I am still in France for now – nursing aching hands after days of destroying weeds in the garden using my hands and a loaned petrol strimmer. I say “garden” – it’s not really that yet. “Patch of land” probably more appropriate thing to say at the moment. Although in a small hamlet we do have a next door neighbour – with a grander house and an OCD-neat garden. It puts whatever attempts I make to tame our wilderness look futile next to his perfect lawn and rows of Leylandi.
My poor man has been sick with a fever for days – but seems slightly recovered as he is out of bed, sitting opposite me tucked into the book version of The Baghdad Blog by Salam Pax.
Appropriate reading. I have lived a strange existence this week – one minute building shelves, hoofing lumps of timber around or visiting the Dechetterie (the town tip), the next minute researching Iraqi media, human rights and chatting online to Iraq-connected friends. Not to mention tending to the needs of my unwell husband, who would have been a lot better sooner I think, had England recovered themselves in the Ashes.
I am going to Baghdad fairly soon and I have been encouraged by the blogging fraternity (including them on BC) to keep an account of my travels on my travel blog. I will of course write some hefty strategic communications pieces both for Albany (who have had the grace to send me to Iraq) and the World Bank (who loyally seem to publish my every word) – but this travel blog is where it’s going to be at.
The news on my imminent trip so far, before I even GET there is that it’s going to be HOT. Over 50 degrees says aforementioned Mr Pax. It’s also going to be exhausting – I arrive in the early hours and start work straight away. I am more than happy with this however – and raring to go. My last trip to Iraq in 2006 ended abruptly with premature-evacuation and a sense of incompleteness and disappointment. I look forward to perhaps not achieving a climax, but getting some sense of balanced satisfaction for all parties involved (I could probably continue the innuendos, but I’ll stop there). I hope I can share my expertise with the Iraqis I meet – but equally hoping to learn from them too. Something I forgot about was what a nightmare security is. Trying to get anything done is difficult and/or expensive. I am trying to arrange for a group of Iraqi journalist/blogger friends of mine to have an informal chat with me and the people I am working with – but it seems like this cannot be done. Piff. I may try and do something online instead. Anyone know the best way to have a multi-location conference call with webcams? Skype isn’t my best friend at the moment. The security restrictions won’t be as bad a life in Basra Palace three years ago, but I am very much restricted to the Green or International Zone (3.8 square miles surrounded by bomb blast walls). So long as I meet more Iraqi’s this time I will be happy (although my Iraqi friends in Britain seem far more concerned than some of my gung-ho post-conflict friends).
So for now – in blissful limbo in France. Enjoying French sunshine, French wine and some hard work. Enjoying quiet countryside, visiting loved ones, and deep in research before heading East. Last time I landed in Baghdad it was a spiral decent in a Hercules and I was standing up in the cockpit. This time will be different. Soon.
PS – We managed to get a free butler style kitchen sink from a tough looking old farmer bird at the Dechetterie today. She was going to chuck it out! You will see from my picture – we are yet to have a sink in our luxurious kitchen (dishes done in the bath) – so it is very welcome.