Category Archives: Heritage

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.


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.


Sunday Morning at Ramsgate Harbour

Sunday dawned damp drizzly and chilly but that didn’t deter the dynamic  ‘photo team’ here at the Towers from venturing forth, Lumix in hand, hell bent on digitising trivia and tosh for all and sundry. Well, truth be told it did, a bit. The initial intention was to go to Greenfields shooting ground at Sturry and capture the delights of Rottweil Super Traps rendering  spinning clay discs into dust and fragments (on the 50/50 chance of a hit) …….. along with dozens of other folk. However, though the thought of a 100 ESP before lunch was appealing, the prospect of wading through mud and sodden grass to do it, was not. We’ll leave that then for another day.

Ramsgate Harbour is always worth a visit especially when the crowds are thin. See the pics below wott we gathered this very morning. Very few folk about at this time on a Sunday (0800 ish).




Low water at Margate Harbour

A beautiful though still a tadge chilly morning here in Margitt. As part of a 10,000 steps a day malarkey a walk  was called for. The weather and the gentle breeze, alongside a fortuitous  time for low water made Margate Harbour the number one choice. Taking the trusty Lumix out of it’s bag for an outing also shaped the walk.

A nice place to be.

No more talkshite, just pics.
















Non italicised words by Kent Online, words it italics and pics by allatsea:

A Thanet town has been named as one of the hippest places to live in the country (named by a bung taking trash journo working for a freesheet).

The Times newspaper has crowned Margate the fourth coolest town because of attractions such as Turner Contemporary and Dreamland. Both of which can be ‘done’ in a few short hours and then……forgotten.

It also says that Margate had the hottest housing market outside London in 2015 (bollox).


The article said: “Margate, with its Turner Contemporary gallery and revamped amusement park, Dreamland, has started something on the east Kent and East Sussex coast.


“Trendy Londoners are pervading Folkestone, Ramsgate, Rye, Hastings, St Leonards and Hythe, not far from Dungeness and the film-maker Derek Jarman’s former cottage.


“Margate was the hot market outside London in 2015, says Rightmove, with a 24 per cent rise.”


Margate’s housing market has been called the hottest outside London

Top of the list was Finnieston in Glasgow.




Being drunk in a pub

You might think this is what pubs are for, but the Licensing Act of 1872 is having none of it. “Every person found drunk … on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty,” it says. Furthermore, the Licensing Act of 2003 reaffirms that it is an offence to sell alcohol to a drunk person, and to buy alcohol for a drunk person. You can see what these laws are getting at, even if they are broken in more or less every pub in Britain more or less every day.


It’s half past two and I need a sh#t

Wonderful news

Isn’t it


Meanwhile in Ambridge, Titchenor must die? Surely? Courtesy of the those lovely peeps at The Ha Archers

“Helen goes for another in what seems to be an unending series of scans, driven by Ursula. When they are at home, Ursula makes it plain that she thinks a hospital birth is not a good idea – she had a bad experience with Rob’s brother, Miles, who could have suffered brain damage, plus she “was cut to pieces”. Consequently, with Rob, Ursula opted for a home birth; an experience that she described (rather unlikely) as ‘joyous’. Helen points out that she had a bad time with Henry and, had she not been in hospital, she and he might not have survived.

Ursula tells Helen that she mustn’t let herself be pressured into doing something that isn’t right for her (as if!) and she knows that Rob would be happier with a home birth. When Rob returns home, Helen confesses that she’s confused about where to have the birth and she doesn’t know what to do. Rob says that he knows Ursula’s feelings and he trusts her judgement “but I’m not going to interfere in any way – it’s your decision; you must do what you think is best.”

The following day is Tom’s 35th birthday and also the 18th anniversary of brother John’s fatal accident. To celebrate (presumably the former, rather than the latter), a supper party is held at Bridge Farm. There was further cause for celebration, as Johnny passed his level 2 agricultural apprenticeship exam and is looking forward to level 3. Rob asks Helen if she’s told her mum what she (Helen) has decided? Helen is confused, so Rob announces that Helen has decided that she will have the baby at home. Pat is stunned – all the advice has been for a hospital birth, to which Rob replies that Ursula is something of an expert when it comes to childbirth and Helen shares her anxieties. He also gives the reasons that Helen arrived at her decision; she seemingly being incapable of speaking for herself.

Tony proposes a toast to “the birthday boy” and then another to Johnny for passing his exam, saying that he hopes that Johnny goes all the way and that there is a job for him at Bridge Farm at the end of it. For his part, Johnny proposes a toast to his late father (who would have been 40 on New Year’s Eve, in case you are interested. Helen bursts into tears and rushes from the room. Tom tells Rob to stay there and he’ll comfort Helen. He asks her if everything is OK at home with Rob and, when she says that she misses John so much, as she could always talk to him, Tom says that “you can always talk to me – I’m here if you ever need to talk about anything; anything at all.”

Speaking the following day, Rob shows that it’s not just Tom that he’s against, as he mentions that “we’re stuck with Johnny for another year” and describes Tony’s talking about a full time job at the end of his apprenticeship as “grossly irresponsible – this is a business, not a charity.” Helen exhibit’s a spark of rebellion, as she reminds Rob that “this is a family business, and Johnny is family.” “So are we – we have responsibilities” her husband replies. Helen then asks whether or not they should think of getting more help in the shop, as it seems to be doing well. Rob (no doubt scandalised by this show of independence) says that he doesn’t think the extra cost can be justified. He says that “Johnny is a free agent – he could get a job anywhere.” Helen, who has obviously been taking the Brave Pills, retorts “so could you.” “I’m doing this for you, Helen”, Rob says, adding that, when the baby is born, he will need his mother and Rob needs to be close by to support her.

It’s encouraging that Tom seems to be suspicious that all is not well between his sister and her husband and, towards the end of the week, Kirsty manages to get a one-to-one with Helen, despite Ursula not passing on to Helen Kirsty’s request for a talk. Kirsty says that Helen doesn’t seem relaxed and is everything OK? Helen blames the pregnancy, but Kirsty pushes her luck and asks if everything is OK with Rob? Helen replies “of course” and Kirsty asks is he mistreating her in any way, and would she like to talk to a counsellor? Helen has mild hysterics, saying “Stop it, stop it! You shouldn’t interfere Kirsty – I just need to be left alone – just go away, please.” Rob chooses this moment to turn up and demands to know what’s going on. He is furious and tells Kirsty to “get out and never come round again.” He tells Helen not to worry, as “I’m here and I’ll look after you.” Well Kirsty, well spotted for recognising Rob’s baleful influence, but I really think that you could have handled it better.

Sorry to have spent so much time on the Helen/Rob/Ursula story and I tend to agree with the many readers who have begged for a swift conclusion – preferably one which involves Rob going over a waterfall in a spiked barrel, full of rattlesnakes – but it is a major theme and, as such, needs to be covered. Pray for a swift nemesis.

Moving on, we wonder if there might be room in that barrel for Toby. He turns up at the caravan, late for a meeting with Josh after another night on the lash. He is less than impressed when Rex tells him that he has persuaded Lilian to let them move her furniture out of the Dower House. Toby says he needs shower and a coffee, and dismisses Josh as “a schoolboy”. Rex points out that Josh has been running his own business for a number of years and “We are the amateurs here, Toby.” When the brothers go to Brookfield, Toby goes to see Bert, who is making the Eggmobile, and who he annoys by asking stupid questions. An exasperated Bert finally snaps, saying “Have you ever heard the expression ‘teaching your grandmother to suck eggs’ Toby?” The answer to that is probably ‘no’, but Toby asks why isn’t there a provision for the doors to the henhouse to open automatically in the morning, to save him getting up at the crack of sparrows? Bert says that this wasn’t part of the brief, but a day later, Josh has come up with a solution. I don’t know what sort of percentage Josh has in this joint venture, but, going on what’s happened so far, it isn’t enough.

Toby also was disappointed when he asks Josh how is Pip (or ’love’s young dream’ as he calls it) is coping with Matthew’s absence? Josh says that she spends all day texting him. “Makes you sick” Josh adds. “Doesn’t it just” Toby adds, with feeling. Sadly, it wasn’t all bad news for Toby, as, at the meeting, the brothers and Josh realise that their plans for robust packaging and marketing are going to be more expensive than they thought. “What we need is a sponsor” Toby says, but where to find one?

Fast forward to the furniture moving at the Dower House, where we had some riveting radio, describing how a wardrobe comes apart so that it can be carried downstairs. Toby quickly discovers that Lilian is working as Justin Eliot’s social secretary and that he is keen to get involved with local projects and enterprises. “Interesting” Toby says. I can’t think where the Fairbrothers are going to find their sponsor, can you?

When all the furniture has been removed, Lilian and Jennifer stand in the empty house and Lilian is in maudlin mood – she had always thought that she and Matt would end their days there, but here she is, living with her sister. Jen, who doesn’t take offence, says that, surely, that’s not so terrible? Jen also is affected by her sister’s despondency, asking what has she actually achieved in her life? Well, you’ve got a kitchen that cost a few grand, if nothing else. Jen reminds Lilian that she has a new job, her health and strength, and, rashly, says that Lil also has her family, including James and young Muppet. Fortunately, Jen manages to stop Lil throwing herself out of the first floor window when she digests this information, but Lilian’s mood is not improved and she says, despondently “I’ll be 70 next year. “ “70 is the new 50” says Jen, cheerfully, but Lilian says wistfully: “It seems awfully late to be making a fresh start.”

We cannot let the week pass without mentioning the momentous events at Brookfield. The herd has been sold and 200 new, crossbred, cows have been purchased to replace them. These cows arrived in batches and we had more wonderful radio moments as various members of the Archer family described the cows’ varying colours, how they were frisky when being walked out to pasture and the difficulties of getting 200+ cows to go through the (to them) unfamiliar milking parlour. Rooooth seemed to voice doubts about whether they could do it, to which David, quite rightly pointed out that it’s a bit late now. Mind you, he too has reservations, as, over the next few weeks, half the cows will be calving. Still, he looks on the bright side, calling the new enterprise “A whole new chapter in the history of Brookfield.” Let’s hope so, or else Rooooth might get a good kicking from the family.

There was one encouraging theme to emerge from the arrival of the new cows – Lynda took the opportunity to visit Brookfield and to try and persuade David and Rooooth to take part in her Easter pageant (‘England’s Pleasant Land’). She points out that David wouldn’t even have to learn any lines, as it would involve reading from the page. Lynda bangs on about what it’s all about, but David points out that they have 200 unfamiliar cows to look after and he, Rooooth and Pip will be a tad busy over the next few weeks. What about Josh? He’s got exams to study for, says Rooooth. Ben then? Rooooth implies that, if she knows her youngest son, he’d rather stick pins in his eyes, so bye, bye Lynda, there’s work to be done.

Poor Lynda (I don’t mean that, obviously) as she is frustrated because she cannot get Eddie to show her the progress on her shepherd’s hut (described by Ed as ‘wonky’ and by Clarrie as ‘not like any shepherd’s hut I’ve ever seen’; both of which comments bode ill for when it is finally unveiled). Not only that, but Lynda approaches Kirsty about the pageant and the ‘Clean for the Queen’ litter pick – or so Kirsty thinks, but Lynda only wants to put a poster up in the Health Club. Nevertheless, Kirsty makes it plain that she has better things to do (washing her hair, watching TV) and is not interested in Lynda’s plans. Now this is an encouraging development and let’s hope that it is (a) contagious and (b) long-lasting. Let’s start a ‘Do one Lynda’ campaign – or how about everyone giving up participation in her extravaganzas for Lent? Or, better still, for the 21st century?”


Wind, no wind, ships

From the dizzying heights of Westbrook Towers four offshore windfarms are visible. Three of them are close and readily found with the naked eye the other, Gunfleet Sands off the Essex coast, requires cooperation from the weather and a keen eye or the help of some 8 x 40s.

The four comprise, Kentish Flats, Thanet Offshore Windfarm, London Array and the previously mentioned Gunfleet sands. Between them, at full capacity, they generate a hefty 1.242 GW. The last months have seen windy conditions on a near daily basis and the windframs have been producing regularly at or near maximum capacity.

Not so yesterday. The turbines in all four sites were observed to  be stationary. Where then, does the power shortfall get made up from? From imports (mainly from French Nuclear power stations) and our own fossil fuelled and nuclear power stations. The question is, when the wind is blowing and there is less of a need for non renewable power generation, what happens to the plant that we need when the wind isn’t blowing? Do we have to recompense the owners of the power stations to shut the plant down (very difficult to do at short notice with nuclear and steam driven plant) and therefore earn no revenue …. or what? How do we encourage folks to cough up the dosh to replace our ageing non-renewable plant if continuous operation isn’t an option? Do we inflate the wholesale cost of electrical energy in the market place in order to make our inefficient use of plant economically viable? I think we’re probably doing that already. Hmmm.


Pictured above, some of the 368 wind turbines in the Thames Estuary not producing any electricity yesterday. Also seen is the container ship ‘Tim S’ which has been at the Tongue Anchorage since the middle of November. No work, no happiness.


Also with no work, the BIG Lift operated ‘Happy Delta’, anchored in Margate Roads for the last week. Not a good sign for the industry.

Development Rounds

Unlike onshore wind, offshore wind is leased in “rounds” so we know where the projects over the next few years will be. The Rounds to date are shown in the tables below.

UK Offshore windfarms, the story so far (courtesy of Renewables UK)

Site Developer MW Capacity Status
Round 1 – 2001
Barrow DONG Energy 90 Operational
Beatrice Demo SSE Renewables 10 Operational
Blyth E.ON UK Renewables 4 Operational
Burbo Bank DONG Energy 90 Operational
Gunfleet Sands I DONG Energy & Marubeni 108 Operational
Lynn & Inner Dowsing Centrica Renewable Energy Ltd 194 Operational
Kentish Flats Vattenfall 90 Operational
North Hoyle RWE Npower Renewables 60 Operational
Ormonde Vattenfall 150 Operational
Rhyl Flats RWE Npower Renewables 90 Operational
Robin Rigg E.ON UK Renewables 174 Operational
Scroby Sands E.ON UK Renewables 60 Operational
Teesside EdF 62 Operational
Cirrus Array (Shell Flats) N/A 270 Withdrawn
Cromer N/A 108 Withdrawn
Scarweather Sands N/A 108 Withdrawn
Site Developer MW Capacity Status
Round 2 – 2002
Thanet Vattenfall 300 Operational
Walney I DONG Energy / SSE Renewables/ Ampere Equity / PGGM 183.6 Operational
Walney 2 DONG Energy / SSE Renewables/ Ampere Equity / PGGM 183.6 Operational
Greater Gabbard SSE Renewables, RWE Npower Renewables 504 Operational
Gunfleet Sands II DONG Energy & Marubeni 64.8 Operational
Sheringham Shoal Scira Offshore Energy Ltd 317 Operational
Gwynt Y Mor RWE Innogy / SWM / Siemens 576 Operational
Lincs Centrica 270 Operational
London Array I DONG Energy / E.On Renewables / Masdar 630 Operational
Humber Gateway E.ON UK Renewables 219 Operational
West of Duddon Sands Scottish Power/DONG Energy 389 Operational
Westermost Rough DONG Energy 210 Operational
Dudgeon Statoil & Statkraft 402 Approved
Race Bank DONG Energy 580 Approved
London Array II DONG Energy / E.On Renewables / Masdar 240 Withdrawn
Triton Knoll RWE Npower / Statkraft 900 Approved
Docking Shoal Centrica 540 Refused
Site Developer MW Capacity Status
Scottish Territorial Waters – 2009
Beatrice SSE Renewables / SeaEnergy 588 Approved
Neart na Gaoithe Mainstream 450 Approved
Inch Cape Repsol / EDP Renováveis 784 Approved
Islay SSE Renewables 690 Exclusivity Agreement Awarded
Argyll Array Scottish Power Renewables 1800 Exclusivity Agreement Awarded
Hywind Scotland Pilot Park Statoil 30 Approved
Site Developer MW Capacity Status
Round 3 – 2010
Moray Firth Repsol / EDP Renováveis 1000 Approved
Firth of Forth SeaGreen Wind energy Ltd (SSE Renewables, Fluor) 3465 First Project Approved
Dogger Bank Forewind Consortia (SSE Renewables, RWE Npower Renewables, Statoil and Statkraft) 4800 Approved
Hornsea 1 (Heron & Njord) DONG Energy 1200 Approved
Hornsea 2 (Optimus Wind & Breesea) Smart Wind Consortia (Mainstream Renewable Power, Siemens Project Ventures) 1800 Submitted PINS
East Anglia East Anglia Offshore Wind Ltd (Scottish Power Renewables) 7200 First Project Approved

Second Project Submitted

Rampion E.On Climate and Renewables 400 Approved
Navitus Bay Eneco New Energy and EDF 970 Refused
Celtic Array Centrica & DONG Energy 4200 Withdrawn
Atlantic Array RWE Npower Renewables 1200 Withdrawn
Site Developer MW Capacity Status
Round 1 and 2 Extension Sites – 2010
Galloper RWE Npower Renewables 336 Approved
Kentish Flats 2 Extension Vattenfall 50 Operational
Burbo Bank Extension DONG Energy 258 Approved
Walney III DONG Energy 660 Approved
Site Developer MW Capacity Status
Demo sites – 2010
Gunfleet Sands 3 – Demonstration Project DONG Energy 12 Operational
Methil Offshore Wind Farm Demo site Samsung 7 Operational
European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre Scotland Vattenfall, Technip and AREG <100 Approved
Blyth Offshore EDF 40 Approved
Site Developer MW Capacity Status
Northern Ireland – 2012
First Flight Wind DONG Energy, RES, B9 400 Withdrawn

– See more at:

Our New Year

How did yoooo spend the New Year? Here at the Towers  the occasion  involved consuming inordinate quantities of gin, being nice to mummy allatsea, even inviting her round for a yumyum high tea and ………. listening to the 65th anniversary edition of The Archers. Wonderful stuff, I really thought Roooof was going the give hubby David the old heave ho and bugger off to spend her legacy (from mummy Roooof) on a shagaholic sheep shearer from Wellington. Fortunately she saw sense and as the Grauniad so eloquently describes it  below, took us and Brookfield in a completely new dairy herd direction.

Glory be.

“A soap opera that seems set to continue until the cows come home, BBC Radio 4’s The Archers celebrated its 65th birthday with a storyline about the cows leaving home.

A crisis in British dairy farming – a narrative that sees the series remaining true to its original roots in promoting countryside issues for the Ministry of Agriculture – has threatened David – the grandson of Dan and Doris Archer, the Adam and Eve of Ambridge – with having to sell off his herd and cease milk production at Brookfield farm.

However, with the show simultaneously milking a crisis in David’s marriage, as his Geordie wife, Ruth (catchphrase, in extremis, “Aw, naw!”), brooded on her problems during an extended visit to New Zealand, David risked ending up jobless and Ruthless.

For the lead female characters in The Archers, this has been a period of keeping things close to their chests. Lynda Snell, bicycling busybody and amateur-dramatic impresario, chose for her seasonal production Calendar Girls, a drama about middle class women taking off their clothes, although in this case with the metaphysical twist of nudity that the audience can’t see.

For the past few days, though, the show’s 5 million listeners (and the downloaders who have put the show at the top of the BBC’s podcast charts) have also been offered a more traditional form of Archers striptease, in which the scriptwriters tantalised the audience with which of several current storylines might be the firework that ignited to mark Friday night’s 65th anniversary edition.

The show’s landmark birthdays, traditionally containing a shock plot twist, have become a nervous time for actors, who can find themselves beginning the year with an ending. Five years ago, Graham Seed was written out after 28 years in the cast when his character, Nigel Pargetter, slipped from the roof of his house while trying to fix a flapping Happy New Year banner.

Apart from the crisis with the cows and the vows of David and Ruth, another narrative strand with the potential to cause an anniversary flap involved Rob Titchener – the series’ newest baddie, a marital rapist and nasty control freak.


As the 65th anniversary approached, surviving cast members could take some reassurance from interviews in which Sean O’Connor, the editor of The Archers since 2013, seemed to express regrets about his predecessor having put the skids under Nigel. However, O’Connor also told the Radio Times that this birthday payoff would be a “defining moment” for the show and would mark the anniversary in a way that no other broadcasting franchise had done.

On Friday night, between 7.02 and 7.14pm, O’Connor proved true to his word. It is certain that no previous long-running drama – from Guiding Light in the US to Coronation Street in the UK – has ever passed a broadcasting landmark with a lengthy discussion of the effect on milk yield and profit levels of different methods of dairy farming in New Zealand, Ireland and a made-up place in Middle England.

During her antipodean trip, Ruth had concluded that David should sell his herd, cuing poignant use of the show’s extensive repertoire of moo sound-effects. But just as listeners thought “Aw, naw!”, Ruth revealed plan B: the purchase of a new, smaller herd, presumably cheaper on the soundtrack budget. Actors Timothy Bentinck and Felicity Finch gamely played probably the only scene in the history of drama in which the punchline was “low-cost pasture-based farming”.

Compared with the impact five years ago of Nigel’s departure, some listeners may have felt that, in common with Mrs Snell’s Calendar Girls, this was all tease and no reveal. However, the underlying desire of listeners for there always to be Archers at Brookfield farm has been satisfied for the foreseeable future, and, with several loose ends still to be tied, probably around Titchener’s neck, the show sets out confidently towards its 70th birthday celebrations.”

A thousand years ago

A thousand years ago