There are few types of relief so deeply felt as that which courses through the soul on hearing the voice of a friend, recently returned from War Zone, sitting safely at his desk in dull but safe London.
It’s a huge relief to have a phone call in which there aren’t any peculiar noises in the background; when one’s not hearing tales of an army that’s spending cold War Zone winter nights in its summer sleeping bags, or that the lack of helicopters has delayed the mail, so morale has plummeted. There’s relief, highly melodramatic, that there’s a call at all.
Guards Man is finally back at Very Smart Regiment’s barracks after his tour in War Zone, moaning about the paperwork that built up whilst he was away, and decrying ceremonies at the Palace as ‘boring’.
And that’s where I’d far rather have him, not least because now we’re finally in the same country, we can go for dinner as we’ve been planning to do for what seems like endless months.
But since scheduling supper, I’ve found that my overwhelming sense of relief, like so much in life, comes with a flip side. In this case, it’s pretty huge feelings of apprehension.
My friendship with Guards Man is based mostly on the first time we met, very drunk on huge jugs of G&T (God bless the way the Army parties), and the letters sent back and forth whilst he’s been on tour. And suddenly he’s back, and at the other end of the phone, and cropping up in my diary.
And it’s not that I think we’ve nothing in common, or that we’ll have nothing to talk about (I can talk quite enough for two when the going gets quiet). It’s more the fact that he is just back from a tour of duty.
I know it’s his job, that he was trained and (mostly) equipped to do it and that, for the most part, he had a great time. But, ultimately, he’s just come back from war. He’s been part of major offensives in fairly horrific environments. I imagine he’s seen, heard and possibly even done some things that would be enough to incite a week or two of fairly horrific nightmares in your average bear.
And yes, he seems fine, and chirpy; to have enjoyed his time away; to be glad to be back. But I don’t know, under that gentle Scotch lilt, whether he’s ok, or whether, as you hear there so often are, demons lurking just beneath the surface.
They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm...