I've spent the last 46 hours getting in and out of a big red survival suit. It's made out of the thickest wetsuit material and makes me look like a telly-tubby. I can't really move my hands, or arms, or feet, or turn my head, or speak, but it keeps me well toasty in the chilly Atlantic ocean. Then I am put in a boat, someone squashes fins onto my feet and ten minutes later I am plopped into the sea at the bow of Chevron's drillship, which we have stopped dead in the water. As I take up a good position at the bow, where the waves meet and I don't get too pushed around, it always reminds me of the wave machines I used to love as a kid, except none of them threw me up and down 5 metres or more.
I spent yesterday dawn in the swell of the sea watching the sun come up behind the sleeping monster, Stena Carron. As I smelled the fry-up being served in the oil workers' mess, my breakfast, a Bounty Bar, was fed to me from over the side of an inflatable boat. The support team giggled, calling me 'Flipper' and demanding that I do some tricks for my food. My swim partner is Victor, he's good for a singalong, so good that we've had requests from the rig workers watching us from the bow tens of metres up, for a little Rod Stewart or Snow Patrol. We could only think of 'If you want my body and you think I'm sexy', but it seemed impossible to pull off well, what with the Telly-Tubby outfits and the circumstances. So they got The Eurythmics (cause they are sort of Scottish right?), and a little Simon and Garfunkle (who are not at all Scottish), which I quietly dedicated to my mum.
After 46 hours the impossibility of our situation is now dawning on us. "What are we doing?'", we ask ourselves daily. What are we doing? Even with every nonessential Esperanza crew member doing time in the water, there is inevitability a limit to our ability to hold this ship back from the deepsea drill spot its headed to. Its not like when we had the great Yellow Pod on the anchor chain: this direct action is requiring every last crew member to test themselves, to hold out on their fear, their fatigue, their aching limbs, their boredom of sitting in boats watching, waiting. But we have learnt one thing about each other - we are resilient!
This is true direct action, the truest form. Its our bodies in the way of a monstrous wrong. It's our hearts stretched to their limits because we love this earth, from the seas in which we are bobbing, to the Guillemots who watch us in confusion, to the far flung parts of the world from which we all come, to the people back home who are willing us on. It's our solidarity with each other at maximum tilt, and fully extended to the millions we don't know and we will never meet who are suffering as a consequence of our addiction to oil, either through direct conflicts and catastrophes caused by it, or through the climate change that is its consequence.
So what are we doing? We are doing what we have to. We are putting our bodies and souls in the way of the Stena Carron. We are stopping Chevron drilling for oil, because if we don't... they will drill for oil. And they may well find it. That would only extend the time that this world scrabbles about looking for the last drops, putting our chance of stopping climate change in jeopardy and risking another Gulf of Mexico right here on our shores.
We must, must go beyond oil. So every time I am heaved back out of the water, four more hours under my life-belt, and back to the security of the Esperanza, I am rolled from the boat into the Wet Room, to be unpeeled from my suit and I am asked - "Up for another shift in 8 hours?" I look to my buddy Victor and without hesitation we both say "Yup. Bring it on."