Al Qumah
26/4/03

Hello again!

Lots of letters at the moment as there's been so much happening but it's all calming down now. Even the evening gunfights have died (ho ho) away to a few desultory shots. Possibly something to do with the survival of the fittest.... Actually I think it's been mostly celebrating, unless they're aiming at people on flying carpets.

Folks are still very happy to see us about, and there's visitors to the front gate to tell us about bombs found and reporting thefts or looting (sporadic). The markets are open and we're getting some fresh food - albeit shipped from Kuwait/Saudi. Including Weetabix! Rather antisocial shift work hours now which is why I haven't phoned for a bit. Your ebluey of 24th arrived yesterday which is good going!

A couple of days ago we went down to Shaiber airport to pick up a bod - a "gucci" trip as they now have a Burger King and a Pizza Hut there - cor, civilisation has arrived! Didn't have time to queue unfortunately, but did get in two car chases - one on the way there, unfortunately didn't manage a tight enough turn as they cut across the central reservation, and our Land Rovers are not fast enough to catch a Nissan! Ho hum. We got the second one though - only to find the car did belong to him, when all his family turned up laughing and pointing. Very embarrassing for him...

Yesterday we took a confiscated car back to it's 'owner', who was so pleased he gave us a goat. Not quite sure what to do with it - kill it (it needs fattening but seems to be wasting away and not too keen on grass...), let it go, give it away or adopt it as a mascot.

Just got Sue's parcel which had broken open - great stuff, more fish. I've received loads of it and seem to be getting through it fast too. My dependency on the issued rations is now down to 1 meal a day, wahey! Only now I smell of sardines.

I seem to be running out of jokes though - we've all settled into a 'routine' - not very regular as the shift patterns change, but a kind of short of sleep, it's too hot, wait around kind of mental stupor. Anyway, only 7 days to go & another 7-14 faffing before being back in the UK, no doubt to faff some more. According to the interpreter, "summer is coming soon and it will get hot at last!" Oh my... it'll be quite funny in the beer garden at the Globe (say) with everyone in shorts and skimpy tops and me in a fleece and woolly hat. I don't know if I can cope with Scotland - I might have to acclimatise in Budapest for a month (I was hoping to go there on holiday with some friends if we got back in time)

Anyway, back to my bed in my Ba'ath (party HQ)

Martin


OpTelic