Going to Iraq I panic-packed tinfoil, garlic and a plant sprayer.
‘We all do that, mate,' Marine Stacks said, over high tea in the Basra A-Pod. 'One boxing glove, the TV remote, fiancé’s Tupperware - I’ve bought all kinds of shit out to theatre in the past. Comes from being in the right state of grace before a tour to either of the big two war zones. You’re so hungover from getting mortal the night before you’re practically blind. You need to know that if the worst comes to the worst, you’re going out on the best night possible in dear old blighty. You must have done that on your last day before you flew out here? Whatever you're last doing becomes what your ghost will be doing for all eternity.'
The afternoon before the Combined Services Entertainment tour had flown out to Iraq, I had emailed the Department of Transport.
Further to your request to put my complaint in writing, I think the best way for you to learn is for you to do. So, please come and push the button for the green man at the crossing on the corner opposite the Camden Sainsbury's. You will then wait for an age, being accosted by begging crack whores, their pimps or by out of work actors collecting for Everychild. And maybe you'll think again about how your department has set the timings on this and many other crossings. Thirty-two seconds I stood waiting there today, for example.
‘Christ up a Pole, you wouldn’t want to die off the back of something as small-minded as that,’ Stacks commented. 'Think of your ghost. Most Haunted doing a programme from your house. Coming round with Derek O'Hara, or whatever he's called, setting up their geiger counters. Chill in the air and orbs and then they get an EVP of dead little you wailing: "There's no apostrophe in apples unless you mean something owned by the apple. Who loaded the dishwasher with the mugs on the bottom rack and the forks in the wrong bit of the basket? And how many more times: penguins don't live in the arctic".'
I started to mutter my usual about the joys of Jane Austen being in the small things, but stopped, knowing when I was beaten.