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The Fat Lady hasn't sung yet...
on 10 January 2008
You can read this book in less than a day, your fingers feverishly turning page after page. But that's not necessarily a recommendation. The same can be said for an in-flight magazine.
The oilfield (as Mr Carter frequently points out)is a small world, and rumour had been going round for months that a book had been written using a catchphrase used by generations of oilmen as its title: so of course I had to buy it. And I must admit to being disappointed, despite devouring it in one sitting. Because it is not a description of life on the rigs, unknown and alien to most people, full of dangers and hardships yet interspersed with memorable moments and sometimes downright hilarity. Instead the majority of the author's tales deal with life off the rigs, in seedy bars, rotten hotels and dubious airline seats, spanning the less beautiful parts of the world where (by some cosmic joke) oil tends to be found. He describes drunken brawls aplenty, a lot of hurrying around just to wait, and some of the less salubrious sides of third-world life: but very little about the bigger picture.
This was puzzling at first, and I found myself examining the photos in detail and trying to read between the lines to find out exactly why this was. The author obviously knows the difference between a jackup and a whipstock. Then I twigged it: he works for casing companies. Now for those that don't understand these things, 'casing crew' are considered to be just one step up the evolutionary ladder from Orang-Utangs: maybe the missing link between Neanterthal and Homo Sapiens. They have too much time before actually going to the rig waiting around to get drunk, talk too loudly, and generally bringing the rest of us into bad repute than they should be allowed, so the fact that Carter was actually able to remember such misdeeds and then commit them to the printed word (rather than unintelligible grunts) should be applauded. At times his writing can be quite funny, but his kind are odd sort of people, after all.
So no cigar. His Mum never thought he played the piano in a whorehouse: in fact (as the author explains) she was instrumental in getting him employment on the rigs to start with. I wish he'd left the title for the magician who one day actually tells it like it is or was (because things have changed and are changing still).
Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad book as such. There are many worse. And it does have its values. For instance I'm going to take my copy down to a wellsite in the Central African jungle in ten days' time and auction it off with a reserve price of two bottles of beer. With the rider that whoever wins the auction does the same thing but one of his bottles will go to me, etcetera. And thus I'll drink to Paul Carter's health while enjoying an easy 'hitch' on the rig, maybe. Though of course, things never work according to plans like that in our business.