Captain Jeremy Hann writes about birthday celebrations, or the lack of them, in war-torn Afghanistan.
It was thirty three summers ago that ‘The Minstrel’ underneath Mr Piggott won the Derby; that Elvis left the building and that I arrived in the world to much celebration and ward-wide plaudits (except from my darling mother who complained to the Doctor that ‘he cannot be mine, he is far too ugly”).
Today is my birthday, and to the best of my knowledge it is the first time I have celebrated by a good day’s work.
The usual modus operandi of having champagne poured into myself and forgetting to say when, and generally over indulging, was replaced by an ice-cream and a ungentlemanly amount of sweating.
Amongst many kind emails that I have received, the one from an old friend in Brighton hoping ‘that you get totally messed-up’ was surely the strangest to send to someone in a war zone. I get the sentiment Toby, but I am glad the day is drawing to a close without the aforementioned eventuality becoming a literal reality…..
Someone with a much greater gift for memorable writing than I said that being on an operational tour is 99% boredom, punctuated by 1% extreme violence. It is to the boredom that I wish to turn. Guarding against the complacency that inevitably accompanies the repetition of the daily grind is one of the hardest tasks of remaining professional whilst on operations. It can be difficult to keep morale high whilst staring into the abyss of monotony, and how one occupies oneself outside of the patrols and other bits that make up the daily workload, defines how one deals with the unglamourous side of being away.
This is doubly hard when returning from mid-tour leave. Going from summer in England to Afghanistan is like going to bed with Marilyn Monroe and waking up with Susan Boyle. On the whole it has been a very quiet week in Kandahar, which has meant time has dragged for us, but we should be thankful that the operation is now starting to yield a positive outcome for the people of this city.
Over the course of an operational tour, unless one has an online auction addiction, a sizeable sum can be squirreled away. This is where SOUPs (Single Officer Unnecessary Purchases) start to grab the imagination. These can run the gamut of extremes from a Malacca cane with rapier inside, to 1960s sports cars, a monocle to an ivory-handled riding crop. The key is they must be entirely unnecessary. Suggestions are most welcome and shall be passed on to the wider Royal Dragoon Guards Officer community. The most original or best idea will be presented with a baboon skull penholder; no writing bureau can ever be called complete without one.
Wildlife update….. The gargantuan ants are conspicuous by their absence and the goats are still merrily going about their daily graze, although I can’t imagine that the sand is particularly delicious or nutritious. The new guys on the scene are lizards. August is obviously the month that the Afghan lizard community carries out its business with gay abandon. They are in plentiful numbers and seem unperturbed by events leading up to the Afghan elections.