Thursday 22 December 2011

Christmas crackers: #3

I like to think that, last year, you did pretty well out of me at Christmas. In this blog’s first ever guest-posts, I gave you the gift of Chris Ward and Toby Jones: two of my bestest mates who also happen to be writers of an exceptionally talented, incredibly funny, dammit-I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that nature.

Despite them having likened their invitation to post at Alright Tit as akin to me lending my Porsche keys to the town drunks, I was (as, I hope, were you) really chuffed with the outcome of The WardJonze’s blogging. And so, given both last year’s guest-post success and my fondness for a tradition, I’ve invited another brilliant blogger to hop on board The ’Tit and give us a few Christmas-themed words.

This year’s guest-poster, then, is Alex Ford: a soldier, crazy-successful blogger and genuinely decent bloke (well, apart from the Forest-supporting stuff) who’s perhaps better known to a lot of you as RAF Airman. Alex has been blogging and tweeting about service life – both from home and from Afghanistan – since 2009, doing a helluva lot to educate ignorant civvies like myself about the realities of being in the Armed Forces, both from a military and a family perspective. He’s also the only person I’ve ever guest-posted for (and probably will ever guest-post for) and, since doing so, I’ve been looking for the perfect excuse to get him to blog here too. And, good old Christmas – it looks like we’ve found it.

You’ll have me back next week to fill you in on Christmas from the Lynch perspective (in the meantime, think tying bows in folded-up Quality Street wrappers, unhealthy amounts of cheese, looped viewings of Star Wars, and ‘Justin Bieber’ scribbled on a post-it note stuck to my forehead) but, for today, here’s Christmas from the perspective of somebody else who’s coming to the end of an, erm, shall we say ‘interesting’ twelve months.

Alex’s is a story that’s of particular interest to me, given that another friend of mine was deployed during the same time as him this year. (And both were poor buggers on the receiving end of my ridiculously childish rescue-packages. Because every soldier stranded miles from home craves a box filled with Haribo and Sherbet Dip-Dabs, right?) As merely an acquainted bystander, however, I only had to experience a tiny fraction of the distance and the helplessness that comes when someone you care about is thousands of miles away, so I can’t even begin to imagine what that six-month stretch was like for their families and their best mates and, chief of all, their quite marvellous other halves. But sheesh – try adding Christmas to the mix, and… well, I’ll leave that for Alex to explain, but suffice to say it doesn’t half have you thanking your lucky stars that you’ll be able to chuck Ferrero Rocher wrappers into your husband’s open mouth when he falls asleep in front of the Queen’s speech.

So all that’s left for me to do now, then – after asking, of course, that you make Alex feel welcome in the comments section – is to pass on the very best of the season from me and mine, and wish you a Christmas and new year filled with all the loveliness that you wonderful people so deserve.

Over to Sgt Ford… *salutes*

Merry Christmas, war is… oh.

I’m a little daunted by the honour of being a Christmas guest-poster on this blog. Lisa is one of the reasons I started blogging, and is a bit of a blogging hero of mine. I mean, come on – her stuff is just bloody ace, isn’t it? So I’m slightly unsure of what to say... other than, for me, it’s been a hell of a year.

I spent six months of 2011 out in Afghanistan, deployed there over the summer to do a reconstruction job, helping the Afghan locals rebuild their country, and working on low-level projects like building wells, resurfacing roads and helping to build a school. It was a fairly tough six months – the heat, the fitness, the Taliban trying to blow us up – but that was nothing compared to what my girlfriend and family had to go through back here.

You see, while it was tough for me, I do think that war deployments are far worse on those left behind. At least I knew what was going on. I knew what dangers (or, at times, lack of them!) I faced. Those back here, however, are stuck with the images of war that they see on the TV and in the media. This is almost entirely bad; always talking about deaths and injuries, and never really spending time on the positives. When it comes to war, the news media don’t really like ‘good news’ stories. They’re not dramatic enough. I suppose you just can’t be all punchy about a lead headline with a smile on your face.

So I had it easy. And in a way I still do. At least my deployment out there was over and done with during the summer. Okay, that’s bad because it was fluffing hot – it got to 59 degrees celsius on the roof of one of the check points one day… nice if you’re on the beach with a cocktail, but less so if you’re having to wear a helmet, body armour and bomb-pants (and if you don’t know what they are, don’t ask!). And, yeah, it was also bad because the summer is the so-called ‘fighting season’ (the Taliban tend to bugger off back to their homes in the winter, with only the hardcore fighters sticking around, while the less ideological fighters tend to drift off home for a mince pie and some Christmas pud to do some farming). But in a way, mine was an easy deployment simply because it was over the summer. Yeah, I missed all the BBQs back home and driving along with shades on and the windows down listening to Counting Crows, but that’s nothing compared to being away at this time of year.

Being away at Christmas sucks. Fact. No ups, no downs, no ins, no outs. It just plain sucks. It’s day in, day out for six and a bit months… and at the exact time when everyone else is thinking about being together. It’s more than just the thought of being away for Christmas day that hurts. It’s something that you never forget. And, quite often, during those moments when you and your other half aren’t exactly seeing eye to eye, it becomes the thing that you are never allowed to forget. (‘…AND you weren’t here at Christmas.’)

During the summer I got shot at more times than I wanted to. I had to help out with the medical treatment of an Afghan soldier who’d been shot through his chest. I had to assist a young lad who had stepped on an IED (but thankfully DIDN’T lose his leg). But all of that is easy to put in a box and store away. Being away from my girlfriend and my kids and my family at this time of year is something I consider much, much worse.

You can cope with ‘things’; you can cope with ‘events’ – they fill the days. But time and separation? They’re much harder to cope with. And so, difficult as it was, I’m really glad that I did my tour when I did, so that I’m now able to enjoy all that a family Christmas brings. Eating too many Pringles, having a bit too much Stilton, the tree lights failing and the replacements turning out to be external bulbs that are brighter than I’d like, a two-year-old inspecting the presents under the tree daily, a brand new puppy... because that is the sort of chaos you want to deal with, and are happy to deal with, and look forward to dealing with. And, believe me, it’s far, far nicer than dealing with the Taliban, or dealing with distance, or dealing with separation from your family…

I hope you all have a merry Christmas, and a happy and prosperous (God knows we need it) new year.

Read Alex’s blog by clicking here


Anonymous said...

You are too kind, Lisa.

Oh and never, ever underestimate the value of a Sherbet Dip-Dab...

A very Merry Christmas to you self and all your readers too!


Nonamoose said...

Merry Christmas Alex to you and your nearest and dearest. I am glad you are able to spend it at home this year too but I'm sure your thoughts will not be that far away from the ones who are still out there; I know mine are on account of having a father and brother who were also in the RAF.

Thank you also to you and everyone else who has fought/is still out there for your service to this country too. God bless you all and may you all be home safe soon.

To Lise and her family and the Ward/Joneses too - Merry Christmas to all of you. May the Claus fellow be good to all of you.

Lots of love xx

gemmak said...

You and all the forces have my complete admiration for doimg what you do in the conditions you do it. Have a fabulous Christmas with those you have earned it a thousand times over in my eyes :) x

the_jok said...

Great post. Thanks so much for reminding us that we may all have issues but they cannot compare to being a target for our country. (Not going into the rights and wrongs of that debate), just grateful that there are those who do stand up and get counted when needed.

Unknown said...

Merry Christmas Lisa, hope you have THE BEST Christmas with your family.
Merry Christmas also to Sgt. Ford! Loved this post, makes you (or made me anyway), stop being a selfish git & think about what's really important at this time of year; being with family & friends. At least I'll be with mine this Christmas but we'll definitely be raising a glass (or seven) to our troops.
So, sod my bloody faulty Christmas tree lights - & they are faulty too! - where do I send the Dip-Dabs??
Merry Christmas & very best wishes for 2012!!
Love Chez. xx

Wardotron said...

Great post! And very true.

All the best people are Forest supports. FACT.

Polly Dolly said...

It is hard for all involved. The separation is painful and cruel. I have been in this situation with my hubby and may do again. My daughter has recently joined up and thinks she will be there next Xmas. I really feel for the family's separated this time of year , it is crap!!!

Glad you are home with your family, have a good Xmas x

The Impatient one said...

And again he does it! Takes a subject most of us know stuff-all about, and describes it in a way that makes it understandable to those of us who've never experienced separation in that way.
I'm glad you're home safe, and I wish you, G/F, Lily and Mahsa have a great Christmas.
Lis, thanks for having him over, he's a star - but you know that!

findit13 said...

Great post Sgt Ford, and Thank You For Your Service.