Tag Archives: lightning

The storm before the calm

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The dreary view through the office window of the citadel flag

Erbil hosted a major lightning exhibition all last night, with a sort of End of Days wind theme running through it. Personally, I spent the evening watching it all from the garden of the Chaldean Club with a shisha and a few beers while the wind slowly gathered up all the litter in the neighbourhood and deposited in the sheltered corner where L and me were sitting. We were well over ankle deep in napkins and plastic bags by eleven o’clock and surrounded by an accumulation of all the restaurant’s plastic rubbish bins, which were one-per-table at the start of the night. It did dawn on me, in hindsight, that I’d spent three and a half hours in a serious electrical storm smoking from a three foot tall metal pipe, but you live and learn. Or you get struck by lightning and die.

The bit of the citadel which is currently the most likely to kill us all. Now with the added weight of a day and a night of rain water

The bit of the citadel which is currently the most likely to kill us all. Now with the added weight of a day and a night of rain water

Sleep was not all that easy between the lightning, thunder, the banging of the many wind-borne objects and the fiery explosions of electrical things in the street outside. I have a mind to get some thicker curtains. None the less, I arrived on site this morning more or less eager and more or less on time (the good fortune of getting one of those taxi drivers who think nothing of wheel-spin and the odd dead pedestrian), keen to finally start some digging after last week’s endless pointless meetings. Alas, after just forty minutes of joyful section cleaning, during which I tried to demonstrate how to get as dirty as possible in the shortest possible time to my immaculately dressed Kurdish trainee, the rain arrived. I spent almost the whole day in the site office trying to look busy, but mostly trying to get into the Hornblower books, which on first impressions are dreadful. I kept trying to take advantage of the dry spells but every time I went back to the site it started bucketing down after five minutes. As one of my assistants said, ‘The rain, it like you’ before going back to checking facebook on his phone.

Sack-of-shit. Same old cheery disposition. Same smell

Sack-of-shit. Same old cheery disposition. Same smell

Everyone else went home at 2pm and I was left in the company of Sack-of-shit, the malevolent office cat who has disappointingly failed to die in the last ten months. He lay under the cabin for half an hour keeping up his constant angry meow, at which point I decided to drown him, failed, and went home. I was pleased to hear at the weekend that the enormous orange cat (tiger?) who I had a fight with last year on Halloween was run over by an SUV while I was away. I enjoy the satisfaction which is natural at the death of an enemy, but I will still carry the scars to my grave.

As a post script, here is another picture from a now lost Palmyra:

The view down from one of the now destroyed funerary towers, as I check to see if my horse has run off yet

The view down from one of the recently destroyed funerary towers, as I checked to see if my horse had run off yet

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Abandoning ship

up-cycled hanging baskets in a Suleimaniyah cafe

up-cycled hanging baskets in a Suleimaniyah cafe

I’ve been off the radar for a while, in a fairly literal way in fact. But first things first; the end of the Iraqi dig in Kurdistan. It all ended with an uncomfortable amount of paperwork for me as we’d found such a lot of stuff at my site – a valuable reminder to try to find less in the future, or at least to destroy a decent amount of it before anyone sees and makes me give it a number. My relentless toil was interrupted by occasionally scowling at people who were relaxing and having a nice time, and by the house being nearly hit by lightning. The latter was a good source of entertainment(/profound mortal terror). It occurred just as we were finishing lunch, announced by a pant-wetting bang and an explosion of fire and dust, before subsiding into normal general fire. We went to the equipment shed, grabbed some shovels and attempted to help our Kurdish neighbours beat the flames out. This achieved little except minor damage to my sandal-wearing colleagues (I deplore sandals as impractical and unattractive footwear and take great pleasure in observing the many varied ways in which their wearers come to harm) and the brush fire more or less put itself out. The Halabjah fire brigade arrived about fifteen minutes later and were extremely confused to find half a dozen sooty, shovel wielding foreigners (some of whom had burnt their feet) and no fire.

Our work here is done, or at least the fire brigade have told us we can go away now

Our work here is done, or at least the fire brigade have told us we can go away now

After a couple of days in Suleimaniyah drinking, smoking and eating an awful lot of ice cream I flew home for a few days, went to Alton Towers to unblock my channels, repacked and headed to charming Swansea (I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Swansea, I think you probably need to go there to understand the resulting cultural whiplash after more or less five months in Iraq. But then I wouldn’t go unless you really had to. Maybe the same goes for Iraq). I then spent two weeks sailing as a watch leader on a tall ship around the Irish Sea, stopping for extended stout-drinking sessions in Dublin, Peel (catching the end of the TT races), Belfast and Peel again. In Belfast we were moored by the Titanic slipway, next to the big studio where they’re filming Game of Thrones, while Ridley Scott had closed the nearby Titanic Experience to film something or other on the escalators, so there was plenty to watch.

The shape of things in Dublin

The shape of things in Dublin

Sitting on the bits after flaking the fore-upper-tops'l halyard

Sitting on the bits after flaking the fore-upper-tops’l halyard

We ended up in Liverpool, causing several thousand pounds worth of damage by demolishing the signal lights while crashing into the Albert Dock lock (I had a front row seat for this as I stood by with the bow mooring lines). Many things happened over the next few days in Liverpool, ending up with clubbing in Matthew Street, which was an interesting anthropological experience. Worse things happen at sea they say, though I’m yet to be convinced. In Liverpool I also found that everything in Iraq had gone very shooty while I’d been gone; I mean, it’d only been away a couple of weeks. It’s a bit disconcerting to discover one’s general place of work is mostly on fire.

Liverpool Canning Dock. View from the foremast cross-trees

Liverpool Canning Dock. View from the foremast cross-trees