Helmand: When I first heard that I was going to Helmand, well I was thrilled. Mayonnaise is my favourite condiment by a country mile, and to be spending two weeks at the home of Mayonnaise was a career high. And then I realised that I was going to Helmand, not Hellman as I had thought and I was crestfallen.
But it's not without it's compensation I can assure you. The MOD are organising my press pass, a very useful piece of plastic, I will have my ISAF and IJC accreditation, I have to attend a one day media training course, they will provide me with body armour and a helmet, and doubtless complimentary 'I am shit scared pants'.
"Bring a sleeping bag", they said, and in the manner of Ray Meers I feign experience in such things, but if they don't give me a bed I will shoot them all dead.
They have sofas and Hazelnut Coffee, I have read their missives, it's all in place, luxury is guaranteed. Oh and three hot meals a day!
So I don't want anyone worrying about me okay, is that agreed? Because each night I shall bathe in a jar of creamy eggy vinegary sauce. Delicious!
Tick Tock: I received an email a couple of days ago informing me that one of my best friends in the UK had been taken seriously ill soon after I had left for Afghanistan.
I have never felt so palpably impotent, 5,000 miles away. My son fractured his wrist the week after I left and I couldn't be there for him. Of course the world keeps turning without you, it barely notices I suppose, and with the passing of time it will remember less and less. When you are just around the corner you assume a self-importance that is not commensurate with your real purpose. When you are 5,000 miles away you become even less important than that.
My presumption is that over time I will be replaced somehow by others, by most anyway, each to their 'new' own. Those who felt a hole would open up, as my plane climbed over Birmingham and headed east would soon replace that importance with another.
Time will be filled with new activities and others will take up conversation, inspiration will be garnered in new places and comfort and friendship will be super-ceded by a chance meeting with someone else. And I anticipated all of this, it's how it should be, I never thought that I would matter that much in the end, and I am fine with that thought. After all I carry everyone with me in my heart but my ticking clock also has new companions riding upon the minute hand. But when your close and dear friend becomes seriously ill, you fleetingly wish that you mattered once more, that you could be the one to help, drop by with a bag of shopping or pick the kids up from school - but you can't.
Networking: The word implies, and correct me if I am wrong, a net that works. What they don't tell you is that nets have holes in them, which often prevents the net from working as planned.
It should be called something like "very big plastic bag without holes in it working", which whilst not as catchy and lacking in brevity, would provide a little more hope.
I meet people daily who seem keen to speak with me, we laugh and smile as if we have known each other forever, my we are good friends, business cards are exchanged and we promise marriage and children. And then you never hear from them again. I have spoken with correspondents from The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent and The Washington Post and we all agree that we could not have met each other a moment sooner, we are on the brink, a Pulitzer is a "shoo in" - I have arrived I think!
And then emails bounce back, the phone just rings and rings until defeated, I hang up, they never write, they don't send me flowers anymore. Methinks that they love another photographer. My life is a litany of unrequited professional relationships, but I will show the infidels, they will regret the day they crossed "Martin No-Work Middlebrook."
Dwarves: You never see a tall one they say. Well I beg to differ. Last night I went to a social gathering of nationalities and gender various, and I was, by some distance, the smallest person in the room. Some of the women were giants, but for their pale skin we might have called them Amazonian. Russ Meyer could have cast an entire movie within six feet of me. Well I kept a pretty low profile I don't mind telling you, for fear of having my head cut off and the contents scooped out to make 'Martin Soup'. I am the tallest dwarf here by a mile though!
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