The army must have spent a lot of time looking for the most dreadful place possible to put a poor ickle unsuspecting TA unit. Camp Nookie (well, Knook Camp) is tucked into a tight valley such that mobile phone reception is restricted to odd points - a square meter on top of a skip, a funny-handshake outside the gaurdhouse, etc. No internet connection, no bog roll (don't ask) and a dead rat in the showers called Arthur.

Still it has it's good points. Er.... no it doesn't.

So we've almost finished more not-so-basic training, although as yet nothing to do with our actual role 'in theatre'. It's now two weeks since we were mobilised (a lifetime ago) and I think we're all feeling that it's been an interesting annual camp, and it's time to go home for a couple of weeks rest before considering the next weekend's exercise.... uh oh...

We've got too many posh people with us; we now eat at the 'restaurant' or 'cafe', shoot with assault 'purdeys', and drive 'cars'. Even the support crews, scouse drivers and engineers, have started greeting each other unconciously with 'aih, hellaih' (sp?). I've been made an honorary trucker, due to my relaxed attitute, which might be a Good Thing or might not...

We spent the first few days fitting out our cars with vast amounts of gadgetry (well I did mine) and loading them up with all the contraband we could think of, before sending them off to Southampton for shipping to 'theatre'. We must now remember which fuel tank has the brandy in, and which the whisky...

"Mine Awareness" is such a silly name. I'm perfectly aware of what's mine, it's where it is that's the problem. Anyway, we had a lesson on it early in the week and it is one of the more scary ones - Iraq has some ridiculously high proportion of the world's mines. There are two official "Immediate Actions" on discovering you are in a mine field: the first is to stop moving, shout "Fek it! Stop! Mines! Fek!" etc and wait for the engineers to come out and rescue you. The other is to leap 20 feet and distribute yourself over the surrounding area. Sick! sick! sick!

Bayonet practice on Wednesday involved lots of running about, getting us all aggressive and nasty, to the state that we weren't to be allowed out that evening due to high levels of feeling-nasty. (It took me a while to work out that he wasn't shouting "At the wog, advance", but "at the walk"...) However, we're old knackers, and so we shouted a bit, got exhausted and injured, stabbed a few straw dummies with 'maximum effort', and went out for a quiet pint and pipe by the open fire at the local. I think I've used up this decade's worth of shouting, and my voice is only just recovering (I'm feeling a pony - a little horse, ha ha ha!). The drill is very monty-python, I'll explain it some time if I can stop laughing.

Last couple of days have been out on the range, hearding lead. I hope we're not attacked, most of us couldn't hit a target if our lives depended on it. Errr...

Driver training yesterday morning could have been fun, but my 'instructer' managed to make even me worried he was so nervous. So who told him in advance about my driving? Recovering a stalled car on a frozen tank track up a 45 degree incline is not the easiest of manouvres, but he was the one that told me to stop, and I feel that throwing himself screaming from a vehicle sliding backwards at increasing speed is not professional teaching behaviour.

Our new cars are much better than the last ones - 'Wolf' Land Rovers, 2.5 tdi (vroom vroom), power steering, working heating, comfy chairs, etc. Drivers provide their own pointy cushions.

I've got Anthrax! It's great! The upper arm came up in a big red splotchy thing, some couldn't move their arms, lots of nausea, flu-like symptoms (oh no, we've all got malaria) and general yucky-feelingness. Other side effects are an overwhelming desire to wear green, change in sleeping habits such that we get up before dawn (NOT civilised behaviour), continous verbal drivel, and for those of you who remember Bullshot Drummond, acute patriotism and compulsive saluting. And this is just the first jab; we have two more to go!

We've had the local press in to meet us, so keep an eye open for things to do with 'NBC' and 'TA' (although we're regular now, apparently). At first we weren't allowed to tell them what we did (a bit late for that - try looking up "Royal Yeomanry" on the web) which made things rather difficult as we have big trucks marked "Decontamination Only". So they've changed that to we're not allowed to say how we do it. Use you're imagination, you're probably right. And the web of course, there're some great photos.

Let me know how the anti-war demos go, but obviously it would be nice if you could wait until *after* we get a tan.

My job in troop stores involves not only access (hopefully) to lots of shiny kit, but also playing with the biggest setup of flashing-light radio gadgetry in my car than the rest of the unit. However I think it's also going to involve carrying bergens full of drinking water up and down a decontamination site, wearing three layers of clothing and a perve (short for 'impervious', honest) plastic suit in 30 deg+. And a decon site is a large bullet-magnet, and we're not as far away from the front line as I would have liked (ie, less than two astronomical units - that's about 10^12 lengths of string for the non- astrofizzycysts amongst you). I should come back even thinner, grayer and balder... And great abs, as we're carting around 10kg body armour, 4kg perdy, about another 6kg+ webbing, helmet, water/warm clothes, stomach fat and, in my case, a full head of wavy hair. I wear an armoured toupe.

A pair of jump leads and a pair of spectacles walk into a bar. The specs sit down and the jump leads ask the barman for a beer. The barman says, "Sorry mate, but I can't serve you - you look like you're going to start something and your friend there is off his face". This is the funniest thing I've heard all week, which says something about the standard of jokes.

We've got a proper British Forces Post Office address, mine is as follows:

24883553 Tpr Hill Y Sqn Joint NBC Regiment OP TELIC BFPO 645

If you're sending 'blueys' (blue aerogramme letters from the PO) you can write 'OP TELIC, HM Forces' in the stamp area instead of a stamp and it's free.

Please send money, escape maps on silk handkerchiefs, chocolate, short-lived consumables like bacon, false passports, pictures of green countryside, illegal substances (er, not), books, free samples, junk, old copies of newsweek, beer, music, postcards, jelly babies, decent jokes, and any introductionary stuff by Feynman (esp on his quantum gravitation).

Alternatively, for those of you who have forgotten how to write, there's an email version (they print the blueys at site) at http://www.superletter.com/bfpo/emailaccount.cfm from the bfpo site at http://www.bfpo.org.uk

NB my email address has changed (use this one) for this deployment as it's currently spamless. I shall try and find some suitable alias for it. If you can think of any let me know, I'm all drained and depressed because I'm hung over after only 5 pints.

We've got a day off in Salisbury today, beautiful sunshine and lots of ordinary people doing their ordinary things. It's another world, it really is. So I'm going to find a nice coffee shop (/pub) and watch the world go by. Hopefully we're going to get a week's leave starting this Wed, just before going to the Gulf (it's official, that's where we're going. In case you didn't already know...), when I will pop back to Leighton Buzzard and scrounge free beer.

Lots of love to you all,

Martin, The Hard Core Pawn

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OpTelic