Home and Away

In Crapistan – news from the frontline:

Hagar writes;

“So, finally back off to war. It’s a strange feeling leaving home, kind of bittersweet; the excitement of heading back to a conflict zone, versus the pain of leaving those you love. Its hardest as you get on the bus from camp to the departure airhead. Everyone sits in silence after the initial banter; deep in their own thoughts of what they are leaving behind and what awaits them in theatre. You get to the airhead and the buzz begins again as you check in. It’s the usual banter about business class seats and fit air hostesses……

Then more waiting and thinking. The flight usually seems to go quite quickly, on the way out. Before you know it you have arrived and then it hits you once again – the heat. 37 degrees in the middle of the night. Walking down the steps from the air conditioned jet you begin to sweat. It takes a few days to get acclimatised so you immediately become aware of how much water you will have to take on every day – we always have a bottle of water to hand when we can, especially on the cab – usually warm!

You get a small adrenaline buzz as you first step back onto Afghan soil. Memories of previous dets come flooding back and a shiver runs up your spine, not knowing what is to come on this one. Mainly though you are glad to have arrived; looking forward to getting stuck in again, doing the job you love. The job I love. The flying here is the best, the most challenging, the scariest and the most fun.

The other thing that hits you is the smell, dry hot smells; aviation fuel, burning fires and human excrement – the smell I miss the least! At first your senses become almost overwhelmed, then quickly you become used to it again and you simply crack on. A different life from the one you have just left begins, you move forward, onwards and upwards. Now is the time to step up to the plate and do what you have training to do for a long time, things may have changed since you were last here, but the job is essentially the same; fly hard, provide support, provide effect get everyone in and get everyone out. Simple.”

Home front:

AMMM writes;

“I am hooked on the News International scandal of the decade. I am gripped by the corruption and subterfuge. It is endemic. I predict that this will be as big as Profumo. Everybody disagrees with me. But I think it could be bring Cameron down. It certainly could fell News International. I keep waiting for Rebekkah Brooks (RB) and James Murdoch to resign and I am astonished that they are still yet to do it.

It’s the best telly we have had for ages. I hear tales of old school tie. Of power elites in London of top media types rubbing each others backs and lining each others interest.

What surprises is me is that everyone is so surprised. Quelle horreur – what is this the biggest news corporation in the world is corrupt and adopts underhand practices to get to the heart of the matter by scurrilous means? Surely not? Non! And it appears that nobody at the top knew about it – really? I put it to you m’lud that they all knew about it! Even Cameron! And they all thought that they could just sweep it under the carpet and put a chair over it. (IMHO – obviously, I am speculating. Please don’t send the chief of wolves out to get me so I can be turned to stone. But c’mon!! Who in Great Britain believes that they didn’t know about it! Seriously!)

The crisis reminds me of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The White Witch is the land’s self-proclaimed queen. She tyrannizes Narnia through her magically imposed rule. Her spell on Narnia has made it “always winter but never Christmas” for a hundred years. When provoked, she turns creatures to stone with her wand.

But who is Aslan in all of this? Please don’t let it be Ed Miliband. What’s Nick Clegg up to? So I watch with baited breath – will this crisis bring down Cameron? I have heard he is very good buddies with RB. He had the whole News International team over for drinky-poos the other day at number 10. I wonder if he hosts a Guardian Media Group drinky poos too. To be impartial, of course. Is this the fall of Rome – are the walls crumbling around them or will they weather the crisis? I am gripped and am just loving watch the drama unfold. Is the collapse of News of the World a house of cards that will bring down the Murdoch empire? You couldn’t make it up and make it more exciting!

This has proved to be a welcome distraction in the face of Hagar’s recent departure. Interestingly, I was interviewed by Heart FM about how I felt about himself going to war for the 7th time. The interviewer made an interesting point, which I didn’t have the heart to jump upon at the time. She said something along the lines of ‘the job of the wife is to’…..Being a wife is a job? I didn’t know that when I said ‘I do’ I had taken on a job. I am naive, I suppose. If I had known that being a wife was a job then I would have negotiated the T&Cs much harder. I would have asked for a better pension, a wage, better working hours. I had never thought about being a wife as a job – or being a husband as a job. If I had known it was a job I would never have signed the contract in the first place!”


To our children the military is a job

I work in PR and so on occasion I have to speak to journalists. One of my clients is a defence client so yesterday I was contacted by this chap from a production company which is about to be commissioned for a documentary called ‘Toy Soldiers.’ This is an OB DOC, or ‘Observational Documentary’, which is basically fly on the wall television. Now, I have my fluffy moments but on the whole I get to work with pretty decent journalists. Halfway through the call, I was ready to napalm the TV researcher.

This is some of their spiel:

“We are making a new Children’s Documentary Film where children tell us their stories about when mum or dad have gone off to war. The film will focus on children between 6 -13 years old, looking at how they try and maintain normality as their lives are interrupted by a war that they might not understand, taking place in a country they may never have heard of. The focus is on the children, life through their eyes and how they try and maintain their lives as normally as possible.”

He wanted to know how children coped with the idea that mummy or daddy essentially ‘killed people’ and what is the service child’s reaction to war? He was excited about the idea of getting the children to illustrate their perceptions of war and what mummy and daddy do so that they could turn it into an animation.

Err woah!! Slow down there chum.

Of course, I said, ‘We rationalise death and the morality of taking life with our children frequently. We consider under which circumstances it’s OK to take human life and those that it isn’t. Well before Hagar deploys to Afghanistan, we sit down with out 6 year old and 2 year old and analyse the geo-political implications of the conflict. We assess Hagar’s strategic input and the execution of the plan. Then with large maps on the living room floor, we plot the campaign so that we can track UK plcs progress and then on his return we hope we can applaud Hagar’s murderous victory should the outcome have been successful.’

Err ‘No, you total knob head!’ I didn’t actually say that.

I think I said, ‘On the whole we try and make as little of it as possible. Afghanistan is a word not a place to most children. We definitely don’t focus on what is actually happening out there. It’s likely that you are going to be filming children that are exactly the same as non-serving children, who are interested in Ben 10 and Peppa Pig and other vile, mass marketed children’s products like my own charming delights!’

The idea of the Grenade illustrating his perception of war filled me with horror. Partly because he is massively into bloody, treacherous, gruesome dinosaur battles. It would make him seem like a little sociopath and it wouldn’t be a reflection of Hagar’s role in Afghanistan but more an insight to the mind of Dinosaur-mad 6 year old.

I wish the media, and also to some extent Joe Public, could get their heads around the concept that to our children being in the military is a job. It’s what daddy or mummy does. Clearly, it’s not JUST a job as it takes special sort of person to do it, someone who is willing to put his life on the line for their country and fellows in arms.

Those of us that decided to marry into it. We are not some weird social experiment to be prodded and poked about by fluffy TV types. How many kids give a toss about what their parents do for a living? How many kids are remotely interested in their parents? They are interested in toys, tv, sweets, treats, working out how they get their own way and then when they get older, the opposite sex, how to attract it and how to spend their parent’s money. I want it to be this way for as long as feasibly possible. I don’t ram it down my kids throats and we try to keep life as business as usual so the impact is minimal. We take each day, day by day and that is all we can do.

Head down, grit teeth, smile and wave. Smile and wave.