out of engine oil in October. The eghare aja had sent emissaries across the creek, but the oil company replied that none was immediately available. In this community of ethnic Itsekiris, the eghare aja is the embodiment of customs and traditions. A retired government surveyor, he recalled how the arrival of the American oilmen, on the heels of Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960, heralded a period of great hope for Ugborodo.

Bringing a map from his bedroom, he traced with his finger the creek, which he said the Americans had dug separating Ugborodo from the terminal. Though Chevron says its records show that the creek was there before the terminal, the eghare aja said the Americans had widened and extended it through a section of mangrove forest that Ugborodo had long used as a cemetery. This creek and others that the oilmen had dug in the area for pipelines will be the death of Ugborodo, he said.

Each morning’s high tide floods parts of Ugborodo. Villagers with rubber boots wade ankle-deep in the water; people without boots roll up the bottoms of their trousers. If this oil terminal were in Texas, it would be regulated by state and federal environmental agencies. But here, the eghare aja is on his own, and he blamed the company for not taking proper precautions.

“They leave our burial grounds to wash away,” the eghare aja said. “But they are protecting their terminal with their embankment.” In the last decade, the eghare aja has presided over an increasingly divided community. Another elder is claiming to be the rightful head of Ugborodo.

Mr. Omunu, an ally of the eghare aja, worries that the women’s new assertiveness had weakened the ruling elders’ leadership. Traditionally, the elder men made the decisions and went to the shrine to seek divine blessings. A woman’s presence in the shrine is considered an abomination. “You know women,” Mr. Omunu said. “Any little thing makes them big-headed. So after the Chevron protests, some women said they wanted to be in this committee or that committee. So we told them, `Do you want to come to the shrine now?’ ”

The Women

Seeking a Way Out of a Dire Situation

Mama Ayo, as everyone here knew Felicia Atsepoyi, 48, was one of the small group of women who organized the occupation of the oil terminal. Part of the reason they had taken action, she said, was that they knew the Chevron guards would be less likely to brutalize women.

But Mama Ayo also felt moved to act because she believed the men had failed Ugborodo. The situation here had become dire since 1999, when much of the village was destroyed during clashes with a rival ethnic group. Frustrated, she and a small band of women created the Young Ladies Progressive Wing. “We created it because the men were cheating us,” she said, explaining that men monopolized the oil jobs. “Look at this community. Do you see any development?”

Her small room was cluttered with clothes, a stereo, plastic bags, cooking pots, two tomato cans, orange juice and a can of Raid. A ceiling fan and two naked light bulbs hung over the bed. Cardboard patches covered holes in the ceiling. Unlike the other women here, Mama Ayo had already seen the inside of ChevronTexaco’s terminal. She had secured small landscaping contracts with the oil company or its service companies over the years. She had learned the business from her late father, a successful fisherman before he became a petty contractor to ChevronTexaco.

Because her mother died when she was a girl and she was the only daughter among 10 children, Mama Ayo grew close to her father. He had used the money from his fishing to build a compound of small houses, which he rented out, and he regularly won contracts to mow the lawn inside the oil terminal. She married a Shell engineer, a Nigerian, and lived in Warri for several years rearing her children, only to return here after her husband died from an illness 15 years ago. Looking after an aging father took up much of her time.

Today, Mama Ayo can usually be found sitting in front of her one-room store, chatting with neighbors and greeting passersby, her big eyes dancing. She had owned a much bigger store, but it burned down in the 1999 violence. Parts of her family compound were also destroyed, leaving her 18 small rooms. She now lives in two of the rooms, renting out the rest for $3 each a month.

Her store sells corned beef, canned and powdered milk, sardines, Raid, soap, toothpaste, custard powder, gin, rum, beer, Coke, Fanta and other basics. Before the clashes in 1999, American workers used to visit this side of the creek. Mama Ayo could sell 120 bottles of red wine in two weeks. Since the clashes, the bottles have been gathering dust.

Mama Ayo lost more than business in the violence. Her 96-year-old father was shot to death in the creek as the two tried to flee to safety. She escaped to her son’s home in Warri before returning here to Ugborodo. “I don’t like to live here,” she said. “But this is our father’s land and our mother’s land. Who will stay? “Suppose we have good lights, good roads,” she said. “Your house you can make it O.K. Wouldn’t it be O.K. to live here? One of the few decent-paying jobs for a woman here is prostitution. In their bright miniskirts, tank tops and halters, the girls at the Bush Bar flit from one American to another, sitting on one’s lap, holding another’s hand, rubbing another’s shoulders. They called themselves Esther and Patricia, Milla and Helen, Gina and Joy.

“I love the people and culture of Nigeria!” one middle-aged American oilman said. The Bush Bar and another establishment, Mama Lolo’s, are in a section of Ugborodo that abuts the ChevronTexaco terminal. Named Ugbolegin, the section is better known as Back of Fence. Separating the terminal from the village are two parallel barbed-wire fences the inner one 12 feet high, the outer 15 feet. Where the fences end are two heavy swivel gates, linked by a tunnel, encasing workers as they move between the Escravos Terminal and Back of Fence.

The gates open nightly at 6 and close at exactly 10. During those hours, the oilmen head for an evening of pleasure at Back of Fence, which ChevronTexaco has supplied with uninterrupted electricity, water and a paved walkway. The oilmen filing into Back of Fence do not stray far from the swivel gates, heading for one of two signs: “De Bush Bar. The Ideal Place” and “Mama Lolo Inn & Supermarket. 24 HRS Service.”

At the Bush Bar one night in October, Americans sat on white plastic chairs around a table, as the girls swarmed around. Some of the men wore name cards identifying them as employees of service companies that contract with ChevronTexaco. From a table nearby, Victor Omunu quietly watched the Americans. He and his friends drank Nigerian beer; the Americans preferred Heineken. Radio Delta played Fela.

The middle-aged American oilman, who is white, said he worked a five-week shift before flying home to Mississippi for a five-week break. He has stopped trying to explain this overseas life to his American family. “I have a 140 I.Q., and I had no idea until I came overseas,” he said. “They can’t relate to the third world.”

His co-worker, Terry, also white and from Mississippi, said he joined the oil business six years ago, after high school. Three years ago, he came here because, he said, he wanted to expand his horizons. A girl in a light blue halter top moved behind Terry and rubbed his shoulders, then sat beside him. Terry a big man in overalls with a shaved head and beard took the girl’s hand in his.

“They’re very friendly and very Christianlike,” Terry said of the Nigerians he had come to know. “There’s nothing personal over here. Everybody’s here working, to make a profit. We’re producing oil and gas. That’s all there is about it.”

The Raid

A Secret Strategy and Public Impact

When it comes to Americans, Mama Ayo is more tolerant than Victor Omunu or the eghare aja. She believes that Americans would do right if they could just be made to understand the plight of the delta’s people. This was why Mama Ayo and women wrote a letter to ChevronTexaco early this year detailing their community’s problems. But when company officials did not respond Chevron says it receives hundreds of such letters daily the women felt disrespected.

“We women grew annoyed,” Mama Ayo said. So annoyed that they began formulating their plan to take over the terminal, which is protected by the company’s private security force, as well as the Nigerian police, the paramilitary mobile police, the army and the navy. They went to see the eghare aja and asked his permission. He gave his blessing. The women picked July 8. According to accounts provided by Mama Ayo and many other women, the plan was kept secret from the men, but relayed from woman to woman, from shack to shack, from dugout canoe to dugout canoe, across the river and creeks.

At 2 a.m., Mama Ayo and the others paddled across the Escravos River to a dock facing ChevronTexaco’s terminal. Hundreds of women gathered by the riverfront. They watched the sun rise and the male workers fill the Ginuwa, the boat that ferried them inside the terminal every morning at 6:30. “We drove the workers out, and we took the boat,” Mama Ayo said. About 150 women jammed the Ginuwa and ordered the captain to take them across the river to the terminal. “He was afraid. We told him not to say anything.” She continued: “The guards believed it was the workers coming. Before they knew it, we were inside.”

Reinforcements followed aboard a smaller boat. Eventually, several hundred women from young mothers with babies on their backs to 90-year-old great-grandmothers occupied the oil company’s terminal. They scattered throughout the complex and trapped some 700 oilmen by blocking the airstrip and the docks. The women had no guns, but they did have a powerful weapon: they threatened to disrobe in front of the oilmen. Showing nudity, especially by older women, is a weapon of last resort, considered an act of deep shame here and a great curse directed at men.

Villagers recall that Chevron’s negotiator, Mr. Filgate, arrived in Ugborodo on a particularly flooded day. He was accompanied by the police as he made his way to the town hall built by Shell. Meanwhile, inside the terminal, production had ground to a halt. “If you don’t have control of a certain aspect of your business, you’ve got to shut it in,” Mr. Pryor said. “Because if anything happens, bad things can really happen. So we started giving an order to shut things down.”

At the town hall, the eghare aja presided over the talks for the Nigerians, with several women, elders and young leaders like Mr. Omunu at his side. Mr. Filgate, who declined to be interviewed for this article, spoke for Chevron.

ChevronTexaco pointed out it was already doing a lot for the delta. More than 90 percent of its work force of 1,800 is Nigerian. In this area, the only health care is provided by a mobile boat-clinic run by ChevronTexaco. In Benikrukru, a village not too far away, almost everything except the private houses has been provided by Chevron: a generator, a water tank, a primary school.

For their part, villagers were frustrated that most of the workers at the terminal are actually employed by service companies that contract with ChevronTexaco. These are the lowest-level jobs, in the laundry or cafeteria and paying less than $100 a month. Company officials said that they understood the frustration, but that the problem was that most people living near the terminal had little education and were not qualified for the better jobs. The villagers had started negotiations demanding 100 jobs. They had also asked for new roads, 500 two-bedroom houses and embankments to stop Ugborodo’s erosion.

On July 17, the two sides signed a seven-page memorandum of understanding. The oil company agreed to provide electricity and water to the community by creating a direct connection to the terminal. It agreed to build schools, a community center and houses for the eghare aja and the rival traditional leader. It agreed to increase student scholarships and help the women set up poultry and fish farms to supply the terminal’s cafeterias.

Chevron also pledged to resume construction on its New Town project for the people of Ugborodo. The on-again, off-again project began in the mid-1990’s, with the clearing of land less than a mile away so the people of Ugborodo would have a place to live when the creek, river and ocean finally wash over their village.

But even with this popular project, the company has faced considerable criticism and distrust. Ugborodo’s people want New Town, but they also want the company to stop the old town from disappearing. Mr. O’Reilly, the chief executive of ChevronTexaco, said there were limits to what big companies should do. “We can’t take the place of government,” he said. “It’s unrealistic; it’s not our role.”

Mr. Pryor understands Ugborodo’s mistrust and suspicions. “It is a no-win situation in a way,” he said. “But the worst thing we could do is nothing.” Perhaps. But Mama Ayo is unconvinced by ChevronTexaco’s promises. She believes in the Lord and sees signs of his divine presence, even in Ugborodo. Three days after she and the other women left the terminal, lightning struck an oil storage tank and set it on fire.

Because of the fire and the protests, ChevronTexaco stopped pumping crude for four days and failed to meet its export quotas for more than 10 days. To Mama Ayo, the lightning was a sure sign that God stood on this side of the creek. One afternoon a while back, she visited the terminal to see if she could win a lawn-mowing contract. She wore a ChevronTexaco card that identified her as a contractor’s assistant.

After several hours, Mama Ayo returned. She was unsuccessful, she reported. But being Mama Ayo, she was not without hope. She had been thinking. The women had won several concessions by getting the attention of Chevron’s managing director in Lagos. Imagine the power of the managing director in America.

“If Chevron’s M.D. from America comes here and sees the way we are living,” she said, “he will do good. I’m sure of that.” She is sure because she says she believes that Americans are not bad people. “We are still friends,” she said. “We are friends forever. But we are pleading with them to come and develop us.”

Avoid pubs in the Christmas season?

The “offices” are out and a lot of them will be people who never usually go to the pub apart from one time a year and during that time behave like a complete arse. Ordering huge and complicated rounds (including drinks that haven’t been made since the 70s, Linda from payroll wants a Brandy Alexander or some bullshit), paying in a combination of cash/cheque/card/postal order which takes fucking ages, ordering too much food (disgusting festive platters, that take ages to eat and never get taken away quick enough so the whole pub smells of fetid mini kievs), being rude and demanding to the bar staff, dragging chairs around the pub meaning nobody else can get past and every other table has no seats at them and failing to hold their drink in the dignified manner of a consistent all year drinker.


Not Father’s Day

Another ‘non nautical’ post I’m afraid. Pertinent to this nautical person though and a bloke wott I met down the rub a dub last Tuesday.

A poem.


Jun 15, 2014

Not-father’s day

Not-father’s day today No morning breakfast tray.

Nor card soppily versed In filial love immersed.

Children in great array Their father love display.

Each post that father lauds Cuts as a thousand swords.

The words ‘I love you dad’ Not hearing is so sad.

We sit and pine away On this not-father’s day.

Cheap, cheerful, old, used, friendly, useful, slippery when wet, kind.

Cheap, cheerful, old, used, friendly, useful, slippery when wet, kind. Now that’s no way to talk about my mum but will admit that most of those words were and indeed are pertinent at times.

Wott? No children?

Can you ever truly come to terms with desperately wanting a child, but never having one? It’s not just a question for females.

It’s a simple question that is deceptively difficult to answer. It’s one my husband and I have asked ourselves, as we’ve struggled to start a family of our own.

And we are far from alone. It’s thought one in four women born in the 1970s will reach 45 without giving birth. For those born in the 1960s , as is the case with your blogger, that figure is already running at one in five. The vast majority are childless through circumstance, rather than choice.

Even so we hear very little from them.

Jessica Hepburn is 43 and has been trying to have a baby for nine years with her partner, Peter. “It’s like a bruise,” says Jessica about the emotional impact of failing to have a biological child, “whenever you press it, it hurts. I often wonder what our kids would have looked like – Peter’s hair, my eyes? I always imagined motherhood would be part of my life. Creating a child with the person you love – it’s a very natural, strong desire for me.”

It’s one Jody Day, who began trying for a baby with her husband when she was 29, also felt. “At the time, I dedicated everything to having a family. At no point did the idea that it wouldn’t happen, come to me.” Now aged 49, she says time has helped her cope with the grief of not conceiving. “People come to me and they say, can you get over childlessness? And I say, it’s not the flu – it’s a lifelong thing. I am happy now, but, not having children broke my heart. No doubt about it, it broke my heart.”

The stress of trying and failing to have a child led Jody into a bout of depression. “There was one day that I lay on the floor of my flat and thought, I will stand up when I can think of a compelling reason to do so. I kept asking myself ‘what is the point of my existence?’ I had to go very deep to find a reason to carry on.”

Jessica Hepburn has had 11 rounds of IVF

Jessica, whose infertility is unexplained, chose to undergo 11 rounds of gruelling IVF treatment, at a cost of £70,000. She has only recently paid off the debt.

She chose not to tell her friends and family everything she was going through, including a life threatening ectopic pregnancy and several miscarriages.

“I kept it absolutely away from my colleagues and I would go and have egg collection very early in the morning and be back at my desk by 10am. My ectopic pregnancy was discovered at three months and even though I was rushed to hospital, no one knew the full story. I also had a miscarriage at nine weeks and several biochemical pregnancies, which are very early miscarriages, and then of course a few unsuccessful rounds of IVF as well. Because we always felt so close, I couldn’t give up.”

Jessica says that along with the disappointment, she also felt ashamed about what was happening to her. “I think shame is a massive factor in not being able to have a child – feeling just so desperately that you want to be like everybody else, but somehow you’re not, and feeling ashamed that you can’t do what everybody else does. You’re hiding the fact that you’re disappointed that your life hasn’t worked out how you hoped.”

For women like Jessica, coping with a sense of loss can, albeit unwittingly, be made worse by the reaction of others – inviting the empathy while eschewing pity, there’s a difficult balance to strike and it has the potential to strain close relationships.

Jody Day founded Gateway Women for childless women

Jody Day’s marriage eventually broke down and by the time she had recovered from depression she realised her circle of friends – who’d got pregnant with ease – had moved in another direction. “My contemporaries were all having children. I think that’s when it started to get difficult. Because I realised that I had become a sort of social pariah as a single childless woman.

“And it was a dawning realisation that I just wasn’t getting invited anywhere anymore. Our lives had taken very different paths. It’s very hard to accept that. There’s so much unspoken stuff here. It’s a taboo to talk about it. And I think it’s really, really hard to admit.”

Embedded in the English language are a plethora of offensive labels: Barren, selfish, spinster, career woman (we never use career man).

After her divorce Jody dated other men, but by 43 she experienced early menopause. She says it was that biological change that helped her to come to terms with her childlessness, “I’ve done the journey of wanting to be a mother. I’ve come out the other side of it. I’m post-menopausal now and goddess oestrogen has left the building. I don’t crave a baby any more – that part of my life is over.”

  • The age of mothers has been rising since 1975 in England and Wales, according to the ONS
  • Possible factors mentioned by the ONS include: increasing importance of a career, instability of partnerships and labour market uncertainty
  • Fertility rate for women aged 40 or over has nearly trebled since 1991
  • The average age of a mother in England and Wales was 30.0 years old in 2013. In Scotland the latest figure was 29.7 and in Northern Ireland it was 30.1, both for 2012

Reaching this point has given Jody a sense of freedom, and the time to carve out a new identity. She has three masters degrees and is training to be a counsellor – specialising in adolescent and child psychology.

Yet she still meets people who struggle to know how to react to her situation. ”Often people get focused on the idea that we’ve chosen this in some way or that we just haven’t done the right thing – and get stuck for what to say.

“The very first time was when I was still married and still trying to conceive. I was at a cocktail party when a woman comes over to me and says, ‘so you know, if you don’t manage to get pregnant, would you consider adopting?’ And I was just taken aback and I replied ‘No… I… I don’t think so’. We were suddenly in this incredibly intimate conversation, without warning, and she looked at me and said ‘but then you obviously don’t really want children then’ and walked off. ”

In her chatroom, Jody says, women describe these all too frequent – and entirely inappropriate – reactions as “bingos”.

‘All the childless women I know feel very self-conscious about it,’ says Paula Coston

The suggestion that people who fail to have biological children should automatically choose adoption as a substitute is at best unthinking and at worst reckless. Experts often advise that parenting adopted children is a rewarding and sometimes challenging experience that potential adopters should think about carefully and commit to fully. The process is rigorous and emotionally challenging and is a unique path to parenthood in its own right.

Paula Coston, 59, had a high-flying career in publishing, when offices still resembled an episode of Mad Men. Her life brimmed with glamorous parties and exotic travel – but not the right man with whom to start a family. She’s now experiencing the isolation that Jody describes, a second time around.

“My friends are at that stage now where their children are about to have a child or certainly thinking about it and so I’m bracing myself for this new sort of wave of the experience to come over me really.”

Her life is busy with work, family and friends, but she worries that the difficult emotions she dealt with years ago may bubble up again. “I have a feeling that I will feel yet more distance from the people I know who are becoming grandparents. I will not only not be able to relate to them as parents but I will not be able to relate to them as grandparents either. I will be aware, I think, that there’s a bit more distance between me and that whole side of family life.”

As a single, childless, older woman, in some ways Paula gets a particularly raw deal – sidelined for failing to snag a partner, failing to have children and then daring to age.

Paula argues that, society as a whole, tends to neglect childless women (men get short thrift too) – and to its cost. “As a group we are increasingly cut off and underused,” says Paula. “Where are the mentoring schemes, how can we hand down our skills, why aren’t our opinions about children’s futures taken into consideration?

“We have great life experience and empathy that could really benefit others. I know I’d love to pass on my skills.”

Snips from an email trail

Snips from an email trail

Morning all,
It’s a no go on both forecasts I’m afraid. So be it.
Bearing in mind that we’re now on the way back to spring tides it’s not looking hopeful for a while.
I understand that Client and Contractor are having a powwow at this very moment, what that can achieve other than either waiting out here until next spring or going home for tea we’ll have to see.
Bosun Bill
And there’s more
Evening all,
The crane man is happy with the crane tests and will depart the vessel shortly.

The ETD Waalhaven is 2200 tonight. I expect we’ll make slow progress into the weather for the first 20 hours or so but it’ll ease then so an ETA of daybreak on Wednesday is a safe enough estimate. I’ll update you as the voyage progresses. We’ll have no client rep until he joins us at location.
Bosun Bill
And more;
Recipient one to moaning attendee,

I know what you mean old mucker. This could well turn out to be one of the great personal challenges of the year for you, of your life, perhaps but let’s not big it up overly. You’re a drama queen at the best of times. Dressing up your hissy fits as barely controlled anger… don’t fool this boy ;o)

Onwards, spoonful of cement and harden up, challenge accepted, all will be managed.

And the catalyst……….
Offshore Worthing, dodgy toofs (broken bridge), achey bits (god knows
what) and a sense of gloom all enveloping me one way or another and having told us we were going into Southampton tonight, now find we’re not. Gittbags to a man. Sort of.
Have made an appointment to see Mr Housepain for dental repairs at 1330 on Thursday, hope to goodness I can make it without grief one way or the other. All unwelcome and un-necessary stress.

Cheesed off with it to be honest.


Moaning man.