This page us a work in progress as long as this paragraph is here. Last worked on January 29, 2016
It is easy to define the month by the calendar.
Sometimes, however, activities define the month.
September for us was preparation for the trip to China, arrival of our new grandson and the trip to China. We got back from China a couple days before the end of September, but to us it was a new month entirely.
The day after we returned from China I got up early and read the union listings of job postings at the union hall. There were a couple of interesting ones. I also called the person who said to call him when I got back from China. He said they had some calls for a job site up north and if they hadn’t been filled I was welcome to go to the hall and pick one of those up. When I got to the hall I was first in line because I had not worked out of the hall for so long.
I mentioned a call for the site for an instrument mechanic and they asked me if I had been interviewed by phone I said yes I talked to “Ken.” They said “That’s the wrong company! You need to talk to George.” (not his real name). and gave me his phone number.
I called “George” and completed one of the shortest and oddest job interviews that I have ever had.
He said, “you have lots of experience at commissioning don’t you?” (Talk about leading questions and ‘obtaining unbiased information’). I said, “yes.”
He asked how much HART experience I had. I said that I had lots of recent HART experience and some Foundation Fieldbus experience. He said, “welcome aboard!”
Interview over. Successful.
I turned back to the dispatch window and requested my slip.
Out of the parking lot I called the number and arranged for a pee test. When times are busy it can sometimes take a couple of days to get an appointment, but times are not busy right now and I got an appointment right away close to where our daughter lives. Then we packed up, ran some errands, and headed home to Meadow Lake. We got home after dark and were greeted by a tree across the driveway. We dragged it out of the way and got the house warm again and turned the well pump back on.
Home again, but not for long.
A couple days later when Juanita drove me back to Edmonton and I boarded a 737 for a charter flight to the private airstrip at an oil sands facility north Fort McMurray. The check-in procedure was unlike commercial airplanes. Nobody worried about your 1 litre bag of liquids you didn’t go through any metal detectors.
When the plane landed after an hour flight we got off and loaded onto school buses labelled with various destinations. I boarded the one to the Document Centre took a number and waited an hour for my number to be called. By the time I had presented my documentation of trade certificates and an picture ID to prove who I was, my luggage was waiting in the baggage room at the camp across the road. I signed into camp and settled into the room. It was your basic 9 x 12 one-bed room. The bathroom was down the hall.
After breakfast next morning I walked 10 minutes to the orientation centre and settled in for three hours of orientation. When I was done I stepped outside and there was a school bus waiting to take me to the work site.
The dispatch slip had said, “punch list items and commissioning.” The interview had asked about HART experience. Normally punch lists involve going around fixing minor deficiencies noticed on lists and commissioning involves interrogating instruments with the HART communicator. I did not see much of that. Mostly I worked at installing raceway and tubing skills I have not used to any degree for a long time. It was a good refresher but it was a little bit like being in the military and being asked if you have a driver’s license and finding yourself “driving” a wheel barrow.
I was assigned to a crew working a 14 day on seven day off schedule. They had already started so my first work tour was 11 days, followed by flying out for seven days and then back for 14. And so on. I slept better in camp this time than I have in the past so the seven days out were kind of productive and it’s a schedule person could adapt to fairly easily. I only managed to lock myself out of my room once. I knocked on random doors until somebody answered and tried to use the desk phone to phone security to come let me in to my room.
This didn’t work. Most of the desk phones are unplugged because they need one of the two electrical outlets and most people have stuff of their own to plug-in and use their own cell phones for calls. With the phone not working the other person walked to the front desk and eventually a security guard came let me in and asked me to show ID once I had access to my room and my wallet. I seldom take my wallet with me to the shower.
Different companies have different fly in and fly out schedules to even out the load on the flying resources and the aerodrome. One morning a departing resident left a partial bottle of Crown Royal on top of the water fountain. I noticed that on my way to the shower in the morning. And I noticed that it was gone on my way back from the shower room. The next day it was back on the water fountain a couple of fingers lower. Then it was gone again never to reappear.
Unfortunately, the commissioning contract that the company had hoped to win fell through and early in November I found myself unemployed/retired again. The company that did win the contract was going to pick up people of my qualifications and accept them as their own employees. However, they wanted a work commitment into March and I knew we were going to Nicaragua in January so I declined their offer. I was good with this state of affairs, and had no plans to go to work again this year. The morning after getting back to Edmonton I went to the union hall and put my name on the out of work board. I also called a friend and left a voicemail saying I finished up north and did not plan to work again this year.
Later that day we headed back to Meadow Lake one more time. The next day I received a call from my friend asking if I was interested in a job 20 minutes from our daughter’s house in Edmonton. The job was for 10 hour days four days a week and, as he said, “Juanita can spend time getting to know her new grandbaby”. Always closing! I could use a few more week’s work or, more accurately, a few more weeks money. I said yes. This job lasted until December 17. On the three day weekends we drove back to Meadow Lake and installed ductwork on Debbie and Ernie’s furnaces.
We’re back in the old retirement mode again. Which means rushing around getting ready to go to Edmonton for Christmas coming back and rushing around getting ready to go to Nicaragua for January and February. The hotel is booked in Granada for the first three weeks. Spanish lessons are booked in Granada. We have an idea of the work we will be doing and can start thinking about how we will do it. Spanish tracks are ordered and sent to Texas and somebody promised to take them to Nicaragua with them. All is left is winterization of the house and property and choosing what will fit in a carry-on. Travelling with one carry-on bag is both freedom and tyranny. Freedom when you’re carrying. Tyranny when you have to decide what to take and more difficultly what to leave behind.
Couple of Christmases ago I bought Juanita a bird feeder the type that had suction cups and went on the window. The bird seemed to enjoy it. Smaller birds did better than the Blue Jays which had to bend over to get inside, but get inside they did.
When I was in camp we had a bird of a different feather one night. Not really a bird. More like a bear. Juanita wrote in an e-mail:
Just had a visit from a bear - probably year old or so. It came up on the deck and knocked down the bird feeder off the window and ate the bird feed - no more bird feed out there this year. There had been no birds at the feeder until a couple of days ago and a couple of blue jays showed up. They emptied the feeder and I had just filled it up again this morning. A big earlier they started visiting it again so when I heard the thing fall down I just thought either a bluejay hit it wrong or maybe a magpie had arrived. I started to go out and put it back up but fortunately opened the curtain and saw the bear. I knocked on the door and it just kept eating so I grabbed my keys and started honking the horn it left the deck and went over to the trailer and stood on its hind lets at the dining room window. I honked several more times and it ran away. I will go out tomorrow and pick up the feeder and bring it inside. It was not nearly scared enough - hope we do not have a garbage bear here.
By return email I suggested the next time the bear came choose the truck horn or maybe the air horn that we used to keep in the RV. The air horn always worked for me. For example, one morning when we were still living on the property in our RV I had been up for a while and had returned to bed and was laying there. I heard steps on the gravel. I got back up and looked out the window over the desk and there was a bear sniffing at the barbecue on the deck we had built next to the house that we were not living in yet. The bear tugged on the barbecue cover and pulled the barbecue off the deck. The noise startled it and it jumped back a bit.
I went to the cupboard and got out the air horn. I opened the RV door and pressed the button on the air horn. You could hear the bear crashing through the woods. Juanita had been sleeping, but I guess the air horn changed that too. After she calmed down a bit I got to explain about the bear.
This fall Juanita managed to rid the place of the bear by removing the bird feeder and all traces of food. When it showed up it sniffed around disappointed and left when she used the car remote to blow car horn.
Living as we do across a grid road from the Northern Provincial Forest in Northern Saskatchewan the bears are not used to people and that means they can be a bit skittish. They are not used to Siamese cats either, apparently. Somewhere on an old VHS tape we have footage of one of our attack cats treeing a young bear in the front yard of our house. The house is on the twenty acres we sold when I retired and moved onto the twenty acres that is the other half of the original forty acres we bought in 1989.
There were bears near the property where I lived growing up in B.C. and sometimes were a nuisance to neighbours whose property backed onto the nearby mountain. There was only one time we had a bear problem on my parent’s property. One night a lodge brother had come home for a night cap with my father. Afterward he walked up the path to the gate and saw a bear running toward him in the darkness. He ran back and pounded on the door yelling in his Scottish brogue “Open up! There’s a bear after me!” My father let him in and then went out and escorted the neighbours’ Labrador Retriever to the gate and let him out. The gate was had a spring and opened inward. Once the dog had pushed in it needed help to get out.