The job offered by Impregilo Group, listed on the Italian Stock Exchange and the leading Italian general contractor. The client is Eskom, the South African equivalent of our Electricity Supply Board. The project is the third and largest of its kind in South Africa and is a key element in the enhancement of the national power grid.
I had been to South Africa five years ago on holidays and loved it. The people, the weather and the food were all wonderful. But that was in Cape Town and this would be in a totally isolated rural area. To be honest, it sounded great. I was being offered the job and was interviewed in Ireland by an Irishman who has worked with Impregilo for many years.
Rosemary and I talked about it and as our mortgage is paid, our daughters have flown the nest and we have no aged parents to look after, we could think of no reason not to go for it.
Mad panic ensued once the contract was agreed. The contract includes accommodation in married quarters, i.e. a bungalow on a purpose-built development with canteen and laundry services provided. I was needed on site as quickly as possible, as my predecessor had left the job a few months earlier.
So, I had to wind down my business quickly, but in an orderly fashion; apply for and get working visas for South Africa; get x-rays for TB checks; get police clearance; get inoculations; and disengage from some long-standing social arrangements.
Given that there were other practical matters to be tidied up on the home front, Rosemary and I decided that it would be better if I travelled alone for a few months to get established. Suddenly I was at the airport saying goodbye to Rosemary for three months. That was tough. We are going to be apart for the longest period in our 40 years of marriage but, more disappointingly, for our 40th wedding anniversary. I had already said goodbye to my daughters a week earlier in New York, but that is another story.
On the positive side and once Rosemary joins me we have flights home for the two of us every five and half months. That will allow us keep in touch with our friends in Ireland and, in between, there is also Skype. The quality of the service is limited but good enough to keep in touch with our daughters in particular.
But as I write this now all that is academic.
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