Sergeant Steve Blake is a professional Army Photographer with the Royal Logistic Corps. A trained soldier, Steve is currently serving a six-month tour of Afghanistan as part of the three-man Combat Camera Team (comprising a trained journalist, photographer and video cameraman).
Steve and the team are based at Camp Bastion in Helmand province but will spend most of their time out on the ground, capturing life on the front line.
Well, what an outstanding RnR that was!
I managed to get home a day early, which was a great bonus to start my leave off. My leave was to be a fun packed one, which started off the day after I landed. My wife had previously booked a 5* Spa Day, at the Hilton in Heathrow, as a treat for her and a close friend, and as I got back early I tagged along. What a day! It was probably the most relaxing day I have had in a long time. Such a nice change from the dust, cold and rain of Afghan. I soon forgot about it all while I enjoyed the hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and a water massage bed. Pure bliss! Sadly they didn’t have beer at the health spa, so peppermint tea was all I got! ha
The next day was Christmas Day. Yep, on January 17th we had Christmas in our house. Seemed so weird, but so nice that my wife had organised this for me. Wine, turkey, presents, more wine and maybe a bit more wine. The weirdest thing about it all was using real cutlery, plates and glasses as opposed to paper and plastic in Afghan. Really freaked me out! Stainless steel cutlery seems so heavy after 4 months using plastic.
Afghan scorpion paperweight
Christmas day was followed by a packing/admin day. I was off on a surprise overseas trip. Mrs B had arranged a nice relaxing break in the sun for the two of us, but where were we going? Everyone knew apart from me!
After a night in a Gatwick hotel we were Benidorm bound. Brilliant, some sunshine at last. We had a fantastic four-day trip there, which was just what the doctor ordered. We were met at the airport by my parents, who are currently on a nine-week holiday there. The joys of being retired, eh? Then it was sun sun sun. Oh… and lots of beer too!
No sooner had we got back from Benidorm, we were packing another bag for an overnight stay in East Sussex, where I would be collecting my son for a long weekend. My little boy, who isn’t really that little anymore, was ecstatic to see me. Along with my wife, we had a ‘sleepover’ with him, I got to see him open his Christmas presents from me, and see the look on his face when I gave him a dead Afghan scorpion paperweight! Hilarious!
The travelling continued…
After driving home from collecting my son, I unpacked and repacked, for about the 4th time. This time we were Newcastle-bound for my step-daughter’s wedding. The drive up was a slightly emotional six-hour journey. Most of the family and friends had arrived by the time we got there, so we all went off to dinner together to catch up before the ‘Big Day’.
It was great to see everyone, and everything for the wedding seemed to be going to plan. Being the step-father of the bride, and also a photographer, I spent the day capturing images of the happy occasion for them as a bit of a gift. No pressure then! Gladly, they both love the pictures.
The day started off with a bit of a hitch, luckily it was the only one all day. That was when the fire alarm at the hotel went off, just as my step-daughter had got out of the shower, prior to getting her hair and make-up done. Needless to say we were all in hysterics seeing her outside with a towel wrapped around her body, one on her head and a fag in her mouth, in -2 degrees! Brilliant!
The rest of the day was fantastic, cracking service and an amazing reception. I don’t think my son left the dancefloor all night, after declaring that “the sitting down bit was boring dad!”
Then that was it, RnR was almost done. An eight-hour trip back home, dropping my son on the way, then uniform ironed and prep for the flight back the next day!
Phew, busy two weeks, but loved every minute! Got to see my amazing wife, kids, dogs and close friends and family.
As expected, it’s been hectic since we arrived back in theatre, but unfortunately I can’t share anything about that with you at this point.
I will leave you with some images of a heavy weapons range day that I shot prior to leave.
Until next time…