Friday 24th April
My nice new bright orange flight case arrived allowing me to get the camera kit packed.
I had sent one of my radio microphones back to be repaired. It had become a bit of a saga because it had gone back twice because when I had received it from repair it still had the same fault. I was quite excited at having my own bit of kit with me again. Not too excited, I am not that much of a geek, I hope.
I plugged it in. All the little lights lit up. I could hear some noise coming through the speaker. It was working. I put my headphones on just to check that the sound quality was ok. I picked the microphone up. I though I heard a little “tink” as I moved the microphone. So, I gave it a little light shake. Sure enough there was something rattling around inside. Whenever I moved the mic’ there was a little, but very audible "ting". I tried to have a look inside to see what it was but I was only able to open one end because I did not have the correct tool to get the other end open. Of course that was the wrong end. There was nothing visible. It would have to go back to repair again. I did not have time to do it then. it will have to wait until I get back from Basra.
I did need to get one or two things from Edinburgh city centre. The main being ear defenders to wear on that horrible vibrating noisy flight in a C130 Hercules from either Kuwait or Qatar to Basra. I also needed a can of air for getting that fine, almost talc dust off the camera lens and out of the workings of the camera and recorder.
If it wasn’t for the disruption caused by the work to prepare for the tram line in Edinburgh it would have been easy. However, getting in and out of the city is just a nightmare and getting parked worse. There must be so many people driving around George Street and the rest of the central area with steam coming out of their ears as they try in vain to park that Starbucks should tap into them and reduce their bill for frothing up cappuccinos. I did get the things but my indifference to the tram is rapidly turning into hatred. Especially as the one line that is costing a huge amount of cash and causing such stress for just about all the residents and visitors to Edinburgh will be of no use to me.
Anyway I got my flight to Heathrow. It was only delayed by half an hour or so. I got all my bags off at the belt in terminal 5. They were also only delayed by almost half an hour. I had been so hopeful that after the move from terminal 1 the days of waiting for ages on the bags had gone. Clearly not!
At least Godfrey the driver of my shiny black Merc was waiting to drive me to RAF Brize Norton near Oxford. As we approached a junction towards the end of the journey I saw a sign for the air base. It was pointing to the left. At the some instant I registered the sign the sat’ nav’ blurted out, “Turn right at the junction”.
Godfrey followed the vocal instruction but like me had seen the sign. We drove on for a little while until we arrive at a gate. It was one of the gates to the base just not the Main Gate which was the one we wanted. I asked the best way back to the main gate. We retraced our journey back to the signed junction and went in the direction it said.
I was greeted pleasantly by the security guy in the reception at the Main Gate. That was me then sucked into the military system. i was issued with a pass for the base and told to wait for transport to the terminal. I had no sooner wandered round with my gear when a white minibus appeared. It was by now around 9 pm. I was whisked to a very quiet passenger terminal. I don’t think I have ever been checked in for any flight either civil or military as quickly or efficiently. With my colourful RAF boarding card in my hand I was taken to my luxury (not really) accommodation at the base hotel, Gateway House. There a rather brusque woman took my boarding card, exchanging it for a key to a very basic little twin room. She also told me if I wanted a cooked breakfast I would need to be up before 8 am and the room had to be vacated by 9 am and a bus would be there at around 11:30 to take me back to the terminal.
Gateway House must be in one of those time anomalies that you hear about on Star Trek or Red Dwarf. The bus must have driven through some kind of worm hole that ends in the seventies or perhaps a little earlier. The place has a strange aura about it. I was keen not to spend too much time in my cell. As yet I did not have a cellmate. So I got on my walking legs and went out to find a place to eat. I found an acceptable little Indian restaurant that was still open at after 10pm. I had a quick curry and naan before heading back to the “hotel”.
I went into the room to see some civilian kit on the opposite bed to the one I had dumped my kit on. I was mentally working a memo to the Production Manager to say that I would like this particular hotel taken off the list of desirable places to stay when a head popped around the door and said hello in a strong west of Scotland accent. John was on his way back to Basra for the umpteenth time in five years. We exchanged pleasantries and talked about Basra. John told me that not having been there for about a year I would see quite a difference. There have been lots of changes with the Americans now in charge. The last time and on all the other visits save the first one when I was on army ration packs the food had been really great. There was a good choice and always a very good curry. Now according to John the emphasis has move away from curry and hot pots to burger and hot dogs.
As we both lay in silence doing our own thing, John reading a magazine and me typing on my computer the nights curry started doing it’s stuff. I hope that my rumblings, gurglings and other spice induced noises don’t keep either of us awake.