Shat Al Arab Hotel,
6th Sep 2005
Since being in this charming country I have been fortunate enough to have done some serious shopping both on the internet and locally. My more fashion-conscious friends will be depressed to hear Boden now offer me “valued customer” discounts. E bay has provided many useful things, a fetching pair of aviators that have improved my volleyball game, an external hard drive that means I can steal everyone’s digital music, I now have in the region of 58Gb of stuff I will never listen to, and 6Gb of S Club 7.
I have acquired box sets of every Friends episode, all the James Bonds, all three seasons of Alias, the box set of Lost, and am trying to track down the box set of all four seasons of 24. These DVD purchases are thanks to all the American supply convoys being attacked and robbed by the locals, and then sold to us! But by far my most useful purchase I picked up yesterday, and still haven’t recovered.
I have a new alarm clock and it’s in the shape of a mosque.
Now whilst this usually wouldn’t be such groundbreaking news as to warrant its very own email, let me describe this behemoth to you. Iraqis are not really famed for their timekeeping, neither are they famed for great taste. So to combine poor timekeeping with poor taste you get some pretty special results when designing an alarm clock. My plastic Mosque alarm comes complete with its own minaret, gaudy and offensive detailing in the brickwork and cornicing around the edges of the parapets, a blue light that illuminates the entire thing like an alien, and a clock that loses five minutes in every hour. It really won itself over by claiming to play the ‘Call to Prayer’ as its alarm. I can imagine you are all wondering why I am so amazed by this creation, bear with me.
Last night I set my alarm, taking into account the time lag that would take place through the night, and settled down for a good kip in our newly fixed air conditioning. I clearly got the time lag wrong, as at four o clock this morning a cacophony of almighty proportions erupted at the foot of my bed. I don’t mind admitting that it was the most terrifying wake-up call I have ever had. The world had to be ending, there was no other explanation for this extraordinary noise, a couple of drops of wee might have even escaped! It took some time to remember that I had purchased my new alarm clock, and this was probably the source of the noise. After thrashing around my bed to find a shoe to silence the machine, I was plunged into fabulous silence once more.
I lay in bed quivering in fear for some time, a few months ago a Chinese Rocket had rudely woken us all up detonating against the side of the hotel, I was nowhere near as nervous to go back to sleep, and that was the loudest explosion I have ever heard. What if it happened again? What if that damn Iraqi clock woke me from a pleasant dream with the sound of all my nightmares again.
This is where my excitement comes from.
Never again will I sleep in, its very possible that never again will I sleep but it’s a risk I am going to take, there is no amount of alcohol in the world that could make anyone sleep through this thing. I am bringing box loads home, and you will all receive one as a present from me to ensure you never have to be late for work as well. Each of you will receive a little box of bad taste to keep you from any unwanted lie-ins.
You will love it, maybe, sort of.
You may have gathered there is little news to report from out here, life just ticks on (clever pun?!) I hope you are all well, sleep well whilst you still have decent alarms clocks to wake you.
All my love
The letter above is part of a series of letters I sent home from Basrah, Iraq in 2005 republished here for the first time since they got sent exactly 15 years ago (I will try and sync them with the real dates sent)
I suppose this was my very first attempt at blogging, before blogging was ever a thing!
I was a Captain in The British Army at the time and was in the middle of an unremarkable 7 month posting to Basrah surrounded by the remarkable men of the Coldstream Guards, my regiment for 7 years. I loved and adored my time in the Coldstream and look back at all the fun and silliness with incredibly fond memories. I hope these letters go some way to show the amusing side of our tour, they are not designed to be a factual representation of the hard work, pain and suffering that so many endured. They do not talk of the ultimate sacrifice made by too many of our soldiers during that extraordinary year.