Wednesday, February 23, 2011

O brother, where art thou?*

My little brother Ed (who also blogs - but somewhat sporadically) works in oil. Or to be specific, in mud. I've learnt over the years that 'mud' doesn't necessarily mean the stuff that is tracked through my house on a regular basis by the children and the dog, but rather the chemical mix that is pumped down into bore holes to lubricate the drill and keep everything turning**.

My little brother seems to have developed a taste for living on the edge (goodness only knows where he got that from, no-one else from the Walford clan seems to have this suicidal gene. But then such a gene would be recessive and wipe itself out quite quickly don't you think? A lemming gene.)
Roller blading too tame? Try it 'off road'. Snorkelling a little dull? Take up SCUBA. Running a marathon not hard enough? Go Ironman distance. And of course this gets reflected in his profession - or rather the location where he chooses to work. He started with oil rigs, but clearly that was too tame. Went to the oil fields in Indonesia, in 1998, and the fall of Suharto. There followed a period of calm while he was in Aberdeen (where possibly the most dangerous thing is the deep fried Mars Bar - or is that only Glasgow?) Although he did discover a love of FAST motorbikes at this time (I think he left it that late in life so that mom couldn't stop him doing it, especially as he was about as far away from parental control as he could get whilst still living in the same country.)

For the last couple of years Ed has been in Libya, Tripoli to be precise.

This last week has been...tense.

The last 24 hours have been hell.

Over the weekend it became obvious that the Libyans were going to grasp their chance of freedom and fight for their lives. No-one really thought the action would spread to Tripoli, Gaddafi's stronghold, where the majority of the workers are employed either by the government or in oil. Ed and I had several conversations over the weekend, him playing it down while I read to him whatever information I could find on the internet. The one that finally got him a little twitchy was Sunday night when I read someone reporting that 1000's of people were marching on Tripoli, and they weren't going in support of Gaddafi.

On Monday the plan was to evacuate the expats from Ed's company via scheduled flights on the Tuesday, seeing as the Libyan government had finally decided to relax their rule that required exit visas***. Like I said, that was the plan. Monday evening they all (20-30 people) congregated together for safety at the boss's house, ready to run to the airport first thing on Tuesday.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was hell. Having had numerous emails from Ed over the weekend and throughout Monday, on Tuesday I got one, and I guess I was lucky to get that. It said simply:

airport total chaos
we are getting an sos charter flight to keep our group together.

don't know where to.

more later

And yesterday that was all we knew.

The flights they'd been supposed to catch were cancelled. Airspace over Tripoli was closed. And Gaddafi went on TV and ranted to the world about how 'he would never leave and would die a martyr'.

Yeah. Yesterday was a stressful day, and I'm sure it was even worse for those in Libya.

My routine over the last four, five, six days has been the same. The moment I'm up and in the kitchen I check first email - anything from Ed? Then a triathlon website he's been using to get information out - anything from Ed? Then the BBC site - what's the latest in Libya? Then onto Al Jazeera which has a live blog updating constantly - what's the latest in Libya? Then onto the Guardian's live updating blog page...Yesterday I stopped checking the Twitter updates as they were getting too scary and to be honest, I can do scary in my own imagination, I really don't need to give it further ammunition.

Just after 8am today my mobile rang - my brother. He was brief, saying merely that they were 'back at the airport' (which makes me want to know where they had been) that they were in a safer place (didn't like the use of the word 'safer' - kind of implies that previously they'd been somewhere 'not safe') and trying to get on a flight to Malta. He'd let me know when anything changed.

Then at lunchtime I got an email from Ed. They were all in the business lounge of the airport (this isn't as grand as it sounds, Tripoli 'international' airport is a hole, the business lounge sounds as though it's merely the equivalent of a normal departure lounge in the civilised world) waiting on a flight to Malta.

And that's it.

I think my little brother is still in Tripoli, waiting for a flight out, while I sit at home (as my parents do at their home) waiting for good news.

I hope after this he's had his fill of excitement, and maybe, just maybe he'll get a job somewhere nice, preferably somewhere warm and pretty where we might actually want to go and visit!

Stay safe Ed!

Update: 1852 Wednesday evening Ed rang - from the safety of Malta! Phew.

* also a film starring another of my favourite leading men (maybe I should make this week film week?) George Clooney.
** I'm quite sure that if I have got any of this wrong my little brother will eventually correct me.
*** I cannot ever imagine feeling the need to travel to a country where not only do you need to grovel to get in, but you have to grovel to get out too.

Word for the day; dictator - der Diktator.


Jayne said...

Keeping my fingers crossed for you & your family, that your brother gets out safe & sound.
Another blogger - Savannah (the link on my blog is Southern Belle Savannah)- is in a constant state of angst as her husband is also in Libya - I wouldn't wish this kind of anxiety on anyone honestly. Hopefully (or as it's said, insh'allah) the men will all get out safely.

Klaus said...

Thrilling - and I'm glad about the happy ending!