Willy Wonka, the Sheriff, a Mzunga and the self destructive rock star…

Time is a dangerous thing, especially when you have plenty of it to yourself. If you’re anything like me you tend to spend it thinking, and that’s a dangerous pastime, especially when you’re in the process of going through one of the biggest periods of upheaval in your life, as I am.

There’s a number of things going on just now; I’ve moved to a new continent, my family are following in a week or so, I’ve started a new job (which appears to be shaping up to be one of the most challenging of my life) and I’m coming to terms (slowly) with what was perhaps both the easiest and, increasingly as the days go, one of the hardest decisions to come to terms with that I have had to make.

The moving continent thing, though quite a huge undertaking, is something I’ve considered on more than one occasion and,having finally taken the plunge, I’m cracking on with it. In the early nineties I nearly emigrated to Kenya after spending some time there on holiday/safari. They wouldn’t take me at the time as there was a huge drive on employing the populace and that’s as it should be. Then, slightly later in the nineties I had the opportunity to move to Austin, Texas to continue working for Motorola when they summarily dispatched most of the business managers in the Scottish (or was it European?) offices of their empire. Sense prevailed at that time, or at least my partners did. She’s now my wife, and we’re happily married with 3 great children, so it was obviously the right choice. I’ve since considered Canada, New Zealand and Kenya again but they all fell by the wayside for some reason or other, until this year.

I was back in Nakuru, Kenya in Feb of this year and met some great people who I discussed emigration with and the lifestyle of ‘residents’ (as opposed to Nationals) and they advised caution, but I was still very, very interested… Fate took a casting vote on my decision a couple of months later when, quite by chance, I discovered a new post had opened up in my job as the IT Manager in Kenya for 2 years. To say I jumped at the chance would be a gross understatement.

Having had a few weeks here in Nairobi on my own while I wait for my family to arrive I’ve been able to ‘get my feet under the table‘ at work and begin to get to grips with the oddities of life in an African country… ‘Kenyan time’ for instance. It’s a fluid concept to say the least and any deadline, meeting or schedule must be taken with the equivalent of the Dead Sea rather than the usual pinch of salt.

The life of a ‘Mzungu‘ is one of huge contrasts. If, like me, you’re still in the employ of a ‘Western’ nation your salary affords you the opportunity to live in a manner well beyond that on the same salary in the UK or some other European country. A beer costs about £1.60 in a pub and, if you buy for the house, it works out about £0.50 for a half litre bottle. Beef is ridiculously cheap, a decent T-Bone, sirloin or fillet will cost £5 at most. And then there’s the matter of security. The carrying of clubs, happy sticks, batons, or machetes (pangas) in vehicles is common practice for ‘whites’, you live n a guarded compound with security on the perimeter gates and walls as well as patrolling your personal residence. There are no-go areas in town, the night clubs, bars, hotels and restaurants all have security with some even being fenced and gated… It takes some getting used to!

Strange as it may sound, it doesn’t even feel odd! During the day I’ve been out for meals, visited businesses etc and at night I’ve done the same. Despite the awareness that there’s a ‘bad element’ it doesn’t feel oppressive, yet. I’ll reserve judgement until the family arrive.

This is only in the city of course, and a very small minority of those who live there. I’ve travelled much of the length and breadth of Kenya over the years and the only trouble I’ve had so far was once, in Nairobi, when I was stupid and flaunted my ‘Western wealth’ which resulted in a mugging… the rest of the time I’ve felt comfortable enough as I would travelling anywhere in Europe.

I can’t wait until the family arrive next week. I want to show them the wonders of this country and help them understand my fascination with it.

The job? Well that’s a different story. At least for now. It’s like being an extra in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! I can see all these opportunities to make the world a wonderful place (as far as my IT world goes anyway), but I’m not able to touch. It’s like a frontier town in the Wild West, things have run rampant since the first settlers set up camp and there’s a desperate need for a Sheriff to bring order to the place before it implodes. The problem is, I’m going to have to play the sheriff and lock a few of the troublemakers before I can enjoy life and make the place a happy one for all and sundry. It’s more than frustrating, it’s annoying, but prudence and not a little experience have made me aware that it’s ‘slowly, slowly, catchy monkey’ :o)

And then there’s the other thing…

Over the last 3 years I’ve had the privilege of being able to make more than one of my life’s ambitions come true. They were quite simple really, but they meant a lot to me and, nearing 40 I had resigned myself to the fact that the opportunity had passed me by… Then I met Pete Harwood and all that changed. In a short time we managed to write more than an album’s worth of what is, in my not so humble opinion, some damned fine rock songs, we played to appreciative audiences in England, Scotland and Wales, we had a #2 single, received an 8/10 review in Rock Hard (the biggest selling metal/rock magazine in Europe), released an EP and a live album. People recognised the name of the band across the country, we were played in pubs in London and elsewhere, on the radio in the UK, Europe and America, and appeared on (albeit local) prime time TV. And then, being the selfish git I have the habit of being, I threw it all away.

I don’t regret my decision, not at all, the opportunity to live and work in Kenya is one I could never have considered turning down, but now, this week in particular, I’m turning into the green eyed monster I had hoped I wouldn’t. You see, I mentioned above that we’d written enough material for an album. We certainly did! We even started recording it but, in a very sensible move, we (and I mean we) decided it would be redundant to release an album of music with a band’s ‘previous singer’ when the band was still very much alive and kicking with a new singer.

And then there’s this coming weekend… In order to get your name out there as a band/artist, there are a couple of avenues open to you; buy the publicity, which usually involves a label or some such binding contract, gig forever across the country, impractical with ‘real’ world jobs and other commitments or, and this is the one, play at decent festivals where you’ll be exposed to a horde of possible new fans. On Friday, at 14:35, Morpheus Rising will do the latter. Appearing on the Classic Rock Society stage at the Cambridge Rock Festival, the lads will fulfil the other of the two ambitions I have outstanding. They’ll play in front of a sizeable audience of rock fans who are there for one reason, to enjoy rock music. And later this year, or early next year, they’ll release the album…

I thought this would be easy. With the chaos of a new life, a new job, a new continent and all that goes with them I thought that what would be going on over last week and the coming weekend would pass me by. Alas, it hasn’t, and I’m torn between conflicting emotions that I find hard to resolve. I’m proud, really proud, that I was involved in everything that led up to this period with the band, the writing, the singing, the recording, the PR, the website and the gigging… and then I’m insanely jealous. In another life I would have been getting up on that stage on Friday and facing (what I hope for them will be) the largest crowd of my performing life.

If you make it to the Haggis Farm Polo Club this weekend I hope you’ll head over to Stage 2 for half past 2 and support what I still believe is one of the most promising rock bands currently playing the ‘circuit’ and if, like me, you won’t be able to for whatever reason then take a pause at that time and, if at all possible, raise a glass and wish them all the best on this, the beginning of something new.

Pete, Gibbo, Andy, Daymo and Si, I wish you all the best and I hope you knock their bloody socks off. I’ll be thinking of you and I hope, somewhere along the way, you’ll tip me a proverbial nod. I’m proud of you guys, of everything we achieved and I wish you all the best this weekend and for the future.


Bargain Basement Bureaucracy

There’s much in the news these days about the Military Covenant. Spoutings about the government pushing it through to make it law, promises of change, consideration to family members… And it’s been so for months now, if not years.

And it’s all bollocks.

Pardon my French, but this is really beginning to piss me off!

As mentioned in my previous post; I’m off to pastures new. There’s a lot more involved in the realisation of that statement than just upping sticks and moving house. Of primary concern to me at the moment is the welfare of my eldest child. Yes, in the eyes of the law she’s an adult, but to me she’s my little girl.

My wife and I have always made it a point to ensure that our children are independent, self sufficient and educated. More fool us!

My eldest has just completed a college course and is now looking for employment and, due to my impending departure, accommodation. And here’s where the trouble begins…

I’m not wealthy. I’m comfortable, yes. But I’m not wealthy. As a result I’m not able to help much with my daughter’s search for a new place to live; at least not in a financial sense. As a result we’re looking at council accommodation to help her get started on her own. Or I should say we were looking.

Despite the fact that I’m leaving in a fortnight and the rest of the family will be following a few weeks after that which will leave my daughter ‘of no fixed abode‘, she will not be considered a priority for housing as she’s (a) not pregnant, (b) not a drug addict and (c) not a criminal, oh, and she’s over 18! Add to that the fact that, despite having grown up in York and having completed all her secondary education (including college) here, she apparently has insufficient ties to the area to warrant her being considered a priority. This taking into consideration that she has never lived anywhere else as long and, were she to stay with us (which she’s unable to do, but that’s another story) probably never would again.

In short my daughter is being penalised for the lifestyle my profession has forced upon my family. And yes, I do say ‘forced’, as were we to live separately then many of the benefits of this life are removed.

This is unacceptable, especially as she is not officially allowed to come with us due to her being over 18 and not in tertiary education.  So. On the one hand the government are saying “tough, you’re big enough and ugly enough to go it alone” while on the other they’re saying “sorry, but you you’re not a priority for us to house even though we’ve (ostensibly) made you homeless ourselves”.

It’s shit, and it’s another reason I was so close to taking the ‘six clicks to freedom’ earlier this year.

I just hope that, when they finally get the balls to let the Military Covenant become law they do, in fact, let some high paid, pro-military, barristers get their hands on it first and therefore tie down all the bureaucratic aresholes to actually putting their money where their mouths are.

Of course, there’s another side to this. I should have had the balls to stick to my guns in February and not buckled at the offer of two years in the Sun. At least then my daughter wouldn’t be facing joining the ranks of Britain’s homeless at my hand…

Pastures New…

Those of you who are fans of, or follow, the band I sing with, Morpheus Rising, will have seen the Press Release announcing my departure as vocalist for the band. This decision was not taken lightly and it was perhaps one of the hardest, and yet easiest, decisions I’ve ever had to make.

Over the last 3 years I have been fortunate, not only to have played with some of the most consummate musicians I have ever known, but I have also been honoured to be able to call those same people, and the extended circle we’ve created/joined, my friends. Pete, Gibbo, Daymo and Andy have become good friends not only to myself but to my family as well. It is for this reason that the decision was hard. The reason it was easy was that the rest of it involved a decision that directly affected my family.

I’m not leaving all together. I have worked on other aspects of the band’s world over the last few years including its online presence in all its forms and will continue to do so. I simply cannot commit to the role of vocalist any more.

To many people this decision may need explaining and this is my attempt at that explanation.

When Pete and I first got together to add lyrics to his music I told him

I’ll quite happily write and record with you, but I won’t be able to perform it live…

Pete, Daymo and myself on stage, giving it LARGE!

I said this due to my ‘real’ job. I’m a serving soldier and, as such, am liable to changes in my personal circumstances at a moment’s notice. Of course, it didn’t last long! The songs we created excited me and rekindled a passion for music which has been one of the greatest gifts this whole experience has provided me. Before meeting Pete I hadn’t performed, or worked, with anyone else for almost 13 years and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

As all of you will be only too aware these are trying times for everyone and, unlike previous economic hard times in this country, it is actually having an impact on the Armed Forces as well. So much so that, until a very short time ago I was considering a career change. All that changed when I returned to work a fortnight ago and was offered a chance which can only be described as a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for both myself and my family.

I have been offered a job in Kenya for the next few years which will afford both my wife and children opportunities and experiences which I would never forgive myself were I to turn it down, it is also a new and challenging role for myself which can only enhance my career and future employment prospects.

My only regret in the whole situation is with regards to Morpheus Rising. The band has grown far beyond my expectations far sooner than I thought possible. We have achieved far greater things than I ever hoped and I am sure that Morpheus Rising will continue to grow and do great things.

The band are continuing to record the material for the album and are currently searching for a new vocalist, I look forward to meeting him before I go anywhere and wishing him all the best.*

I hope that you will all continue to support them in all they do, I certainly will.

Pete, Daymo, Gibbo and Andy, thank you for some of the most amazing memories of my adult life. I am proud to call you my friends and look forward to working with you, albeit in a different role, in the future.

All the best,

Morpheus Rising (For a little while longer at least!)

* If you can think of anyone you feel may be suitable to work with the band as the new vocalist then please recommend them to the guys at info@morpheusrising.co.uk

In Defence of the Budget

There’s been a budget?

It all kind of slipped me by yesterday. I suppose that one of the benefits of being in service to the Crown means that I’m somewhat detached from the direct impact caused by slashing of this and raising of that. And, with that service being in Defence, I’d probably go as far as to say that it’s pretty safe to gamble on no drastic cuts and plenty of job security for some time to come… (Unless this blog gets me into the same hot water as Gen McChrystal which I seriously doubt!)

I’m not sure why though? If the truth be told then Defence is probably one of the areas in which Mr. Osborne could have saved billions of Pounds without there being much impact on current service provision.

“But what about the equipment shortages we hear so much about?” I hear you cry. Yes, the news still has seemingly regular stories about the shortcomings of the Defence procurement strategies and the dreadful impact those failings have at the ‘sharp’ end. If you read more carefully however you’ll see that most of these stories relate to shortcomings identified in 2003 when we initially deployed to Kuwait in preparation to invade Iraq. I can also confirm that, at that time, the equipment we were issued was woefully below the standard required for working in such an environment. I know this because I was there. During those early days of the Iraqi occupation we were known by US Armed Forces simply as ‘the borrowers’ and it was a well deserved moniker.

Jump forward to 2010 and the kit we use in Afghanistan, and are issued personally, is second to none. I know this because I’ve been there, and I’m going back.

So, if the use of the Defence budget has been so wisely spent over the last few years, why am I promoting the reduction of that same budget? I’ll tell you why; the actual expenditure now has nothing to do with the equipment currently being brought into service, that’s already been paid for, the money being spent now is for equipment, systems and services we may need in the future.

OK, so why should we cut it if we’ll need it in the future?

The problem lies deep in the system of procurement, project management and planning of these long-term projects, and the contracts which are awarded to develop, support and maintain them.

If, as a market leader and innovator, you had a project which (through the contracted consortium’s own fault) had failed to reach those targets set in simple documents like the ToR or Feasibility Study (assuming they exist, of course) and so you decided to stop charging the supplier as the project had run out of time and  money, therefore accepting a unservicable (mission critical) system, which you’d continue to pay service fees for as it is to be considered an ‘incremental’ release. Would that be considered a financially sound decision? I think not.

An MoD report from 10 years ago stated

There is significant evidence that the ineffective
management of technology is a major cause of
procurement under-performance. Insufficient
investment in technical feasibility studies and
technology demonstrators is occurring in the
early stages of projects

And let’s not forget the fact that this same consortium are the lead on several concurrent contracts all of which have functional overlaps with each other and yet are dealt with as entirely separate entities meaning that the grail of true convergence will remain nothing more than a pipe-dream. And here’s me thinking we were trying to get away from stove-piped service provision?! (Did I mention that they are all also either late, failing and/or over budget?)

What makes matters worse is that we don’t even go with the best solution for our problems. We tend to go with the cheapest option that provides the most British jobs and gets us ‘close’ to what we want.

As the Father of Jeff Goldblum’s character in Independence Day stated:

You don’t actually think they spend $20,000.00 on a hammer, $30,000.00 on a toilet seat do you?

The service provision fees for Defence’s IT systems are exorbitant. Yes, the service that is provided has improved markedly over the last 12-18 months, but that doesn’t excuse the ridiculous clauses in our contracts which mean that we have to pay the service provider for the privilege of moving a terminal from one desk to another, especially when we pay thousands of Pounds in training our own specialist tradesmen to do just that!

Add to this the fact that our Defence procurement regime (even in theses days of ‘smart’ procurement) is so archaic and lethargic that, by the time we eventually have a product which is fit for service, it is so out of date as to be considered ‘legacy’.

And these are just small examples of the inherent failures in Defence project planning and management.

It’s not all bad. The support of Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) due to current operations means that we do get to ‘push’ through upgrades, changes, and sometimes even the introduction of new equipments while avoiding all the usual beaurocracy, but these are small and very often as a result of the shortcoming of an existing project.

The benefit of these UORs is that they are generally using COTS products with little or no proprietary impact and are therefore able to be implemented quickly. Add to that the fact that they are generally the result of someone who is actually carrying out the task, and therefore knowing what is really required (now there’s a novel concept), which leads to them actually being fit for purpose.

As an example I’d like you to consider the following:

During a recent degree course I was tasked with carrying out a feasibility study regarding the introduction of a new CND system to the Defence Fixed Network. I duly carried out my research and offered my solution which was met with great joy by its sponsor, derision by the academics and incredulity by the holders of the purse strings. Why?

My solution had two options. One of these was free and the other incurred nominal costs in the initial phase of design and implementation while remaining free for its continued life in service.

The preferred solution (I was not informed during my degree that this was actually out to tender!), albeit part of a larger project, was actually forecast to cost in the region of £1.5Bn.

You do the maths.

Having said all that, I can certainly see why Mr Osborne made the decisions he did. Can you imagine the public outcry should he have announced, in the same week as the 300th loss of life was confirmed in theatre, that he was cutting spending in Defence?

Far better to cancel the increased tax on cider and raise the minimum earnings limit for the basic tax rate in my opinion.



(It’s three years old, but this RUSI document will make for interesting reading if you’re not already asleep!)

If you write something and, before hitting ‘Publish’, you read it back and wonder if it will get you into trouble, it probably will.

State of the Union.

“The way I see it, if you worked in any ‘normal’ industry, the union wouldn’t have let it happen!”

Those were the words of a friend last night while we discussed my current employment related dilemma… And, for once (and for only a fleeting moment) I understood the benefit of having a Union to support the working man. After spending a lifetime despising images of people complaining of their lot in life and spitting/hurling bricks at those who dared decide their job was more important than their pride (Arthur Scargill and Neil Kinnock, you have left this man scarred for life!) I have found a small spark of sympathy.

I’m a conscientious worker, I keep my nose to the grind stone and do what needs to be done. I’m also one of those who cannot accept mediocrity. If a job’s worth doing then it is not only worth doing well, it’s worth doing to the best of my ability every time. And that’s one of my problems. I’m bloody good at what I do! (I make no apologies for what may seem to some to be blowing my own trumpet. If you read on you’ll see that someone has to!)

That, unfortunately, seems to be the crux of the matter at hand.  In a line of work where conformity, or at least uniformity, are the expected norm (while encouraging each individual to strive for their best) the fact that an individual may naturally progress ahead of the projected curve seems to have passed by all those who dwell within the ‘Gilded Cage’.

I achieved my current position some 7 years ahead of the normal career profile.  Some of this apparent speed is, no doubt, due to my more senior years when compared to my peers.  I was able to bound through some of the lower posts with little more than a backward glance by using what is politely called ‘life experience’ but is actually little more than common sense.  Once I’d reached the point where ability was actually a necessary part of any promotion I had gained the relevant experience and developed an awkward notoriety within my peer group such that I still had no problem making the step up.  To be honest, I have only struggled for one period during my entire employment by Her Majesty. And that was brought on by a combination of personal circumstances, personality clashes, career mismanagement and the downright ignorance of at least one individual responsible for my career. None of which is an excuse, and all of which is no longer relevant as I’ve moved on.

What is relevant is the fact that, despite being so far ahead of my projected career,or perhaps because of that very thing, I now find myself in the position where, should the rules be adhered to (and I might add that these rules are newly written and were not agreed to by myself or any member of my peer group), I cannot progress for at least another 5 years. In fact, I may not be able to progress any further than the next rank in the entire time I have remaining in my career. At best I’ll be spending at least 7 years in one post (having previously expected a realistic period to be two years) before getting back on track and continuing where I left off. At worst I’ll move one rung up the ladder in 2015 and finish my career at that level.

My real concern is how this current situation is affecting both my personal life and my professional one.  Personally, I have become far more likely to lash out for no apparent reason, more willing to blame, and definitely less likely to relax. Professionally it is taking every ounce of willpower I can muster to retain the level of professionalism I have portrayed until now, and it’s even harder to maintain a real level of interest, or even care, about the job in general. When you consider that I am currently one of those responsible for planning the deployment of over 120 soldiers to what is politely referred to as a conflict zone, this is perhaps not the best state of affairs.

I have made several inquiries into the relevance of my fears and, to date, have always been appeased with what amounts to little more than platitudes or simple greasing of the wheels: ‘there’s always an exception to the rule’, ‘rules are made to be bent/broken’, ‘we can build your profile in such a way that…’, what? I don’t want gray! I want black and white! In a world where orders are to be followed, rules are not made to be bent or broken they are written to be adhered to, and in no uncertain terms.

I don’t like to be seen as a whiner, or that most dangerous of asset,the ‘disgruntled employee’, but I fear that is what I am becoming, and I don’t like it. If I could get a firm answer then I would be able to make a firm decision. Stay, or go. That’s what it amounts to. While I love my job, and am proud to be part this institution, I am not prepared to stagnate for almost a decade because someone decided that the career curves needed to change… The only reason they need to change is because someone before them made a similarly sweeping decision, and got it wrong as well!

Another person I spoke to on this matter advised that he called my situation being ‘managed out at both ends’, and went on to elaborate that in civilain law it’s referred to as ‘contructive dismissal’. While I’m tempted to agree, I am also aware that, in order to qualify as the latter, I am required to leave my job first! Currently I’m not inclined to take that step. I am however awaiting the answer to a fairly succinct email, the answer to which may result in a change, both of mind and (eventually) career.

In response to my friends comment at the start of this blog I replied:

“That’s the very reason why we don’t have a union.”

I can’t believe what I’m about to type, but I’ve thought it several times over the last few months and can’t escape it…

Perhaps we should?



An interesting week…

This has been, overall, an intersting week. Admittedly some of the subjuects covered would have benefitted from more than the obligatory 1 hour lecture, and others could certainly have been less (or in fact dropped!!).

On the one hand I found the Afghan culture and language lectures did more than just pique my interest. Delivered by two well educated and, to my mind, sincere Afghan scholars, they portrayed a country of vastly varied cultures and views, with much to learn yet much to teach. Most interesting to me was their overall belief and optimism that we are helping by being there and that, in time, we will succeed in providing a peaceful and stable country for them to return to.

My only hope is that we, as (to all intents) an occupying force, can fulfil those hopes and (in sh’allah) provide them with a home to return to.

On the other hand, I now realise how much I need to do, both physically and mentally, before I deploy, in order to feel safe in the knowledge that I am up to the task ahead.

In the long run I will, in the best tradition of the military, make do with what I have, but I’m confident that, after this week, I am better prepared than before, and on the right path to be ready when the time comes.



Older, and wiser?

I remember in early 2003, a lifetime ago now, there was a definite air of excitement, tinged with trepidation.This was what my job was about, the real deal…

I had my doubts about the political justification of it all, but I had sworn an oath, and the crux of that oath is to do as I’m told (as long as it’s legal, but that’s a whole other topic!).

I deployed as part of a 4 man team, working in pairs. We covered over 3000km in the first 2 weeks in theatre, working 18-20 hour days, often spending much of that time with noone knowing where we were. And that pace continued for some time.

Over the next few months pressure (stress?) would come to bear, the likes of which I had never experienced before, or have since. I physically assaulted a friend (who was also my superior) over the volume of a radio, I watched two WO’s fight over less, I was struck on the head with my rifle by a Major (admittedly, I did deserve it!), and I had the conversation…

It seems odd now, and has done ever since, but at the time it seemed the most natural thing. I agreed with my boss/friend that, should it come down to it, we would save our last rounds for ourselves rather than face capture.

This decision was not made out of cowardice, nor was it made out of heroism.

Not long before this ‘chat’ several individuals had been paraded on Al Jazeerah, and the bodies of some Servicemen had been found flayed, with their throats slit, in a roadside ditch.

My decision was made to protect my family, to spare them the anguish and pain I had seen on the faces of everyone involved with someone missing or captured over that period. I hadn’t really considered the effect things coud have on my family before that.

Fast forward 4 years (Yes, next year!) and I fear I will be in a far worse situation. I know where I will be, and I know the reality will be worse than I can imagine, even with my previous experienceto call on, and the callously frank briefings (refreshingly honest actually) I am currently enduring.

And yet I find myself more relaxed about it? I certainly don’t feel the excitement but, on the other hand, neither do I feel the trepidation.

I find myself preparing letters in my head, to be written nearer the time, to each of my family, explaining my thoughts at this time, and expressing my feelings for them with the utmost candour. Of course these letters will only be delivered should I fail to return.

It is my profound hope that these letters will never see the light of day, but even the process of formulating them in my head is strangely cathartic, a pressure valve, if you will. I find that, regardless of the stories I’m hearing, the news coverage I’m hearing/seeing, and the briefings I’m receiving, I am surprisingly calm about the whole thing.

My Wife is well aware of the the current operational environment and the fact that, although the situation was not as bad at the time, I did volunteer for the upcoming tour some time ago. I would have been ‘volunteered’ had I not done so, of that I am sure.

I do not know how I will react once I am out there, I can only hope that I cope better than last time… And that, on my return, I receive the same understanding and support from my family and friends as I did before.