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Back where I hadn’t expected to be...



I’m out on site again, on a rather spectacular location overlooking the Solent. This is my first “site” job in the U.K. for almost ten years, back on a drilling site after a long time away from that field, so I’ll see how it goes.


The specialist contractor, my employer, are the British arm of a Dutch contractor and rather unexpectedly, I find I’m more comfortable there than I was last year, working in an office in Birmingham. I found the general flow of office conversation in Brum, trivial and boring. I don’t follow football and rarely watch tv, and there seemed to be no other topics of general interest. I also found that the other expats there (there are quite a few in the rail sector at present, with the oil sector in the doldrums and a relative lack of work in Asia) tended to group together, apart from the “local” workforce .... oddly enough, there are a fair number of rail contractors who have worked in Germany, but seem to have little or no experience of anything outside work; language barriers, tax issues and cheap flights seem to combine to isolate them entirely.


I’ve spent much of my life working with Americans and more recently, Europeans and I’ve absorbed their more, shall we say, “engaged” outlook, I suppose. There was a general discussion in the hotel last week, regarding various aspects of an issue we’ve probably all heard more than enough about already, and I couldn’t help noticing that the British present quickly lost interest and drifted away with little real contribution.


This isn’t to say that I’m an unqualified admirer of all this, but it’s all “food for thought”. My wife is given to the opinion that I’ve very largely lost the ability to live in the U.K. and while I don’t necessarily agree with this, having the best part of two years “marking time” in the U.K. I can see her point.


Several of my mother’s relatives spent long periods abroad, as soldiers and minor civil servants, and often appeared lost and unsettled in the England they had returned to, mostly for lack of other options. I seem to have passed along a similar path...


I await the future with interest. I surely can’t continue with the bike racing much longer, for a number of reasons. I don’t relish a return to the endless driving and general “living out of a kitbag” five days a week, which was an important part of the reason I left civil engineering to return to the oilfield, back in the 90s. I’m in a shared house (rented by the project) and it’s already being remarked on, that I appear to need to be busy or asleep (this being a fairly good summary of life at sea!)


Perhaps I’ll use the otherwise disregarded garage to start building baseboards...


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I can empathise with you there, two years after leaving the UK (for a rail engineering role with a Spanish company in the Southern Hemisphere) I've found I don't hit it off in quite the same way with former colleagues and friends. I'm not sure where I would elect to work if New Zealand didn't want to keep me though.

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Six months on and I’m now on another project in Plymouth, bored, stressed and fed up. I’ve also been reminded of the various hidden out-of-pocket costs surrounding contract work in the civils sector... not happy..


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