From May 30…

May 20, 2011

I am going to be energy reporter for the Aberdeen Press & Journal based at their Aberdeen office.
Exciting times! More to come when I’m up there and settled.

Time flies…

May 11, 2011

It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was here writing about getting a new job, as deputy business editor at the EDP.
Not so long after that I was made acting business editor. Now, 13 months later, I’m on the move again.
Read the BOSIET post below and it will give you a clue as to where I’m heading. No, not offshore! Well, maybe. But only if I manage to get out on an assignment.
More of that for another post. For now I’m still at the EDP. My last date is May 20 – drinks from 5pm in the Woolpack in Norwich (traditional leaving drinks venue for EDP journos).

It’s BOSIET time!

November 24, 2010

Today I learned a new dance move – it’s called the ‘get out of a pitch black smoke filled room safely and efficiently’ Chicago’s special.
It was kindly peformed by a very nice chap called Andy who was one of our instructors on Petans BOSIET course.
For those of you asking who’s Petans and what’s BOSIET…
Petans is, oddly, a charity which offers specialist training courses for offshore workers, mostly those in the oil and gas sectors but also renewables.
BOSIET is the basic offshore safety induction and emergency training course (lasting three days).
What was I doing on it? Good question. My big mouth telling the chaps at CLS Offshore in Great Yarmouth that I’d always fancied visiting a gas rig and them getting EEEGR’s John Best involved (East of England Energy Group).
Which meant doing an offshore medical (week or so ago) and this week the BOSIET.
It’s the course where you get dunked in a helicopter simulator, get to put fires out and feel your way out of the blacked out smoke filled room – which is where the dance moves come in.
There was some serious stuff (in fact it’s all pretty serious but fun nonetheless – unless you’re Andy having to do it day in day out).
In the classroom we had an overview of the industry (the oil’s up north and the gas is down here), the principles and reasons for some of the safety procedures (the likes of Piper Alpha) and the main hazards and issues (blow outs, H2S gas – horrible stuff -pipes and machinery, chemicals etc).
Then it was all the regulation to stop the above and first aid (with dummies Annie and Preston – he had flashing lights…).
And then the more fun stuff started (as long as you didn’t think too much about the real life situations these scenarious led to).
Petans, just north of Norwich airport, has a variety of simulators. One is part of a rig where you climb in to a TEMPSC (totally enclosed motor propelled survival craft). It’s orange (to be seen easily) but felt a lot like a mini-submarine inside. From the rig a winch lowered the raft into a pool then back up again. So there we go – controlled evacuation from a dying rig. There was another simulator of a helipad with a decommissioned chopper we climbed in to.
The main one people will have heard of is the pool with the helicopter module. We climb in in full immersion suits and life jackets we buckle ourselves in, get lowered into the water, take a breath, get fully submerged and then have to climb out.
This scenario gets repeated, each time a bit more difficult until the last one – the sixth (unless you get it wrong and have to do it again – a free ride) where you have to use a breathing system, are turned upside down with the unit and then have to unlock and push away a window and get out. It actually felt easier that it looked – if you did what they told you to do. Rule one – never take your hand off your exit.
The harder activity, for me, was working our way through the blacked out smokey building.
But that was because of the nasty horrible respiration hood thing we had to wear. I found it hard to breath through it, which made everything difficult.
And then on the last task, which saw one person lead three others through the building (including going up some stairs) I got taken from the back and put at the front!
This was where the disco dancing came in. A sweep round of the left foot of the floor you’re about to walk on followed by a sweep of a left hand to check the space you’re walk in to (head to nuts) was Andy’s strictly come dancing winning move (especially the comedy situation which saw it speeded up to get away from an abandoned colleague quick step pace). I’d buy him a drink to see him do that actually in a night club…
Once you got the hang of it, however, it made you feel more confident of moving forward – certainly more so than the alternative, stuttering forward with no co-ordination.
Then we got to put out fires – except the great fire ball that came out of the chip pan fire (not sure any of us were expecting that).
What did we learn? A heck of a lot. The above is scratching the surface of three days of constant information and training.
Who is responsible for your safety? You are.
When are you safe? Not until you get back to the beach (land).
When are you allowed to drink in the liferaft? After 24 hours.
How long does it take a liferaft to inflate? 60 seconds.
Muster points, PPE, everyone having responsibility to flag up safety issues, the permit to work system, PFEER fire regs, getting winched out of the water…
And I’ve not even mentioned some of the other people on the course from Mark, currently serving time and hoping to get back working offshore, to the marine who has reached the end of his service in the marines (23 years) and wants to move into marine security.
More, perhaps, for another day.
I will be writing a feature about this and other adventures I’ll be having as part of a series on the offshore sector, if you’re interested!

The Playing Around team at the Finish on Sunday, September 5Warning: unedited!

Thank you to those who followed the progress of yacht Playing Around over the past two weeks.
It’s been a hell of a ride ranging from an initial blast up the Channel and North Sea to doldrums and a Force 9 gale.
Between four hour shifts on deck, through night and day, we squeezed into narrow bunks stacked up against each other in our increasingly damp if not dank sleeping bags.
The days when all our clothes and boots were dry were cherished – as were those days, usually after 4 to 5 days, when we could change our base layers and have a wet wipe bunk bath.
We were unfortunate enough to miss a number of tidal gates, which meant on one occasion a particularly gruelling upwind fight up to Muckle Flugga – the northern most point of the course around Britain and Ireland.
We lived on boil in the bag and dehydrated meals, looked forward to crisp days (every other day we got a bag of crisps) and saved our day’s treats for the darkest hours of the night shifts.
Porridge, a little poo pooed on the first day, became a warm treat every other morning.
Those of you who read the blogs probably know more than I do about the overall race as we concentrated on racing our yacht on our shifts – off watch we tried to catch some sleep, sometimes not an easy feat as the boat crashed off waves onto the sea and bodies clunked about on deck changing sails, tacking or putting reefs in.
After my first night in a real bed back home – complete with waking up to feeling like the room was swaying – I’d happily say I would do it all again.
Not just for watching the beautiful Irish coast from offshore, sighting pods of dolphins following and skipping around our boat, seeing bright phosphorescence sparkling in the water as we carved through sea creating surf and watching the magnificent moon turn through its phases against starlit nights.
But also for the nature of existence aboard. We were 10 people squeezed into a 40ft boat relying on and looked after each other and surviving with what we had with us – limited clothes and food and a galley tilting at sometimes more than 45 degrees one way or the other.
We saw sunsets and sunrises and dealt with the wind and sea state conditions nature threw at us, relishing shortbread treats every four days.
The girls on the boat sat and laughed about the description of the heads, the name for loos on a boat, as a ride at Alton Towers.
Think of one of the fastest and most juddery rides and then think of trying to go to the loo on it with three layers of clothes to get through. Add to that little to hold on to and stabilise yourself and the fear of dropping the loo roll into the water (if you can call it that) swilling around your sea boots. Wet wipes and anti-bac wipes became intimate friends.
A defining night was when we suffered a force 9 gale.
Coming off watch at 10pm we knew weather was on its way. We’d changed down to a number 3 sail and put a reef in so the boat was not over powered.
But by 1pm the boat was being blown and thrown around by up to 45kt winds and a very rough sea state.
Those off watch laid in bed wondering how on earth the rigging was coping with the immense thrashing we were feeling shaking through ever inch of the boat.
Those on watch were sent downstairs at 1pm deemed less of a risk holed up safe inside the boat than on deck – despite all being fully geared up in foulies and lifejacket and being hooked to the deck with tethers.
We were literally falling off the tops of waves and crashing back onto the surface of the sea and onto the next wave with loud bangs that shook the entire rigging as the sea washed over the boat.
It felt like our yacht was being punched violently in the side.
Those sent down to their bunks told us who were already holed up that it was not as bad as it sounded, although the concern of one crew member and the fact that everyone but those who were essential on deck belied a situation more serious than we had been in as a crew before.
By daybreak the conditions were still bad, but felt like they had subsided. One of the core crew on deck – the skipper – came down for a rest. Shattered he laid down on a pile of sails still in his wet foulies and life jacket, so he was ready to go up after a nap or as and when he was needed.
I covered him with a blanket to try and keep in any warmth he was generating and although he felt making hot drinks would be a bridge too far, I got the kettle on.
I started sending hot drinks out on deck and broke into our week two banana rations to give the two watch leaders still on deck to add to the chocolate rations they had been wading through.
After a break the skipper woke up, had a hot drink and went back out to relieve one of the watch leaders.
He, likewise, crashed and was covered in a blanket.
One of the watch leaders described the boat as a nuclear-powered baked bean can.
Obscenely, despite all, the sun was now shining. Gradually a sea state described as looking like blocks of flats rising up behind the wheel subsided. Perversely, in less than 12 hours later we were virtually at a stand still in doldrums.
It took a good 12 hours for us to recover and get back into our shifts.
I found, after four days, any signs of sea sickness I had went. I have suffered, even when taking sea sick pills, but I’d appeared to get my sea legs. Which meant I was able to stay up and keep the storm watch watered and fed.
That was also the start of me being mother. I started to make sure key crew were fed and watered, organised most of the meals and started making us porridge. Everyone needed all the calories and energy intake they could get and we had not been good at eating our cereal after running out of fresh milk after the first three days.
In the end we came third in our class after a neck and neck battle with British Soldier, another yacht in our class, who beat us by just 15 minutes on corrected time.
We had originally been ahead of the class winner, Encore, but went west going up the east coast – the only boat to take that tactic.
Despite pulling back a lot of ground afterwards, we lost time as a result and never managed to pull it all back due to hitting tidal gates at the wrong times.
My bruises are wearing off and I’m glad to be able to go to a non-Alton Towers style loo.
But I’ve already thrown my hat into the ring for another race in a couple of weekends across the Channel to Ostend.
Not long enough to get the sea legs running but back at sea none-the-less.

To business…

April 8, 2010

It seems like an age since the last post, for which I apologise. I’ve been getting down to business, quite literally.

Despite being busy, it has been really good. One of the best things about the job is meeting so many interesting people.

Yesterday I met self confessed techie Paul Williamson. He runs RD Research from Norwich, a data base firm which mostly developing medical reporting systems for health agencies. Don’t be put off – he’s been working on some fantastic new techonology due to take a web site/application for Norwich City Football Club on to a whole new level. The full story will be in next Wednesday’s EDP Business supplement and it’s worth a read – for technies and non techies. Paul, bless him, was kind enough to drive us down to Carrow Road for a chat at Yellows after I was late for our interview. He has a fabulous looking Nissan GT-R – a Playstation on wheels, he calls it.

From the modern to the traditional. As friendly as Paul was the owner of Duff Morgan, the gentile and warm David Barratt, a businessman of the old school mould – and I’m so pleased they still exist. Business by personal guarantee and thought to the smallest detail. We did a story on his Norwich Citroen dealership taking on a dealership in King’s Lynn. He had a member of staff personally deliver a history of his Norwich family run firm to the Prospect House HQ of the EDP. It’s a wonderful booklet to look at if you are ever in their dealerhip in Whiffler Road and soon King’s Lynn. Being a modern(ish) lass I suggested to Mr Barratt that the history ought to go on their website – soemthing he responded they had not thought of. The idea sparked the offer of having my car cleaned inside and out at the dealership.

Who will I meet today?

I may well let you know!

Did I mention sailing?

March 25, 2010

Working slightly later than anticipated but it’s not all bad.

And, as I’d inadvertantly started singing the theme tune to Pugwash, it made me realise that I hadn’t mentioned sailing, a big part of 2010 for me.

Up until last year the only boat I had ever been on was a ferry. Then, through work, I had the luck to be offered a berth on a 68ft Clipper yacht (cutter rigged) sailing from Hull to La Rochelle on the west coast of France. It was to do a feature on the start of the Clipper Round the World Race, a race seeing 10 identical yachts raced by non professional crew around the world.

Not only did I get to take part in that journey, in order to do so I had to do a week’s training on a 60ft clipper in the Solent. Somehow they also let me do another week of training after the trip, also in the Solent.

It has been a real eye opener. I’ve loved (virtually) every minute of it (setting aside the odd bout of sea sickness, but it’s all been worth it). Pretty much everyone I’ve met have been wonderful people.

And it has set me on a course (to steer, not compass!) to learn and sail more. Last month I got my Coastal Skipper theory ticket at Anglia Sea Ventures in Ipswich – great little sailing school if anyone is thinking of doing any training.

Then, at the weekend, I did the first weekend of two doing my Day Skipper practical in the  Solent. It was Firday to Monday aboard a 38ft Sigma called Inspiration. We had a lovely chap called John as our skipper/trainer, barrister Dominic George, myself and a chap called Chris who works for B&Q training. That’s the great thing about sailing – you get out on the water away from all your worries with a bunch of people from competely different backgrounds all on a level playing field enjoying the sea and company.

Seems like a long time ago now! Just had to inflict the Pugwash theme tune on what few colleagues are left here tonight!

My next sailling is back on the Solent in April – if I can’t get on a boat sooner!

Signing off,

Elaine

Today is my last day as a district news hack – a breed of reporter based out in the sticks, digging for stories.

It has been an interesting last weekend. Yesterday, at about 4pm, I was sent out to a north Norfolk village to investigate reports of a incident in what was quite an isolated spot. The resulting story, now on www.edp24.co.uk is below. See Monday’s EDP for more.

It will be all change from tomorrow, once I have packed up everything in the Dereham office tonight and upacked what I need for the new job first thing.

My first interview, as deputy head of business, will be with Dr Haya Al-Dajani, lecturer in entrepreneurship and small business management at Norwich Business School, UEA. She is involved in the Women’s Enterprise Boosting the Economy Showcase at the Forum in Norwich on Wednesday (March 17), which we will be featuring in that day’s business supplement.

More info: http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2010/March/homepagenews/WREFevent

Today’s story (amongst others!):

A 72 year old man has been arrested following an incident in north Norfolk village near Fakenham yesterday morning.
Police were called to an address in Hindolveston Road, Thurning, at 10.30am to find a 62-year-old woman who had suffered serious injuries and a 72-year-old man with an injury.
Both were taken to hospital for treatment. Following surgery, the woman is in a stable but critical condition. The man has been treated and is in a stable condition.
This morning, police said the man had been arrested in connection with the matter and further enquiries are in hand, but would not give any more information.
Leading the investigation, temp Det Chief Inspector Matt Dyson said: “We are in the early stages of our enquiries but are not, at this time, looking for anyone else in relation to this incident.”
Police said next of kin had been informed.