1st Battalion the Scots Guards Company Colours in the Officers Mess
Last night I discovered the wireless internet from TMobile on my laptop from work wasn't working in the flat. It also didn't work anywhere else on the barracks which was causing a huge problem. I had a fairly sleepless night worrying about it (and feeling the effects of 3 Lectric Lemonades), and in the morning I pretty much had to beg the photographer from PA to let me use his laptop - which had great signal on Vodafone internet - just to send everything back by email. He wasn't really too happy about that because he said he'd get into trouble at work if he's on the net too long, but I said if there's a problem I'd speak to them (as if that'd make a difference)!
So first things first.
..breakfast! Fiona, our MOD guide was up first and at breakfast for about 0815. I was up just after her and got over around 0835, ordered my cooked breakfast (which I wouldn't normally have anywhere but it was FANTASTIC - sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs and French toast), and had cereal and a yoghurt while I was waiting (there's no opportunity to snack during the day). Around 0900 the PA photographer David came over and said Sam - the reporter - hadn't even stirred yet! He'd had 3.5 Lectric Lemonades and was in rather a bad way when we got back to the flat. I was a tad embarrassed I'd held up better than him because I'd had a few glasses of wine with dinner. So we all had breakfast and went back to the flat, by which time Sam was up although he'd missed breakfast because we were on such a tight schedule. We were met by Sgt Turner who led us about 40 metres across the courtyard to Right Flank's offices.
Colours and Chanters
We met Major Christopher Bell who was extremely helpful, and very informative. He showed us photos and video footage of his time in Afghanistan, up near Musa' Qaleh, where he and his men lived out in the desert for five months - what Major Bell called real soldiering! They only spent around 12 days in their Camp Bastion base because they had so much to do. We met some of his guys who were great too - they told us plenty of stories and I had more than enough audio to send back - I could easily have done a one hour special on it! One of the guys from Glasgow was involved in two mine strikes, but wasn't injured, a couple got married a week after they got back from their tour - they'd left the organising to the bride's mum after the bride picked out her dress during her two week R&R! I got to ride inside a Warrior Armoured vehicle, which was.
A Warrior Armoured Vehcile - I recorded the first part of a package inside it - sounded very odd!
..weird! I recorded the first part of a 'wrap' inside it (a wrap is a radio package - the newsreader introduces me, and then I speak, a clip of a soldier, I speak, a soldier, etc), which was nuts because I sounded really loud shouting over the roar of the engine! I did the rest of it outside.
What I couldn't get over was the weight of the helmet! I can't believe I'll have to wear that plus a bullet-proof vest in Afghanistan in 45c heat!
We headed over to meet Captain Bridgehouse for a chat about what support soldiers get when they come back from deployment. They get chats out in Cyprus on their day R&R before they get home about how they shouldn't expect life to be exactly as it was when they left - their wives have been used to running the house and playing Daddy as well as Mum while the guys are away, so they should be considerate about how much their wives do, etc.
It was very interesting and shows how well the Army look after their soldiers, for as long as necessary after deployment - if a soldier is feeling down they can have a chat with someone whether it's 12 weeks after they get back (usual time for problems to come to the surface) or 12 years later.
Some of the very willing and helpful guys from Right Flank who told me all about their time in Afghanistan.The blue and burgundy eye on the tank is an unofficial logo.
Then it was time for lunch - but I didn't really get any! I had to send stuff back to the office, and had an absolute nightmare! We went over to the Officers Mess and I set up out in the garden to get some peace and quiet so I could work, but the smokers quickly piled out, so I moved in to the lounge, but the battery on my laptop - which had been charging for around 18 hours - ran flat after 15 minutes. I had to run back to the flat (about 500 metres away) peg it back again and try to get on. I phoned my editor while I was on my way to say I doubted they'd get my wrap for one.
Needless to say I was totally stressing out - Sam, whose laptop I'd hoped to use had wandered off, and I was trying to edit interviews as well as write my script. I stared recording my voice around ten to two, but got so flustered I kept making mistakes. I resigned myself to the fact it wasn't going to get there for our 1 o'clock news (1 hour time difference) and braced myself for an angry phone call...while I waited I picked at the lunch someone had brought out for me - roast lamb, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and sausages wrapped in bacon - yum!
Inside the Warrior - VERY CRAMPED!
Thankfully my boss realised there was nothing I could do, and also that I couldn't wander all over the barracks trying to find somewhere I might get signal. According to the T-Mobile HotSpot seeker there was somewhere a couple of miles away in town - a hotel - where the wireless would work, but that really wasn't suitable!! She said just keep on David's good side and hope he lets you use his laptop!!
After lunch, we went back to the flat and had an afternoon working! I got the wrap all topped and tailed and emailed it back - they ended up using it in the five o'clock news which was fine because it meant I didn't have to put another one together! Yaay! Once we'd all got through our work, we sat out on the steps and chatted for a while.
We met Colonel Willie Swinton (actress Tilda's brother) - he's the Commanding Officer for the 1st Battalion the Scots Guards and was just back from Iraq. He's such an enthusiastic guy, and was very pleased we'd been able to come out to the base. It's nice to know what you do is appreciated and that you're welcome - so often people think journalists are scum of the earth and just nosy interfering individuals! But we're not - well, not me anyway!
Some very excited children about to welcome Daddy home from Iraq.
Next up was the most important part of the trip - the homecoming of HQ company, who'd been in Basrah, Iraq for the last six months. Needless to say there were lots of very excited children waiting for Daddy to come home.
Surprisingly, a lot of the families are English - it's not just Scots who can join the Scots Guards. Many of them join out of family tradition, which is nice, but it means there's a real mix of accents, including a couple of Fijians! We waited for about half an hour and suddenly two huge coaches pulled in and there was a lot of flag waving, cheering and tears. There were hugs, kisses and cuddles a-plenty. It was so nice to see the kids jumping into their Dads arms. I did feel a bit bad sticking my microphone in their faces, but no-one turned me down when I asked to speak to them. I found the soldiers were all pretty happy to tell their stories, which was god, and they went into lots of detail!!
We had dinner in the flat - fish, chips, mushy peas and gravy, which was great. Fiona got it from the Cook House for us (as well as a bottle of wine from the homecoming) and we ate in the kitchen of the flat while we chatted before we got back to work! I did another wrap (about 1m30 long - which doesn't sound much, but it was made up of cheering, my voice in five parts, and lots of clips of soldiers and their families taking to me, which all together meant emailing 15 different bits of audio as well as the script back), and three clips and scripts (what we call cuts and cues) and a few lines about what was happening the next day - the parade.
Families reunited after 6 months apart
We were all up pretty late - I don't like using laptops because I find them quite fiddly, so it took me a bit longer to edit audio than it usually would but I got there in the end! I also dozed off sitting on my bed chopping stuff up - the heat of the laptop on my knee eventually woke me up! And because the three of us were using one laptop to send all our stuff back we had to wait our turn, and I was last in the line since David and Sam both work for the Press Association (PA).
So around midnight I phoned Mark to have a chat, did some more work, sent me stuff back and hit the hay around three am. I set the alarm for 0600 and must have been asleep within minutes!
PS: Sorry I write so much, it’s the journo in me!