Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

‘The Real World’. It’s a phrase that you can hear in almost any modern day war movie and see written down in some books that is in general spoken by a soldier in reference to anywhere outside of the warzone that is perceived as being a civilised place. The context in which it is used could be as follows: “When I get back to the real world…” or “I bet back in the real world they don’t have to put up with this shit…” I use the phrase myself as does just about everyone that I work with out here who is military or comes from a military background. It’s part of our language.

The thing is that despite using this word when in conversation with certain people to refer to my life back home in the UK I have come to realise with some certainty that somewhere along the line the ‘real world’ and this world have become confused for me and have traded places. When I am away from this place and back in your world I find myself feeling apprehensive, nervous, scared, on edge, hyper vigilant, un-able to relax and generally stressed. I am wound up tight, my spring is coiled and I am ready to launch and explode at any given moment. I accept that this is not how I should be feeling and that when back in this strange and foreign land that I no longer understand or fit into that if anything I should be feeling mainly the opposite. I am back there with my family and friends, people who love me and that I love back with more than equal measures and yet no matter how much I want to feel like I belong there I don’t. When my time comes close for me to be starting my journey back home for one of my leave slots I find myself becoming agitated, irate and start to struggle with my emotions. It’s almost like I am fearful of being back in the civilised world. The place has almost become alien to me and I wonder at times if this is because there is no real place for men like myself in your world and that somewhere on a subconscious level I realize this or maybe it is just because I am too damaged to feel anything but the above in the place where in reality I should feel at the very least my safest and most relaxed.

When I am back here, in this war, I still feel a lot of the before mentioned feelings but no-where near on the same scale. When here in my world they are just a quiet noise in the background of my life that are easy to control and stay on that manageable level unless I have need for them. They are natural feelings in this place and have their place in it. For reasons that are beyond me I feel relaxed here and even when in the most dangerous of situations I feel safe. I understand this place and it’s rules and it’s people better than I understand the ‘real world’. I can breathe when here and feel like I am in control of my own body and can function normally. I fit in in here and the thought of not being somewhere like this terrifies me. I will admit that it isn’t all plain sailing though when back in this home away from home and I think the reason for that is that I know that my ‘feelings’ are not how they should be and have become muddled along the line somewhere. Sometimes I will lock myself away in my room and only emerge for work or the gym as my head hurts and my thoughts cloud at the realization of what is or what has happened to me. I’ll sit here at my desk, upset and with feelings of despair for hours at a time as I try and think of ways to turn this around and to get myself back into your world. I may not be the most intelligent of men but I’m not stupid either and I know that this is not the way that things should be and I recognise the effect that this is having on myself and my life in general but I can’t see a way back. This is who I have become.

My wife told me the other day that she thought that I had become acclimatised to this lifestyle and this place and that I enjoyed being here more than I do at home. For certain I’m acclimatised to it but do I enjoy being here more than I enjoy being at home? I enjoy my job and have worked hard to get here but that doesn’t mean that I enjoy the route that it has taken me down. Of course I’d rather be at home with my wife and the rest of my family – I miss her and them. I want to be able to lead a normal life with her or at the very least be able to function like a normal human being when back there. I want to make her happy again. I want to be happy again. But I just don’t know how to be at the moment and need to find myself a compass that can get me back on track again before I become lost forever and can never get back there.

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.”

General Eisenhower

When working in this industry in a hostile country there is only so much for a man of my trade to do in his spare time. Once the tasks are complete, the meetings done and the reports finished then there really isn’t a lot for us to do. It isn’t like we can just nip out down to our local pub for a pint or pop into the town for a wander and a spot of lunch. Once the work is done we are confined to our 50×50 compound to sit, think and find ways to pass the time.

For me, passing the time consists of various things – working my way through one of the many books that I have on my Kindle or maybe kicking back with the latest releases from the UK cinema’s that have been recorded with a shaky hand on low quality camcorder by someone sat at the back of a flea pit of a picture house somewhere in deepest darkest Europe. If the films and books don’t do it for me then the gym will. There is nothing quite like a sweat inducing, vain popping, muscle pumping session in our ‘prison yard’ gym to take away the stresses of everyday life in a war zone. Unless of course I can find someone to play a game of chess with and then I am more than content to sit there in the sun smoking a cigar with a coffee at hand while trying to outdo my opponent in the age old game of skill trying to look like I actually understand the game and can think more than one move ahead.

One other thing that helps me to pass the time over here and keep my mind away from other things is to read Blogs. Not on any particular subjects, just any that, when I first read them, catch my eye and keep me interested and with any luck entertained.  This is what got me thinking about the subject of this entry into my series of Blogs. There is one particular Blog that I have started following where the writer covers a varied amount of subjects and recently published two to do with films – one was to do with their top few horror films of all time and the other was to do with the worst film that they had ever had to sit through to this date. Reading about the authors top horror films of all time managed to get my mind wandering to how films influence us and effect out lives. For instance, thanks to a couple of horror films that I watched from behind a pillow in my younger days I now have an irrational fear of clowns (or Klowns depending on what film you saw), give sewer grates a wide berth and always keep a wary eye on any hedgehogs that I may see shuffling their way across our garden. And it was a hell of a long time after seeing a particular film before I could take a shower comfortably without having to check the locks on the door to the bathroom were securely pushed across and that the windows were shut and that there was no-one squeezed into the bathroom cabinet just waiting to make a appearance once the water started running.

So we all know that films influence us all in one way or another, whether sub-consciously or consciously, to various different degrees. One film that, while I was thinking about this subject, kept springing into my mind as having a huge influence on my life was the Breakfast Club from 1985 written and directed by John Hughes. This film was and still is as far as I am concerned one of the best movies to come out of the 1980’s. For those of you that haven’t seen it the story follows a group of five high school students in the States who are all given a Saturday detention where they are left by the supervising teacher to sit in the school library for the day and given the task of writing an essay about themselves and who they think they are. Each of the five main characters accurately portrays and different stereotype from our school years: the Jock, the Nerd, the Rebel, the popular girl and the plain weird. During the course of the film you watch as they pour their hearts out to each other, find out that they have more in common with each other than they first thought and in the end, for at least the period of the detention, become friends. It’s a heart-warming, funny, touching film and I am sure that every single person who has had the pleasure of watching it could identify with one of the characters when they were back in school. The ‘Rebel’ – Judd Nelson’s character – was who I identified with on some level and it was as a direct result of seeing that film and watching his character at work that my finale few years at school changed for good.

My first year of life in High School was a stressful period of my life. I found it hard. I didn’t fit in to the chaos that is the predecessor to adult life. I was an outcast from my fellow pupils and didn’t fit into any of the before mentioned groups – I was no good at sports so as a rule gave them a wide berth which kept me out of the Jock category. I wasn’t smart enough to be a nerd so they ignored me as well. I was anything but popular and no-where near ‘cool’ enough to be a rebel. And even the ‘weird’ ones amongst us ignored me. Even to this day I am not sure of the reasons for this, maybe it was because I was quiet or even because I was a little shy. Maybe it was because I wore a mix match of clothes as my uniform – a mixture of the cheapest items or second hand shop clothes – who knows. Children can be funny at times and often act without reason. So for the first year of High School I put up with various in-conveniences like being spat on, being pinned against a wall while some of the ‘popular’ girls slapped me in the face just because they could, being pinned to the floor while one of the ‘tough’ guys bit my arm, suffering various digs and jibes at my expense and even being chastised by a couple of teachers on a regular basis for not living up to what my older brother and sister had achieved during their time in that same school – my sister was and is a very smart woman and my brother excels at sports. I am neither smart or excel at sports. Eventually I think that the stress that this must of caused me and the fact that I kept it to myself eventually made me ill and I was diagnosed with ME which led to me having a extended period of time away from school. It was during this time off that I first saw the ‘Breakfast Club’ one late night while sat in my fathers arm chair after he had gone to bed. The film touched me and appealed to me in a way that I couldn’t comprehend. Judd Nelson’s character seemed to spring out of the screen at me and even though I wasn’t a ‘rebel’ something in the character that he portrayed appealed to me. He was an outsider and no-one in particular liked him but he didn’t care. And he let people know that he didn’t care. It was like his character had built himself a defence mechanism against the world and that defence mechanism was to stick two fingers up at anyone, whether it be a person, group of people or the system who upset him and say loud and proud ‘fuck you, fuck you man. I am who I am and if you don’t like me well here I am. Bring it on’. He stood up for himself. In my eyes he was a hero (don’t laugh) and and way above the ‘rebel’ type characters that I knew from my school. And best of all – he got the girl.

Now, I should point out before I continue that in hindsight his character was not the best that I could of been looking up to – he was the way that he was because he had a lot of issues. He had an abusive home life and was a very angry young individual. His actions were very self destructive and in real life could only lead him on a downward path. However, it is what it is and that is the route that I took. Before long I had grown my hair out, changed the way that I dressed and at times was sporting a leather jacket or from time to time a lumber jack style shirt worn over whatever else I had on. I had taken up smoking and was sporting a pretty impressive Zippo lighter. I went back to school but had fallen so far behind with my time off that I gave up on the idea of being able to catch up and instead concentrated on the being the ‘new me’. I walked around with a ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude and when in classes would sit there with my feet up on a table and be disruptive or rude if the teachers talked to me. If they tried to discipline me I just left. People who used to take some kind of pleasure in causing me problems now found me standing my ground and even pre-empting them and throwing a series of wild punches. Nine times out of ten this would end with me laying bloodied on the floor but it had the desired effect – they soon started to learn to lay off. Bullies don’t seem to like it when their intended victim fights back. Outside of school I had started to drinking alcohol ‘acquired’ from my parents supplies to add to the already building image. I found myself with a new group of friends – some that I am still good friends with to this day – and girls were showing an interest in me. So life seemed good to me and that’s how I carried on for almost three years. Thank you Breakfast Club.

Looking back though I wish that I had taken a different route – I didn’t pass any exams, in fact I think that I only turned up for maybe two of them. My reports were bad and only a few days before my finale school day I was finally kicked out. My ticket was even taken away from me for the end of High School boat party that had been laid on for us. However, despite that person not being the real me and leading me to a lot of bad places at times it did help to get through my finale years at school, even if it wasn’t a successful end. And when I finally did make it out in to the big bad grown up world and started mixing with non-school kids I calmed down and started to get back on track…..kind off.

“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”

John Bender, 1985.

“Saturday, March 24,1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois, 60062. Dear Mr. Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did *was* wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.”

Brian Johnson, 1985.