We had a few days leave, and were then called back early to deploy. It gets no easier saying goodbye the second time

Hi folks,

Well ho hum here we are back again working for Liz with the Big Green Company. We were called back early to, er, wait for our flights out to our Big Tanning Beach. We've been told we are 'mission critical', which is probably fair although I think that some of the papers have been much nastier about it. But apparently it means we'll get to go soon(ish Army Time); it'll be over before Christmas.

All our plans to save money have gone to poo (polite equivalent of a Term, Army) as we're now in central London where a pint is the price of a meal (eg fried cod and chips to go please - no sauce thanks, just vinegar). An evening meal involves paying by plastic (as that's not really money). And if I go wandering down King's Road I always seem to come back with a small mortgage's worth of useless but shiny bits and pieces. Anyway, it keeps me off the streets. Er...

It doesn't help that it appears the Really Large Corps have run out of everything except dehydrated drinking water 'in theatre', so we're buying what we can here. All the local shops are now out of wet wipes, antiseptic soaps, toilet roll, hemmaroid cream, tanning wipes, denture washes, hair gel for our armoured toupes, etc. We're resorting to camping shops for gear like boots, hats, camel packs, clothes, etc; handy because it appears that camouflage fabrics are 'In'. I can't find any Eagle Eyes(TM) or Gripping Hands(TM) and apparently they're really important. I think you should write to your MP and demand that he increases your taxes to fund our Beach Trip.

We're installed (without giving too much away) in a condemned Officers Mess not far from some nice parks near the Thames. We're not quite sure whether the mess is condemned or they used to put condemned officers into them [you *must* have been expecting that] - either way it's pretty ropy, and we have to be careful about running up and down the stairs too hard. Which is not difficult; our average age is ne-ne-ne-ne-ninety five.

We're back on a training program of sorts; yesterday was NBC (Nukes, Bugs and Chems), somewhat restricted because the Powers That Don't Let Be (ahem) think that having a bunch of people running around central London in respirators (gas masks) and plastic suits might frighten the natives. All part of being the new sensitive army.

Apparently the local parks are really good for running around, esp Battersea (oops, did I give something away?) offering excellent views (both scenery and totty), generous footspace and air as fresh as you can get it here. For my part, I can recommend two good pubs, with one of the two good views, although once more I am continuously disappointed by the closing times these Primitive Englishmen insist on. Oh for a pint of heavy at The Medina...

Had our second Anthrax jab yesterday. It went in the opposite arm to the last one - unfortunately this is the saluting arm. Greeting officers now involves bending as far over to the right as possible and, with the elbow still tucked into the hip, raising the hand smartly to the right eyebrow, fingers stiff and parallel, etc, etc and saying 'Ouch Sir'. I think we can start a new tradition with this but the Sergeant Major disagrees a little.

Today is a half day (well, we're working a half day, as opposed to changing some fundamental laws of space and time) so I've been to the Science Museum to get my rockets-and-spacecraft fix. Good stuff, there are so many shiny gadgets and buttons to press and things that light up. I've come away all happy but with that dazed expression you get from looking at lots of exhibits, or sitting through a standard regular army lecture, or talking to me for more than a few minutes. They've even got a massive steam engine running at a fair rate and it's quite impressive. Apparently it's not a good idea to put your hands in it. Or spill hot coffee on your lap. Or eat bags of nails.

In the evenings we're generally let loose, so if anyone's in London over the next few days please do let me know, it would be nice to go out and talk to people. I particularly want to meet anyone with a house in Deepest Darkest Africa (or similar) where I can hide for a couple of decades.

Rumours from our 'forward elements' indicate that Sad Dame Hussey has opened the war with his 45th Camel Spider brigade, supported by elements of his crack Wierd Creatures. Battle-hardened soljers have been spotted withdrawing (that's an army term for running away) from crocodile-sized lizards at Ablutions, a place near base camp. I've been selling, in my Milo Mendabender role, Lizard Protection Cream. It's basically garlic, honey and a little mustard; if the lizards are full by the time I visit, I'll be fine.

Anyway, this was supposed to be a quick email to say that we're on a very optimistic 8 hours notice-to-move, and given the lack of logistic support out there, I might go very very quiet (thank goodness!) all of a sudden. Post would still be appreciated though!

So during the meanwhilst, I'm off to have my Last-Pints-Before-Going-Islamic (for the sixteenth time),