Imagine this: you have skipped your morning exercise routine so you are not hot and sweaty as usual when you stagger into the bathroom; acutely low local water pressure means that your powershower can only produce icicles; and the T-shirt you know you are going to put on when you clamber out of the full-body chiller is still wet from the washing machine.
Then John Humphrys comes on the radio to tell you that Iraq is “in chaos” again. It’s a wonder there are any Iraqis left in the country, what with things being “worse than they were under Saddam”, and those foolish enough to get themselves arrested as they flee to refugee camps being stripped naked and sodomized by guard dogs trained by Donald Rumsfeld.
Christ, how cold can water be and still manage to flow through those little holes in the showerhead?
Later in the day, when my genitals are no longer completely retracted into my pelvis and I have recovered the use of my fingers, I stumble upon a amusingly naïve account of life in Iraq from someone lower down the Corporation’s hierarchy. I’m tempted to quote it all, it’s such an unintentional scream—or perhaps it’s satire? Enjoy it now before the BBC notices how head-slappingly, unselfconsciously stupid it is and pulls it from its news Website. It begins with a list of the improvements that have taken place—ordered in their descending importance to the author, I suspect. Watch out, Bridget Jones, here comes Shelley Thakral:
“The mobile phones, satellite dishes and the freedom are better.”
“The roads are full of new cars and getting anywhere quickly is an impossible nightmare.”
“And if you were to visit today, you would see heaving markets, crowded tea shops and children playing football. Life is slowly getting back to normal.”
” We live close to the Sheraton and Palestine hotels and are surrounded by American soldiers and fellow journalists. I often wonder what our Iraqi neighbours think of us. We have a fleet of cars that range from armoured trucks to low key saloon cars. One thing that has become more important when moving in and around the city is to keep a low profile. In the last few weeks I have made an effort to wear a headscarf.”
“I speak ‘hello and thank you’ Arabic but I carry a digital camera with me, the children love it. It’s also a great distraction from the larger TV cameras which people crowd around.”
“One of my favourite things in Baghdad is going to the souk where you can buy everything from saffron to Saddam memorabilia.”
“The hardest thing now about covering the story is keeping it fresh, coming up with a new angle whenever there is a bomb.”