Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Music to go to war with.

In one of my last posts re silence and war, I lamented the inability to listen to music during conflict on my I pod, but I also mentioned that there are times when you do seek solace in music. Probably the most time I remember most vividly was during the Iraq War. Seems strange to refer to the actual invasion phase as the Iraq War, when it is still going to this day. but for the point we all remember of those 20 odd days when things went so well, from the coalition side.

Back to music, I remember bunkering down in the humvee in the darkness on the outskirts of Baghdad towards the end of the push up from Kuwait. And probably for the first time in the campaign I was frightened, if we were going to be attacked with chemical weapons then this was the time and place. I do not know why but this was the only time in the whole war that I felt scared, for the past weeks we had been under constant attack yet I felt no fear. But on this night for some reason I could not shake this fear of the possibility of being "slimed".

Slimed was the expression used by the soldiers for being attacked with chemical weapons.

So in the darkness I pulled out my portable cd player and put in my favourite cd for chilling out and forgetting the rest of the world.

The cd "The Beach Soundtrack" yes the soundtrack to the movie. It has some of the most relaxing songs, and in the darkness of the Iraqi desert , a beach on an island seemed like a nice place to be, rather than feeling for my gas mask whilst wearing my mopp suit that I we all wore.

Then there are times when music is used to pump up, you cannot help but being aggressive in aggression zones , that is for tomorrow and another entry "Music when people do not play nice"

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Sounds of War

You cannot wear your I pod in a war zone, as much as Apple might not like to hear this, sound is the one thing that is essential in war. There have been many words written about the fact that you never hear the bullet that kills you, because the sound of a bullet going past you means that the bullet has actually passed you. But then again who has ever asked someone who has died “Did you hear the bullet before it killed you”

I raise the issue as the first of my summer of trying to explain covering war and conflict because last night was the European Champions League Football Final being played in Athens between AC Milan and Liverpool, and rather than being seated in front of a TV screen in a bar drinking a cold beer. I was on a dark hillside on the Gaza border watching a 9 inch monitor of local TV under buzzing power lines trying to listen to the game on BBC World Service Radio on MW, remember that old format.

Now I was sure that no bullets were going to fly past me, maybe the odd Kassam Rocket launched out of Gaza could of interrupted me but the night had been relatively quiet by our standards only four rockets had been fired and all we could ascertain was that a cow and a horse had been killed in a field down the road. But every time you hear a distant thud I had to turn the radio down and jump to the camera.

So the sounds of war can disturb some important events like trying to listen to the most important game of the football year.

But sounds do interrupt my everyday life, as I write this somewhere in the neighbor hood there is a wedding with fireworks and these sounds make me think I am back in a war zone. A car back firing in a street makes me jump now and people look at me it is not a shell shock mentality but often-everyday sounds remind me of what war sounds. To the normal person this may sound silly but in the world of covering conflict so many sounds are similar it is just a matter of where you are at the time.

I remember during the worst times of the Iraq War, by this I mean those first few weeks during the invasion and entering Baghdad to block out the world I would get out my portable CD player, and put in my favorite CD and try to block out my fear and terror by listening to music, never during the worst of fighting because often the silence of war is the most scary time. Fear is when there is no sound around you and you are alone in your own world wondering what is about to happen. Silence is the scariest sound in a war zone; perhaps that is why no one ever hears the bullet that kills them.

The Towel Counter

Thanks to all the responses and yes all of you were correct , the towel counter is not some gnome deep in the bowels of the hotel but in fact what is obvious a shack by the pool where you hand in a card and get a towel from the " Towel Counter " to use by the pool or on the beach.
It was just one of those moments living overseas where your own language can confuse you for a confounded moment, over this summer I am going to write down all the variations of our mother tongue and list in them in an entry just so that we can all have a laugh, not to mention the names of shops that use signwriters who do not have access to spell check

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bad Inglish

The sign said simply “Towel Counter”.

I stopped and pondered this for four days in our hotel in Aqaba Jordan whilst covering the visit of US Vice President Dick Cheney the other week. I have become so used to the butchering of the English language that miss spellings on everything from menus to road signs are just a way of life.

But for the life of me, I could not get around this “Towel Counter” I mean is there someone who actually sits in this hotel and counts towels, one two three four. It was something that just bugged me. I could read it, it was spelt correctly and yet what was the mystery of this “Towel Counter”

If your saw a sign that said “Towel Counter” what do you think it implies?

I await your responses, please comment me back to make sure that I am not losing my grip on the English Language before I reveal the mystery.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Summer Preview

There is always an excuse for not posting and then wondering why your stats number is down on those tracking things that most bloggers use.

Everyday i have always had an idea about what to write and then find myself in some neither region where ther is no computer access, also add to the fact that I do not have internet in my apartment or a phone. With blackberrys and cell phones there seems little point in paying for something that I really do not need too.

Anyway excuses out of the way and I am in the bureau today instead of sitting in the dust on a hilltop between Gaza and the israeli town of Sderot, watching and filming Palestinians firing Kassam rockets over my head and in the distance Israeli tanks and helicopters firing back into Gaza.

I have written so many times about the sense of filming combat , the sounds, the sights and the emotions that at the moment it would just seem to be a repeat of what I have written. It seems that every summer now in the Middle East another crisis happens and once again we go to the edge of the abyss. This summer appears to be no different so the challenge for me in the coming weeks is to try and find a way of giving you a snapshot of something that somehow conveys the turmoil and efforts required to cover conflict.

So standby for the summer of bumper fun

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Three Days Out

Ok not much to do with life in the Unholyland, three days out from my first Triathlon on Saturday. If you have nothing better to do read the background on my running blog


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Personnal Best & Only in Israel

Now readers of my blogs know that I have an affinity with the drivers of Israel. And last Saturday yet another story about life on the roads here took the unbelieveable to yet new "only in Israel" But lets get back to the issue of me running a new Personal Best for 10km.
Personal Bests meaning very little to anyone but yourself, of course people go "oh great" and "well done" but it is the inner self that knows you have gone faster than ever before over a set distance and perhaps all those early morning hours spent running by yourself pushing a little bit harder does in fact pay off.
For the last year I have been running with demons as one might say and not running my own race, more so in my mind than in my body, last Saturday I was focused and decided that this was a day for me to go. My best km split was 4 minutes 11 seconds and the slowest was a respectable 5 minutes 10 seconds on the uphill at the 7 km mark.
When they gave me the tacky medal at the end, for the first time in a long time it meant something to me because I really felt lke I had earnt it.
Now as runners we know that part of the race entry fee is for the police to co-ordinate road closures to ensure that the locals do not line us up like a bowling alley and aim for a strike. So after the race at around 9:50 I got back into the car and tried to drive out back home, only to be stopped in a line at a police barrier blocking the road. Now you do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the police had been told to close the raod till 10:00, but oh no the five other cars around me seemed intent on screaming at the Policeman that they should be let out, these are the same runners who not half an hour ago had wanted the security of a safe road as we ran past other Israeli drivers shouting at Police road blocks that they had a god given right to drive on the road even if it was full of runners.

The Policeman just looked at his watch and shrugged as the departing runners vented their frustrations at the same person who not long ago doing the same thing had given us all safety.
I just laughed and sure enough at 10:01 the road opened up , only in Israel.