Last week, and not for the first time, I found myself wishing my friends weren’t quite the interesting, intrepid types that they are.
Normally, I adore the fact that my friends, by and large, fall decisively into the ‘stimulating’ category. Life is a far better place to be if you can guarantee that dinner parties will consist of loud and passionate discussion about heavens knows what; or that emails are inclined to begin “today, I have a dating disaster story that makes your mishaps look like a walk in the park”.
But there are times when you wish your friends weren’t quite so go get ‘em.
Like most other people I know, I’ve spent some time over the past couple of weeks keeping half an eye on the news coming out of an increasingly unstable North Africa.
Having dinner at, fittingly, Souk last week with PolitiGal, we considered that our holiday in Tunisia last autumn had been rather timely, and that it was unlikely we’d get to head back there again any time soon (incidentally, the North African fare found in Covent Garden was far better than anything we managed to find whilst in the country itself. Go figure).
Of course, it wasn’t long before the unrest there seemed to spread into Egypt, a bit further down the coast. And, as is apparently the case, where there’s a horribly dangerous situation in any part of the world, there you’ll find Foreign Correspondent.
The clue, obviously, is in his title. He’s paid to be flung out to the corners of the globe and report back on what he finds so that the first we hear of these things isn’t when we’re trying to board a camel train, taking care not to have our sunburnt bits nibbled, and seeing a protesting throng appear over the horizon. From stories he’s mentioned, FC’s already been in some pretty sticky situations during his career – and, when recounted over drinks in a smart London bar, or over a sandwich in the sun, the anecdotes might raise an eyebrow, but they raise more giggles.
But when he crops up, reporting from countries that are undergoing massive and violent political change, one starts to get a bit antsy. And then, when it appears that all the country’s comms networks are down and there’s no way of knowing whether he’s holed up in a swanky hotel charming the staff into sending up a rare steak, or whether he’s been trampled underfoot by the masses, the nerves definitely make themselves felt. [Communications are back and he does, thankfully, appear to be as safe and well as people tend to be in these situations.]
And then, of course, there’s Speckled Lad. Because if there’s someone’s mortal safety to be slightly on edge about, SL appears to feel left out if he’s not involved.
“So, I’ve got my dates for War Zone,” he said the last time I saw him.
“Oh, good,” I’d said, pouring another large glug of red into my glass.
“September,” he said. “Which isn’t ideal as we’ll be away for Christmas, but it’s pretty close now. Should be good.”
I’ve learnt not to bat too much of an eyelid at these situations now. Both Guards Man and Military Gal have done tours and made it back home – as far as I can tell – in one piece. I’m okay about the Lad going: he’ll be trained, and equipped, and bizarrely cheery about the whole situation. I know from experience that the mini M&S Christmas cakes are robust enough to make it to War Zone in one piece, but that the War Zone mice seem to be exceptionally fond of the Christmas pudding.
What does alarm me slightly is that the approach SL will take to the whole endeavour.
“Just… promise me something will you?” I said, not holding out much hope, even as the words left my lips.
“If you lot get yourselves into some sort of sticky situation, please don’t play the hero. Please be the guy who runs away.”
He smiled at me. “’Fraid I can’t promise that, lovely.”
“No, didn’t think you would.”
Another year tuned to the news it is, then.
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