Wednesday 22nd April
I was on a day off but I had a few things to organise because I received a call and e-mails from Raj the Production Manager at GMTV in London to confirm the details of a little jaunt back over to Basrah in Iraq. I am going with Richard Gaisford, GMTV’s Chief Correspondent.
We will be covering the final pullout of British troops. The British are no longer in command in that part of Iraq having handed control over to the Americans earlier in the year. It will be quite fitting for Richard and I to revisit Basrah again. We were there originally in 2003. I went in with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and Irish Guards on the day that Basrah was liberated. The next day we were the first to broadcast live from Basrah. Since then I have been back on several occasions to see how things have been progressing. One of those occasions was with Richard when, along with Paul, an exmarine as our security consultant we drove in a hire car from Kuwait city to Basrah and stayed in a hotel near the centre of the city for a week or so. We visited various places to see how things were getting on. I filmed in a bustling market full of a huge variety of newly imported white goods and satellite dishes. We were invited into the home of a dentist and his family. Although the house was basic to say the least he and his sons were very excited because they had just acquired their first computer and it was connected to the internet.
Sadly since that very enjoyable time there with the hope of good things to come, peace and prosperity on the horizon the security situation has dictated that it is too dangerous for us to venture away from the safety of the military. Even then when we were there a couple of car bombs went off and there were a few things going on that were not very pleasant. Now the place is a bit calmer and for the Iraqis things are looking up. However the danger for any westerner wanting to drift out into the streets of Basrah or other Iraqi cities is not being blown up or shot, but kidnapped. A western head is worth quite a bit to the rather unscrupulous gangsters that are around. So we will not be able to go and wander at will around the city.
We do hope to get out with the protection of the British Army and see what they have done in co-operation with the locals to make life in southern Iraq better for the people who live there.
To prepare for the trip I had to get one or two supplies. When my wife Anne arrived home and saw the carrier bags from Boots she thought that I had been very thoughtful and aware of the tricks her body was playing on her this month. She was a tad confused when I regretfully had to tell her that the super absorbent sanitary towels I had purchased were for me and not her. Although I would be very happy if I never have to use them.
Their absorbent qualities and their compact size are a perfect for being discrete and soaking up blood. Which means that they are easy to carry in a pocket of my body armour or trousers and can quickly be put to use, but I really hope they never are, to stop any bleeding if I get injured by someone that thinks I make a good target.
One of the other supplies I wouldn’t mind using is the sunscreen. It is nice to come home with a little bit of colour. Then people believe that you have been away and not just telling stories to make your life sound interesting.
Before getting home with my purchases the enjoyment of the day off disappeared for many hours. As I walked to the car I saw a rather saggy front tyre. It was as flat as a curly perm in a downpour. The rest of the afternoon was taken up with getting enough air in the tyre to get it to a place that would either fix it or replace the tyre.
Surprise surprise when the chaps at the garage had a look at it not only was that tyre knackered but the one on the other side needed to be replaced as it was so worn it was almost illegal.
Glad I took the day off because I had something to do at night rather than during the day. I was going to see Murray, my seventeen year old son’s band in his third gig. I had been away working for the first two. Their music is great and they do it very well live. www.myspace.com/coloursgroup