Today’s Wet Bulb Globe reading: 43C (in the shade)
Sweat-o-meter reading: Excessive (average 51C inside my tent during the day)
You will have gathered two things from the headlines above- firstly it hasn’t cooled down out here since I last updated you and secondly, in order to improve my chances of survival I don’t spend much time in my tent during the day. I made the near fatal error of trying to get an hour’s sleep in my tent yesterday afternoon following a 3am start and made the startling discovery that the human body holds enough fluid to produce enough sweat to completely saturate an entire pillow and almost all of a two-inch thick mattress in 20 minutes. Although judging by my lightheaded-ness when I woke up after the 20 minute roasting I’m not sure it has much more than that so I wouldn’t try it at home.
This month I have remained in the remote North which, despite the inescapable heat, has been great. It continues to be the ‘real’ Afghanistan I came to see and has offered plenty in that vein. From the Artillery firing various large weapons around us to the comforting sound of Apaches circling overhead sending differing forms of ‘good news’ to the baddies to the almost constant sound of the Americans who have moved in over the river and seem intent on ruining a lot of baddies’ days by dropping just about everything you can imagine on top of them. All in all it’s a bit more exciting than my first two months out here. At this point its worth mentioning again (for the ladies present) that I am still well within the walls of the base and am no closer to leaving them any time soon. I would say that I am also wrapped up in cotton wool but I fear that in this heat that would cause more damage than anything the baddies have to offer.
We are also surrounded by incredible natural beauty, which is as ever appreciated by your average soldier. One evening I was walking back from supper with one of my Corporals as the sun was setting behind us. The light on the mountains in front of us was truly spectacular, a mix of deep reds and oranges with purple fringes on each jagged edge mixing in with the clear blue sky behind. I paused to admire this truly breathtaking sight and said to the Corporal who had barely looked up “Look at that Corporal, what an amazing sight. This country really is beautiful isn’t it?” Without so much as a glance towards the mountains he instantly replied “Yeah. But it’s still full of idiots though Sir.” The word he used to describe what the country was ‘full of’ was considerably stronger, and may or may not rhyme with ‘punts’, but in the interest of keeping my female readership on side I have dubbed it out.
Another prime example was in the food queue (a good insight into soldier mentality) when I overheard two young soldiers chatting in front of me. Like most conversations between soldiers the running theme was just how ‘sh*t’ it is out here and how much they hate it (don’t worry, they say that about barrack life and home life too- the success of the British Army rests on the hope that they are just joking and actually love it). Until one of them, unusually, declared that there are in fact two good things about Afghanistan. According to him the only two positives that Afghanistan offers are ‘stars’ and ‘bogies’. Now, I do have to agree with the stars bit, they are amazing and I often lie under them for a minute or two to admire them before going to bed, but according to his logic the giant bogies you get as a result of endless sand being blown in your face are on a par with a beautiful clear night sky. Once again the wonderfully unfathomable mind of your average British soldier trumps Mother Nature.
It has also been a good month for cricket. Guy, who I live with up here, and I have successfully carved two fine cricket bats out of perfectly sized bits of pine and even sourced a ball. We now spend an average of an hour a day recreating classic test matches out the back of our tent which has sent morale through the roof and on one occasion sent a tennis ball flying over the wall and into no mans land which the baddies have, rather unsportingly, not thrown back over. Savages I tell you.
See you for the next installment, keep the correspondence coming- always good to hear news from home.
By Rich Glover