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Monday, August 01, 2005

Sangar Life

A Sangar is a fortified position and in Northern Ireland these could be quite sophisticated affairs. It seems almost poignant at a time when the government has announced a large scale down of troops in Northern Ireland and the removal of various watchtowers and sangars to comment on sangar life.

It is also where I had got up to in my story, so poignant or not I was going to be posting this anyway.

With a ceasefire in place and not much happening we did very little during my first few months in Northern Ireland. When I say we did very little I mean we did very little of what we had trained for during the previous 3 months. What we did was train a lot, do various irksome minor duties a lot, and stag on - a lot.

Let me take you back to a night on duty....... (BEWARE SOME OF THIS ISN'T PRETTY)

I've been on guard for about 17 hours now - just the 7 to go. We did 6 hours stagging on and 6 hours on misnamed "rest" - the rest seemed to involve nearly as much work as the work. It is 5 hours into my 6 hour period of stagging on. I have now been standing up for 5 hours without sittin g down. My feet and knees ache. I've been wearing my helmet and body armour for 5 horus - my neck, head and shoulders hurt.

It's just turned 2am and my body is reaching its lowest ebb in the 24 hour cycle that all of us abide by.

It's getting cold and I'm sorely tempted to turn the heater on - Oh yes there are electric heaters in these sangars. But when I first walked in I think I caught a slight odour of semen. Now I get as bored as the next man endlessly staring through a small slit at nothing going on in front of me. I still can't understand how someone can be that bored that they have a wank. Even if I could understand this I can't understand how someone can be so selfish as to ejaculate all over the electric heater. If you've never smelt it then please try to avoid it - superheated sperm doesn't smell nice.

I check my watch and it's only half way through my stag. Someone is walking past my sangar - outside the wire - now I know they aren't a terrorist but it's human activity - I look at the woman and wonder where she is from, what she does, where she is going, is she in love? I make up my own version of her past, her present and her future. This passes another 15 minutes and now I'm ending my time on stag. The closer it gets to the end the slower the time passes.

I'm now listening avidly for the sound of a Land Rover bringing my relief. My joints know that soon I will be sitting down and thankfully the aches seem to disappear.

Eventually a whole 93 seconds late the Land Rover arrives. My handover is brief and to the point - the guy taking over from has been here before and my one piece of advice is "Don't turn on the heater". I retire to the Land Rover and feel the luxury of taking the weight off my feet. If I'm lucky I'll be sat down for 30 minutes now before I have to go and patrol the perimeter fence...........


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