We established a base at Hondeklipbaai (Dog Rock Bay) on the west coast of South Africa a bit over 400 kilometres North of Cape Town. Using a Bell 212 13 passenger helicopter fully equipped for offshore work, we were to support the Sedco 708 rig situated about 160 kms out in the Atlantic. A hangar was built and we moved in before the contract commenced. Offshore helicopters and their engines have to be washed every day to get rid of the salt they pick up which causes corrosion. The trouble was, we discovered late in the day, that the local water was brak or salty. We needed clean water or we risked adding to the corrosion. The remedy was to erect a stand adjoining the hangar and as high as its roof. Putting a fresh water tank on top of that would provide some pressure. Constructing the stand was easy, and we used the helicopter to lift the tank onto it.
The lift was accomplished by having an engineer on the stand to receive the tank and using one of our pilots to marshal me (the pilot) using hand signals from the ground. The marshaller was an extremely competent lady pilot, but there was no point in having more crew in the helicopter than necessary during a high risk operation. This lady is very small, probably 5ft 4ins or 1.62m. She was dressed in uniform, navy trousers and a white shirt. I had lifted the tank a short distance from the hangar and was moving it over to be above the stand. The lady marshaller was directing me with her hand/arm signals like a traffic policeman.
Then the school came out, and every pupil was dressed in navy slacks and a white shirt!
They thought this was a great game and were super excited by the helicopter. They surrounded our gallant girl, and I lost her in the crowd of kids when they all began imitating her and giving totally irrelevant signals. I, with the tank dangling underneath, hadn’t a clue what direction to go for a while. Somehow we managed it.
But there’s more: in that atmosphere, with the wind blowing off the desert, the air was incredibly dry which resulted in the helicopter generating a serious amount of static electricity. Our engineer, Peter, was on top of the stand securing the tank and had to disengage it from the helicopter’s steel cable. I didn’t want to drop the cable from the helicopter’s hook itself because it might have damaged the tank. Peter had to scrabble around on the top of the stand with barely room for his feet while this live steel cable was chasing him and belting him repeatedly with static. Eventually, I draped the cable over the hangar to earth it, and Peter escaped by sliding down the outside of the stand, almost in free fall.
Fun and games.
The last couple of books I’ve read are worth mentioning. They include The Kingdom by Jo Nesbo, which I talked about in my April letter – it’s excellent. One of my editors claimed that comparable authors to myself are Jo Nesbo and Harlan Coben. I hadn’t read any of Coben’s work before, so I bought his very first novel, Play Dead. A great story, but it’s not well written. The women are all supermodels and the men, with a couple of exceptions, are top sportsmen. Everyone is over-the-top wonderful, the romance is syrupy sweet and there’s a happy-ever-after ending.
Seriously disappointed that I had been compared to this, I thought to be fair I’d have to try a later book of Harlan’s, and bought Six Years. Wow, what a difference. This is an excellent story and is a great example of how someone can grow into their craft over the twenty-three years between these books. Reading Six Years makes one realise why this man is one of the most successful authors out there.
I hope my editor was comparing me with the experienced Harlan and not the inexperienced one. I think so because the other comparison, Jo Nesbo, is no slouch either.
Another excellent book I’ve recently finished is Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, (Atonement, Never Let me Go). Ishiguro sometimes delves into an alternative future where humanity could go if we’re not careful. Never Let Me Go presents a scenario where some children are bred for their organs to be harvested. Klara and the Sun is written in the first person by an AF, an Artificial Friend, or solar powered robot using Artificial Intelligence to function and deduce what her human ‘friend’ needs. The book is brilliantly written, a touch sad and, to me, a warning for humans to limit the uses of AI. It’s also an interesting study on the behaviour of humans who value this AF for all her qualities, yet can’t form that ultimate emotional attachment that is so fulfilling.
The great news is that Thirty-Four, my next novel, is almost ready for publication and should be in stores in a couple of weeks. Here’s the book description:
You see the fear in her eyes, the pleading. Would you abandon her to a life of abuse to save more innocent children?
Ostensibly, Andrew Duncan is a fortunate, intelligent young man, but no one realises he’s actually much, much older. Big Pharma knows, though, and they will stop at nothing to learn his secret, because it will lead to massive profits.
While Andrew evades the tentacles of the giant corporation, he’s framed for the savage murder of a reporter. But who really did it – the pharmaceutical company or the child trafficking gang the journalist was probing? To prove his innocence, Andrew assumes the reporter’s investigation. But when he spots two of the victims, he’s forced into making a critical decision.
Andrew must find the assassin and expose the depraved gang. But the police are looking for him, Big Pharma is after him and a pair of little girls depend on him.
Even worse, the assassin is closing in.