War in our time

I have been affected by two related things recently, which have brought the current wars much closer to home and to me.

At a Governor’s Meeting at the City Lit recently the meeting began with one of the students from our “Autobiographical Writing” course reading from his short story “A Stranger in a Strange Land” which draws on his recent time fighting the Taliban.  I can’t find it on the web to link to it, but it’s published in the collection “Between the Lines” which is an annual anthology of works from across the creative writing courses.  He speaks of surreal, but I suspect only too real, encounters with people in Helmand Province, including with the young son of a warlord killed by British troops.  The story (which is well worth reading if you can find it) finishes with an episode from his re-entry to the banality of day to day London life (hence the title – it’s not Helmand that’s the strange land, it’s coming home afterwards).  Hearing the story – its author in front of us – made it much less theoretical, more immediate.

The other item was a piece on the Today programme on Thursday with quite a long and very powerful interview by Justin Webb of former Sergeant Major John Dale who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder to an extent which seriously messed up his life.  It was a painfully sincere and moving interview – a long piece, over eight minutes, which let the story unfold in an extremely credible way (and was excellent radio).  I had arrived at my destination before the piece finished and I just sat in the car waiting and listening until the end.  Enormous credit to the charities Talking2Minds and the Royal British Legion for their work in helping him.  If you have a few minutes, listen to it here.

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