It seems to have come to pass that my journal, instead of being a daily (or at least a couple of times a week) update on what goes on in what I jokingly refer to as my life, has become a two-monthly rant about the ongoing disasters that seem to happen on an almost continual basis!

I got off the boat in Angola, with the only drama being whether the crew boat would get to the port early enough to allow the charter flight to Soya to take-off before dark. It did, as it transpired, and we arrived at Luanda in good time for our overnight flight to Lisbon. Onward travel through Amsterdam to Aberdeen was relatively uneventful. I had a few days in Buckie before having to attend a course in Fraserburgh. A City and Guilds course on In-service inspection and testing of electrical equipment. The course finished on the Tuesday evening and afterwards I went to Aberdeen. I had a visit to the pups favourite pet shop to get some of Nutmegs preferred dog biscuits (who says our dogs are spoilt?! haha) After that I went on to my friends flat where I was going to crash for the night before my flights to the US. Despite being tired I didn’t sleep very well.

I guess it was the anticipation of seeing Dazzle again.. it was the longest that Dazzle and I had been apart since we were married. Being my usual paranoid self, I set three alarms to make sure that I was up in time for my flight to the US, and I was awake before the first one went off!

The journey was largely uneventful, and Dazzle picked me up at Colorado Springs.. minus my luggage.. I had collected it in Minneapolis to take through customs, but it didn’t make it onto the last leg of the journey. The bags were finally delivered at 3 am almost 40 hours later. The first thing on the agenda was to see what the state of play was with the Barn.

What a disaster. Not only was it not finished, as I had been promised it would be, but not as much had been done, in my opinion, as had already been paid for, but what was there was poor quality materials, workmanship, and engineering. What problems that even we could see paled into insignificance when we had other builders and engineers look at it… We met a number of ‘characters’ during my last leave, due in no small measure, to the situation with the barn.

Dennis: Ex-marine, cop, and now working in the prison system, Dennis and his wife are one of our nearer neighbours. He has given up a lot of advice on firearms, shown us some of his collection and had promised to let us try a few guns when we get some time.

Lanc: We have now retained that other essential for American life, our own attorney! A Texan now living in Colorado, he is helping us with our case on the barn.

Chuck: Lanc described Chuck as being fairly innocuous looking, but I found myself having to disagree! My first thought on meeting him was (as we’d say on the boat) “well ‘ard” meaning very tough. Not a physically big man, but a great deal of quiet ‘presence’, not someone that I would mess with. Chuck ‘served the papers’ on the builder!

Dave: Semi-retired builder of barns, Dave is now going to be trying to resurrect the disaster that we have on our land. He wishes that he’d met us a year ago, but not nearly as much as WE wish it!

Jason: Rugged cowboy type who works in construction. We bumped into him at a gas station where Dazzle asked him about his truck, an old Ford Bronco. He came and helped us with the immediate remedial work on the Barn and was cool enough to lend me his .30/30 Winchester model ’94 for a few days to see if I liked it. He’s also given us a few ideas to think about for our house when we get around to building it.

Fred: Fred is the husband of a lady that Dazzle works with. A 67 year old mechanic who specialises on 4×4’s. Dazzle describes him as a 67 year-old kid who just wants to put a lift-kit on anything that moves! Fred has worked on our Suburban and our ‘new’ ’76 Ford Bronco. They also came and helped us move our stuff out from the danger zone of the Barn before we started the remedial work.

I had 20 days in Colorado this time before I had to leave again to return to Europe, however briefly before returning to the ship in Angola. The journey was a bit of a nightmare, with my first flight being delayed for four hours because of a technical problem. With only a two hour layover before my next flight it meant of course that I missed it.. there was even a ‘is there a Doctor on-board?’ during the flight, as one poor woman was taken faint.

When I arrived in Minneapolis I found that I had been rescheduled on the first flight the following day to Amsterdam and that I had a hotel room and meal vouchers for the evening. The next day, I also found that my replacement ticket was business class! It did however mean that instead of having a full day to get all my paperwork together for a visit to the US embassy in London, I had only a handful of hours.

I had to go to the office to pick up my paperwork package (which had also been delayed!) take a taxi out to Buckie to pick up more paperwork and then a train back to Aberdeen where I was staying over night as my flight was in the very early hours of the morning. The actual trip down to London and the embassy was a bit anticlimactic, however as all the flights out of Heathrow in the evening appear to have been delayed, I was late in getting back to Aberdeen again by which time I’d missed the last train and had to stay another night in Aberdeen.

Anyway, now I’m all set again for my return to the Perseus in Angola. This trip should see out the end of the project there and also the transit across the Atlantic to Mobile where we’ll be starting our next Gulf of Mexico campaign. All in all it wasn’t a great leave. There was a lot to do (and undo!) in Colorado and it was a difficult and stressful time for both Dazzle and myself. Neither of us really had much ‘down time’.

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