Friday, 21 July 2017

Cyprus here I come!

Beep Beep, beep beep.....it's 4.30 am.

Up, into the shower, waking that sleepy head. Dressed, through the last few things into the suitcases and left the room.

Checking out, and into a car and headed for the airport. The suitcases were over weight by about 10Kg, but when I looked at the price on QA website, it was extortion to buy excess baggage, so thought I would take my chance. Check-in and they never even mentioned the weight.

Through security and down to the gate, I was tired and just wanted to chill out before I left.

Boarding time.......and we are off. Next stop Cyprus......

Carry on the adventure on the Cyprus Blog: The Arrival........Day #1

Thursday, 20 July 2017

One last Qatar sleep until Cyprus

Arrived off the platform and into a waiting car from the hotel. Checked-in at the hotel, and picked up my 2 suitcases I had left in storage. This was my first rotation, i.e. not living in Doha. Strange!

Got up to the room and changed, and headed down to the sports bar. Needless to say there were others from work there. They were either moving platforms, or coming and/going, but it a pretty safe bet you'll bump into someone.

Had a few pints and some good old chicken tenders and headed off to my room. Was in the mood to sink a few more, but it would have just ended in tears, considering I was up early in the morning to catch a flight.

Had a shower and climbed into bed....ready to sle....zzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, 14 July 2017

The next chapter! Hello NOC.

Today was the day.......the all change day!

Yes, 14th July marked the day 1 of North Oil Company taking over the operation of the Al-Shaheen oil field in Qatar. I am sure the next 25 years of the license will be as successful as the last 25 years under Maersk Oil Qatar.

Being offshore at the moment, it was odd going to bed working for one company, and waking up in the morning working for the new one.

It did come with its benefits.....for example, the MOQ systems were shut off and access removed at midnight, this meant that all emails had vanished, gone, never to be seen again!

We had feared that we would have woken up in the morning to a lack of internet, wifi, telephones etc. but all was good. It wasn't long before we also had access to the new email system. Now it is just time to get head round all the new documents etc.

Thank you to MOQ for the last 28.5 months and hello NOC to the next however long!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Goodbye Family......See you in Cyprus!

Sasha giving the view of West Bay a double thumbs up!
Set my alarm for 3am.......woke up at 2.55am, how is that for timing! That was despite, not been able to get to sleep and then the being woken by noise in the corridor of the hotel (again!).
Intercon The Beach to the left - St. Regis to the right
Got up had a shower, then tried to wake the kids, but nope they were not having it. Took all their bags down to the entrance, got the car and then played Tetris to get them all in. Surprised they fitted.

The roads were very quiet, and dropped them off at Hamad Airport around 4am. Maya was quite hyper, but Sasha on the other hand wasn't. driving back to the hotel, I got 3 messages from Metrash saying that they had left the country, so they were obviously checked in and through immigration.

Got back to the hotel, climbed back into bed and tried to get some sleep, but couldn't nod off, and then of course everyone else in the hotel was getting up, so the noise was back on. Eventually fell asleep and woke up at 8.30 when the alarm went off. I had to head back into town to return the hire car at the Westin hotel. On the way back to the car, I checked out of the 1st hotel room, and also request a late check-out of the 2nd, so I could transfer to the next hotel and not have to wait for a room. Jumped into the car and headed across town, still quiet. arrived at the Westin, handed over the keys and signed the paperwork for the car. Called an Uber, which arrived in about 5 minutes and headed back to the Intercon The Beach.

Climbed back into bed again, then pottered about, watched telly, surfed the net re-backed the suitcases all the usual stuff.

Went down to check out about 13:45 and there was a queue of folk checking in. Eventually got checked out around 14.20. Booked another Uber, and headed across to the Intercon The City.

Arriving at The City, checked in and chilled out for a few hours, could have really slept, but it would have screwed up the nights sleep so just kept the eyes open. Decided to have a shower, and by 6pm I was starving, so just went down for some dinner and then headed back up to the room for an early night. I must say the shower was probably the best shower I have had for years. It was one of those waterfall/rain showers, but this one was more like a downpour, and having just come from luke warm showers at the previous hotel, this one was actually nice and hot.
Up on the 35th floor, view over the city centre, and don't the cars and people look tiny!
Looking towards the City Centre Mall main entrance
So here we are now, sat at the laptop, writing this blog post and ready to sleep. Tomorrows meeting starts at 8am, so, early night, up for breakfast early no doubt.

And that's it, the family are now no longer residents of Qatar, are back in the UK for summer, and about 8 weeks until Cyprus.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Villa handover day

Went round to villa to empty the last of the stuff that never went into the shipment, like food and cleaning chemicals.

Picked up all the rubbish I had swept into piles the night before and took everything out to the bins.

The real estate agents Engel And Voelkers arrived to carry out the final inspection and get the keys.

Paperwork signed......Goodbye Villa

😟





Not to worry though, not long until we can get into the next one!


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

And finally its empty..........

Wednesday 8.30pm and the shippers have just left. 5 full days of packing.

The villa is now basically empty. It has been a looooong day.

The shipment was finally packed up, the crated goods were all done, after slight modification to the one for the piano and one for the bedroom glass desktops.

Because of the current shipping issues with Qatar, we don't actually know when it will be put into a container. So everything headed off in 3 lorries to the warehouse, to await a container loading schedule.

At least the shipping companies have identified a new route through Oman, with the first vessel coming 25th June, but we don't know when ours will leave. Probably now run late for the arrival in Cyprus so, will just have to wait and see how that changes things.

Today, also picked up a hire car, and the afternoon the company car was returned.

Kia Sportage, is probably not big enough, but it will do seeing as it is only for a couple of weeks. Not as if we are doing furniture runs to Ikea any more!

Gave the villa bit of a sweep, turned off the lights and went back to the apartment for a sleep...

The crew from GWC were excellent.

Monday, 12 June 2017

One dead router later....

Gave up on the OSN box and took it back to the villa to put into the shipment, but took, the wifi router from the villa to the apartment.

I had done a check on the 2nd port on the Cisco phone and there was open internet on it. Plugged the router into there and switched it on.

There was bright blue flash, followed by a warm orange glow and smoke rising up from the router.

Yes, I had accidentally plugged the wrong power adaptor into the router. I had two in my bag, one for the Linksys AE8500 wifi router and one for the Ubiquiti Edgerouter POE. The latter used a 24v adaptor which the 12v linksys really didn't like.

A good excuse to go and buy a new router then! Really did not like the AE8500. The software was just....bad...really bad.....

So after a trip to Jarir, picked up a D-Link DIR-895L/R (AC-5300) plugged it in, set it up and off we went! Internet all good. I had never tried a D-Link product before, so good reason to take it for a spin. Jarir did have the newer version of the Linksys in shop, but after not liking the last ones software, decided against it.

With internet now in place, we could get telly off of OSN Play and other online services...time to just cancel the internet service transfer from Ooredoo and cancel that service altogether.

D-Link DIR-895L/R

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Packing well underway now...Day 2, Sunday

The packers arrived on Saturday morning, and it immediately turned into a box fest and the sound of packing tape being unrolled was echoing round the villa.

They started off downstairs in the living room / dining room and kitchen. Boxing up the chairs and sofa, then moving upstairs to start on the bedrooms.

One of the other guys went round and measured everything that was going to be put into wooden crates, the piano, the pictures, glass tops of the units and outside tables, TVs, computer monitor, mirrors. The crating would be done in a couple of days time once they had been made.

We had also moved across into the company apartments last night. it was the apartment next door to the one that I stayed in when I first arrived in 2015.

I had taken the OSN satellite box with me from the villa to the apartment, but didn't have any joy getting it to work. Doesn't look like there was a dish at the other end of the wall socket :-(.

The internet wasn't the best....bit slow. We had been up to Ooredoo to initiate a transfer of the service, but didn't have the electricity number for the property, so would have to go back again for them to do it.

Living Room, through into Dinning Room

Area under the stairs, ground floor

Main Hallway

Kitchen

Living Room

Dining Room

Upstairs Hall - Living Room #2

Sasha Bedroom - Still to start!

Maya Bedroom - Still to Start

Upstairs Hall - Living Room #2

Guest Bedroom - Still to Start

Master Bedroom - Bed Area

Master Bedroom - Office Area

Master Bedroom - Office Area

Friday, 9 June 2017

Let the off boarding commence...

Came home from offshore on the Thursday afternoon, and it was immediately into destruct mode.

The packers were scheduled to arrive on Saturday, and there was a millions things I wanted to do before they get here.

I had 4 beds to destruct, garden furniture to take apart, BBQ to clean, outside store to empty, electronics to be taken to bits, clothes to sort into bundles....

I could have easily left them to take everything apart, but I wanted to do it in a way that minimises the number of bits, bolts back into boltholes, and be able to know how it all goes back together again at the other end.

One of the problems however was the fact it was June. Take the gazebo for example, it is black metal and it was scorching. It was so hot, that when I laid the main support members on the grass to take apart, they actually left burnt stripes on the grass. Needless to see I had many nippy fingers and metal part juggling during the process.



Thursday, 11 May 2017

Company Car change.........crash bang wallop!

Last week, I had one of those "everything happening in slow motion, but can't do anything about it" moments.

Sat in traffic, about 6 feet behind the car in front, (tyres and tarmac rule!), stationary, foot on the brake. Next thing I here is engine revving and bouncing off the rev limiter. I can't remember if I said it out loud or just in my head "What's he doing?", next thing I remember is his reversing lights come on and he is coming straight back at me......Crash! Then he is back in forward gear and heading straight into the car in front of him, which hit  the car in front and the car in front. In total 5 cars damaged.

I immediately took a couple of photos and then moved the car to the side of the road. You can get a traffic violation if you are blocking the road after an accident, and don't want one of those.

Got out and first them was to check the guy who hit me was okay. He didn't speak English, but appeared okay, so that was fine. Spoke to the other car drivers and one of them was already on the phone to the Police. Nadia was with me, so she immediately started calling the company contacts. Took photos of all the cars involved etc. Then the other drivers moved their cars off the road, traffic was properly grid lock now!

The Police turned up and started speaking to everyone, took our licenses. and then told us we could go, no need to visit the police station and would receive the incident reference number via SMS for the insurance company. I did try to find out what had happened etc. but the Police officer simply said, all is good and I can go.

The company Mitsubishi rep said he was coming over to see the car. I didn't want to try and open the bonnet as not sure if it would have opened or if we would have got it closed again. The damaged had caved in the nose of the bonnet, and there was water leaking out the bottom of the car. There was no rise in engine temperature while we were sat, so didn't look like the radiator or fan was damaged.

He arrived and said to drive round to the Mitsubishi showroom which was about 5 km away. I was dreading the car breaking down on the busy main road, but we got there without any problem.

The rep, took my QID and Driving license to get copies, he had already been forwarded the police reference number. Then appeared a few minutes later and said wait while he goes and gets another car for me. He arrives back with another Pajero, which was recently returned from the company when another employee left. It had only about 3500 km on the clock, so relatively new. And off we went!

I won't post the pictures, because there is potential to identify parties involved, which can lead to getting into trouble with the police around privacy issues.

One thing I will say, is the Police guy was excellent, and everyone involved was really calm.

Service from Mitsubishi was great and great help from the company rep!


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Moving out becomes a reality when........

With Cyprus on the horizon, you know it is fast approaching when all the indicators tell you it is nearly time!

Last week the HR department sent me the demobilisation flight confirmation for N,M+S. They are heading back to the UK for summer, and stopping off to visit family on the way.

Also, last week, the shipping agents also got in touch to ask about relocation needs. Completed and returned the requirements form, so will probably hear back from them next week. I had already a survey done recently, before work confirmed they were organising the shipping.

Today, the letting agent for the villa came round for the pre-inspection. That was relatively painless. Fortunately we hadn't made any modifications. They did enquire about a few things, but fortunately they were all there before we moved in, namely;
1) Stair gate on the stairs to the roof.
2) Partition in the master bedroom.
3) Cat flap in the kitchen door.

Also made comment about a couple of small cracks in one of the rear bathroom sinks, (the bathroom has 3 sinks), but this is old cracking in the surface glaze.

He also asked about our gazebo, but told him I was talking it with us. Not sure if he thought it was original or what.

Anywhere, 2 months will be over and done before we no it.

Not long now!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

2 years on......still smiling....changes ahead!

Twelve months....sounds a long time doesn't it. So why does it only feel like last week that I posted about being 1 year on!

What a twelve months it has been and yes another roller coaster of a year.

At the start of the year it was all about stabilizing the operation after an organisation review, towards the summer months the thought were heavily around the tender announcement. Will we/won't we win, and of course the millions of questions and speculation, rumours, you name it doing the rounds.

Qatar Petroleum held a town hall in April for all Maersk Staff, with an aim of settling and re-assuring the organisation of continued employment through the transition.
Al Shaheen project: QP hints at ‘service continuity’

Then it came at the end of June, the big reveal; We lost! Needless to say the articles started appearing all over the internet like the two examples below.
Total ousts Maersk at Al-Shaheen
Qatar: Al-Shaheen field stake goes to Total. Maersk Oil to leave

As you would imagine this put a massive ripple through the organisation with emotions all over the place. As expected, the question on everyone's lips immediately turned to "what does this mean for me?" With such a large diverse workforce, ranging from the die hard born and bred Danish Maersk staff, to the been through this before guys, you couldn't get a more wide range of emotion.

I was/am in the latter camp. Having been through the transition from BP to Apache in 2003, as the one being taken over, and also in the Exxon to Apache in 2012 as the ones doing the take over, I wasn't particularly concerned, but had a good understanding how everyone was feeling.

We were all waiting for the offers from the new company NOC, but these were delayed for various reasons and didn't come until early in the new year. The offers varied significantly, with the rumours on the scale of the cuts even hitting the local papers. I was on a training course and there were a couple of Shell staff there, and they were asking if the numbers they had heard were true. Maybe they are thinking their next!

Anyway, so what did it mean for me? Well unfortunately, residential status has been withdrawn, so it is time to move the family. I will continue to work here, but just rotate in and out of the country,

And that is where we are now, planning a move, so watch this space! Oh, and in case you are wondering where to, current choice looks like Cyprus, but we will just see how it pans out. You never know might end up going the other way.

I am still smiling...so that is the main thing.
😊


Friday, 13 January 2017

Bird Defences - Stage 2

In Bird Defences - Stage 1 the focus was on the small narrow window frame ledges. Stage 2 is all about the large over hangs above the windows and the roof areas.

For this stage, I went to the next size of Defender spikes and purchased the Defender 8 (Wide), again purchased from Jones and Son from their Ebay page http://stores.ebay.co.uk/defenderbirdspikes/.

Details on the actual product can be found at this link: http://www.birdspikesonline.co.uk/Bird-Spikes/Defender8-Pigeon-Spikes-Plastic

I had measured up that I needed a minimum of about 60m, but with the top ledge being marginal whether 1 or 2 wide would be sufficient, and also might put more on the roof than originally planned, I elected to order up a 100m box. This was being shipped via Aramex Shop&Ship, so did not buy any of their own fixing silicone to keep the shipping weight down, but elected to buy silicone here in Qatar. The 100m box was 15.88Kg and cost 1128 QR to ship.

You might think this is expensive, but if we look at the cost we were quoted locally of 120QR / meter

So, local supply and fitted 100m x 120QR = 12,000QR
vs
Spikes: 300 UKP = 1329 QR + Shipping 1128 QR = 2457 + 500QR allowance for Silicone = 3000 QR

Ok, so I have to fit them myself, but I would rather do that and save 9000QR (~2000UKP)

The spikes are a UV stabilised polycarbonate, temperature rated to 130'c, and carry a 15 year warranty, so if they last half that time in the Qatar Heat/Sun, I will be happy.

The silicone I bought, again was a UV stabilised product, and bought both white and clear, from the the local Carrefour and Lulu supermarkets. For application on the roof tiles I wanted to use clear so it didn't look like blobs of white against the terracotta tiles.

So here is the typical problem, as you can see the pigeons are sat on the ledge round the stairwell tower, below this area is the path at the side of the villa, and it gets absolutely covered. At night, this corner of the roof space is also a favourite roosting spot for the birds.

First thing was to get out the power washers and give the everything a clean down the best I could. I also used a scrubbing brush on areas not jet washed, to make sure the surface was relatively clean of 'bits'.
Fortunately the roof tiles were also a shallow angle, so not really a case of sliding off, but to make sure, the roof was dust free and no water around and did it in my bare feet so had could feeling of any movement, also made sure my center of gravity was also going backwards away from the edge and generally kept away from the edge.

For the roof tiles, given the shape of the tile, there was only the two elevated contact points, so with a big dollop of silicone, I pressed in the spike strip, I also overlapped and 'interlocked' the spikes (and silicone between) to give them a bit of extra strength on the roof. Having left them to cure over night, it was clear that they had a really good adhesion to the tiles.

It was the same for the concrete surfaces/painted surfaces, having washed where possible and scrubbed with the brush, putting a think bead of silicone and then bedding in the spikes they took really well to the surface. The spikes also have small cross cut outs and the silicone oozes through this and makes a nice silicone rivet also holding them down.



Along the ridge of the balcony, I put a double row as a single row would have left space either both or one side (depending on position), which would have still left room for the birds to land.

On the stairwell tower, we still need to get access to the roof space for the satellite dish, so on one area where the ladder is normally placed, I several strips of spikes interlocked together to form a removable lift off section, rather than having to try and climb over the spikes. This section then interlocked with the fixed spikes.

The two main window ledges also required a double width run.
Ledge above master bedroom balcony window/door

Ledge above living room front window
As for the silicone usage, so far I have used about 5 standard tubes, so well under the cost I allowed. A tube will last approximately 10 to 15 meters, with rough uneven surfaces needing a thicker bead.

As for the birds, they are definitely unhappy at not being able to land! Watching them come in for a landing and realize there are spikes, flap and hover for a bit and then disappear. Also even after just a short time, I have noticed how the paths to the side of the house are now staying clean!

The spikes being clear, you do not really see them against the building or against the skyline, especially from ground level, so not an eyesore.

So, a definite success. Let's just hope they last the elements here.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Bird Defences - Stage 1 - Re-visited!

Back at the end of November 2016, I wrote about the Bird Defences Stage 1, unfortunately, I hit a snag.

I noticed yesterday that one of the spike strips was missing, on closer inspection, a couple of others were also loose at one end.

Turns out the double sided foam tape is not a good idea! Although it adheres perfectly to the metal frames of the window, the side exposed to the bird strips (and the sun) simply lost all adhesion and detached from the spike strip.

Today, I went round them all, removed them, scraped the foam strip off the window frame with a knife and then re-attached them all with clear silicone.

I had started the Stage 2 defences (more to come soon) and had been using silicone for this and it appears to be a much better bond. Running a bead of silicone down the length of the spike strip and then pressing firmly along the length to get a good spread.

Hopefully that is the problem solved...

Monday, 9 January 2017

[TripAdvisor Contribution] Carluccio's (@Pearl) - Relaxing lunch in the sun...

Dropped out to the Pearl for a spot of lunch and after having a wander round ended up coming back to here as we had been before.

The weather was perfect for sitting outside and wasn't too busy even for 12.30, with only a handful of tables occupied.

I wasn't looking for anything heavy going and just fancied a pizza and opted for the Misto Carni, which contained beef meatballs, veal sausage, spicy beef salami and was on a thin and crispy base. It was very good indeed. Washed down with a few bottles of refreshing San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa.

Nice and relaxed in the sunshine, looking out onto the marina.....just a shame the next stop was to go and pick the kids up from school!

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d8617728-r451597197-Carluccio_s-Doha.html#

Saturday, 7 January 2017

And so that is the end of another year!

Arriving home from offshore on the 22nd December can only mean one thing......it is nearly Christmas once again!

The kids were already on holiday from school. After getting back to the villa and a quick change, it was out for some last minute shopping. The kids wanted to head out to Mall of Qatar, and I had never been before so no excuse not to. Although had a feeling being a Thursday and afternoon thought it would be mobbed!

We got there with out any problem, parked up the car - in the monstrous underground car park - and headed up to the shops. This place is going to get some getting use to, yes it is big, no, not fully open yet, but not knowing where the shops are, it felt like we kept going round in circles and missing most of it. The kids and I had wandered off leaving the wife to have some peace. Got a couple of shops the kids wanted in, and a few other bits and bobs, then headed down to the food area.

The wife wasn't answering her phone, so we just waited for a bit, a show had just started on the stage area, so they were occupied. Once N had arrived, it was time for food. We went into Carluccio's, as there were plenty of seats, The Cheesecake Factory was on a minimum wait time of approximately 20-30 minutes, so that wasn't happening! Anyway, good meal, so no complaints. Kids also got to watch another show while eating, so kept them amused.

That evening was the start of the festive 'beverages', the neighbours came in and rolled out a some point in time later on. So this leave is off to a good start!

Next day, 23rd, we had another party at one of the school parents villa, armed with festive jumper and Snoopy Christmas hat and a bag that went 'clink clink' when you walked, this turned into another excellent evening, the kids occupied themselves in the pool and playing the console and eating far too much, while the parents sat outside eating too much and feeling very merry!

The 24th soon rolled round, I had left the car over at the villa from yesterday, and given the fact it was a lovely morning (no shock!) I headed off for a walk to pick it up. Took an hour to walk, so felt very refreshed by the time I go there. The afternoon was a catch up on the last few things and then kids off to bed. Time to wrap the last few presents before tomorrows chaos unfolds...

Now the 25th, it wasn't long after we had headed to bed, we were pretty sure that the youngest was now up, either that or Santa had arrived. We pretended we didn't hear it, so we could get some sleep, it felt like the eyes had only just closed and it was morning. Woken by hyper children! Time to get up then....

The usual Christmas morning of presents and hyper children filled the day. I think they were both delighted with their Google Pixel phones and Daydream VR headsets, not sure how long the youngest will take to break her's but time will tell.........I should have bought a cheaper one (it was her first phone), but if she didn't get the same as her sister, then there would have only been arguments.

We had the neighbours coming round for Christmas Day, so I headed over to the Radisson to collect the Turkey & Trimmings. 11.30am was our time slot and we were #20 on the list.......fortunately it is just across the road. As soon as I got back, that was it, beer and bubbles time! A great day had. The food was very good once again.

The next day our neighbours were sadly packing up to leave the country, so we were looking after the dogs for a few days. kept the kids occupied. We also managed to acquire a number of plants both indoor and out, so.

The area has also seen quite a few days of fog in the mornings, there has been some amazing pictures of the skyscrapers of West Bay and the Pearl popping through, but the building architecture also gave way to some amazing ray reflection pictures, like the two pictures below by Saudita Ema (pictures used with permission);




New Year fast approached, and we had considered a couple of places to go for a meal with the kids, but they were doing fixed menu's that really didn't appeal (particularly for the kids) so we ended up heading to The Anvil Rooms which is located on the 28th floor of Tornado Tower. They were serving the normal A la Carte menu (with the all important steak!) add the restaurant is licensed, so perfect!

Heading down into the city centre in the evening we arrived at the restaurant for 7pm and was surprised how quiet the town and place was. The buildings were all lit up and we had a great view out of over the Corniche.

We arrived home after a great meal, I think Maya was the only one who managed to stay awake for midnight, I feel asleep watching the telly, and Nadia fell asleep in Sasha's bed.....Rock n' Roll!

Tornado Tower - restaurant around the middle somewhere  








So here we are, 2017;

HAPPY NEW YEAR..........

let's see what this one brings!