Every few days a cheerful chap in uniform riding a motorbike comes to my door. He rummages through his sack and pulls out an envelope addressed to me. OK, it’s usually nothing more exciting than a printout detailing exactly how poor I am. But once a week it’s my copy of The New Statesman and from time to time (including this morning) it’s a cardboard box from amazon. Big deal, I hear you say.
Well, in my experience of failed states – or even moderately dysfunctional ones – door-to-door postal services are a rarity. In Kenya, my post (or at least those bits of it that didn’t go missing) were delivered to a post office box on the other side of town. I checked it once every six weeks without fail. The houses weren’t even numbered – no point if there was no postie trudging up your street each morning. So I’ll never take door numbers and postmen for granted again.
Postcards from Hell is my ironically titled list of things that are cool about Pakistan, my new home, or which contradict the notion that the country is some sort of failed state
Among the many volunteer fighters I met during my first stint in Libya in early March was a young man who said he worked for Rentokil. I made some sort of feeble joke about how his pest control services were needed in Tripoli. There was a rat that needed catching, or some such.
Then again just outside Benghazi I met rebels driving around in a pick-up pinched from a pest-control service. Cue same joke, although it was lost on my Arabic-speaking audience.
Anyway, turns out it is no joking matter. As The Financial Times reports:
The civil war in Libya has left Rentokil Initial unable to recover unpaid bills, pushing pre-tax profits down by two-thirds.
The pest control-to-cleaning services company, which had a contract to control the rat population in Tripoli, Misrata and Benghazi, has taken a £4.8m hit after suspending its operations in the country.
Here’s stuff I’ve been reading on bin Laden’s targeted assassination, as one of my liberal Israeli friends insists on calling it. It’s not exhaustive, just a list of stuff…
Pakistan and Osama bin Laden: How the West was conned – my colleague Praveen Swami on Pakistan’s history of meddling with extremism
Osama bin Laden: family guy with three wives, nine children and a cow to keep – inside the bolthole
Even in 2002, bin Laden was hiding in plain view – journo spots tall bloke with beard wearing shalwaar kameez leaving mosque in Islamabad OR misses world exclusive. You decide
10 ways Barack Obama botched the aftermath of the masterful operation to kill Osama bin Laden – how a bungled media campaign shifted focus to White House amateur hour
New Osama urges UK terror blitz – The Sun’s email sting. I’m hoping The News of the World is dusting off the fake sheikh’s outfit as we speak
Dismissing our enemies as lunatics will get us nowhere – right. But does this go too far? “There have been too many moments during the decade-long hunt for bin Laden when there has appeared to be a horrible symmetry between al-Qaeda and the US.”
Osama bin Laden is either dead, alive or with Tupac – maybe I’ve been in Pakistan too long, but not all of these are as outlandish as they first seem
Posted in pakistan
Tagged bin laden
When I returned home from my first stint in rebel-held east Libya, the wonderful team of butchers, bakers and magicians at Bray’s Cottage sent me this incredible pork pie. It was like no pie I’d ever tasted before. The pork tasted like proper pork – but with the richness and smoothness of pate. The pastry was perfect, crisp and crunchy. And, although this will be regarded as heresy by some, there was not a dollop of jelly in sight.
I am now several thousand miles from the nearest pork pie. So I am posting a picture of this perfect pie so that when things get tough, tiring or just dull, I can cheer myself up with a quick peek at baked heaven.
Feel free to bookmark and do the same.
There’s not much you can do. Sometimes you have to leave your patch. You can’t watch it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It might be a holiday. Or training. Or it’s an assignment elsewhere in the world. You try to read the runes as best you can and, if there’s nothing better brewing at base, you leave – usually with an anxious glance over your shoulder.
No journalist wants to miss a story an hour’s drive from his or her house.
But it happens. No-one can predict the future. Sometimes lady luck is not smiling on you. It’s just one of those things. On an intellectual level you tell yourself that these things balance out – that for every chance scoop so too one goes the wrong way, a bit like the ref’s whistle. Nothing you can do about it, bar chaining yourself to your desk. Not your fault. No-one’s to blame. That’s the rational discussion, the reasonable interpretation.
That doesn’t change the fact that I am racing from Benghazi back home to Islamabad holding back the enormous urge to vomit my churning guts all over my shoes.