All these ruddy manhole rings kept arriving at Nigg.
You know, the big concrete rings that you click together one on top of another deep in the ground to make a manhole to access drains or whatever.
I mean lorry loads of them, more and more.
Jimmy Stein the ganger and his boys would forklift them off – and then the dockets, the delivery notes, would come to me – and I could make precisely nothing of them.
The reference numbers on the dockets and the ones on the purchase orders sent down the site to me by the buyers didn’t match up at all. I was at it for weeks – still more manhole rings arrived – and then Margo of invoice payments started to get on to me.
She needed signed off "materials received summaries" from me. Sharpish, because the suppliers, Hume Pipe, were beginning to kick up and demand payment.
Out into the rain I would go, hard hat and wellies, and I would count and measure with my tape. But still no solution. It was beginning to impact on my night’s rest – agh, what was I to do? So in the end I went up to see the buyers and appeal to their better nature.
Now the most smartly dressed of the buyers was a cheerful Glaswegian by the name of Alec Lawson. A proud Protestant – nevertheless Alec with his black beard and moustache had a look of the other side about him. A whiff of sulphur. A touch of Old Nick from down below.
The way his dark eyes flashed with intelligence and humour should surely have sent a message to the innocent and unwary. In short he was a real schemer and charmer – to wit the large number of bottles of malt whisky given to him by grateful building materials suppliers.
"Och that’s a shame, Jimmy, (for such I was when I was with Wimpey) you’ll need to speak to Hume Pipe yersel. Here’s the name and number you need in their Glasgow office. He knows all about the manhole rings. Gie him a wee call!"
Gratefully I took the proffered scrap of paper and walked back down to the civil stores. Having made a cup of Nescaf and helped myself to a digestive, I sat down at my desk and dialled 0141 etc.
"Yes, hello, my name is Jamie Stone, I am the materials received clerk at the Nigg Oil Terminal and I’d like very much to speak about manhole ring deliveries to.. ah..." I glanced down at the scrap of paper "Yes – please could I speak to Mr Waddell."
"Sorry, son - who did you say you were again?"
So I went through the whole rigmarole once more, about all the manhole rings and how I couldn’t make sense of it, and please could I speak to Mr Waddell?
There was a lady smoker’s chuckle at the other end of the line.
"Haw, son, someone’s been having you on. This is Rangers Football Club."
You know I could write a book about my three years building that oil terminal. What a laugh it all was.
But that can wait until another day. In the meantime I close with the lager and special.
Towards the end of the project, our stores – me, Vince, John, Peter, Charlie, Alex (with the tin leg) and Jimmy the ganger – were moved up to the very top end, hard up against the high fence around the Hi-Fab yard where fabrication of the Hutton TLP was just commencing.
One evening, by way of much mutual back-slapping, the Wimpey high heid yins decided to have a big party in the main offices. Needless to say the civil stores team’s invite got lost in the post, but the next day, when they were clearing up all the smoked salmon and lobster thermidor, there arose the pressing question as what to do with the left over three and a half 22 gallon kegs of lager and special. The answer was simple, put them to the civil stores.
"Ho, Jim – ready for the first o’ the morn?" Peter, originally from Govan, now living in Invergordon, was quick with his improvised apparatus for pulling the pints.
At eleven the lady selling bacon rolls from the back of a van would come round. And by then it was most certainly time for another one.
By the time I got a start next door in the yard (largely thanks to a glowing reference from Vince) we had just about got through the 77 gallons – 616 pints – of lager and special.
Such happy days. Such very happy days.