RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Smell the Coffee…

It’s often said that you should value the little things. They say, along the road – smell the flowers.

It’s the little things that matter in life. And as an example of that very thing, this happened to me this afternoon.

This morning was a ‘lick’ out. A patrol down the road to the local village to attend a Shura (a meeting with the local elders), and it was a ‘lick’ (Slang for hard work) simply because it is getting hot. Seriously hot now. Each day you can feel that it is getting hotter than the last. An example of this is that when I get up in the morning, when I first arrived in theatre I was wearing my Snugpak down jacket for warmth in the mornings until about 9am. Now, I can get up and wander around in my tee-shirt.

Anyway, we patrolled down, each in our body armour, held the Shura and patrolled back – getting back into the Check Point at just after 1:30pm. You can’t imagine the joy and relief of being able to take off your day-sack and body armour – often approaching 40kg worth of kit. This is luxury enough, but today…

I walked into the Operations Tent and one of the Officers in there was rummaging through a box under his desk…left by the old Company that was moving out…

‘Ah-ha!’ he said and pulled out a two cup Baletti Espresso coffee pot. You know the sort – the hexagonal coffee pots that you see in all the chic design magazines and posh kitchen shops. Immediately I seized upon it. ‘Boss’ I said, ‘You like coffee? There’s some ground coffee in that box under the table the kettle is on…’

It turned out he wasn’t into coffee. I however, am. I usually have a shot of espresso from a machine in my kitchen each morning with my breakfast – and along with the big things from home that I miss – my girlfirend, my kids, pizza – a shot of real espresso coffee was right up there.

So the task of making myself a shot of espresso became my mission for the rest of the afternoon.

People say that part of the joy of coffee is in the anticipation of making it…and that was the real joy here this afternoon. Sitting in the shade of a tent, with a bowl of water scrubbing the dust and dirt off the pot…cleaning it to get it ready…then finding a lighter and getting myself a ‘hexamine stove’ out from the stores ISO-container, unscrewing the pot, adding the water, spooning the coffee into the insert and tightening the lid…placing it on the open flame of the stove…and just watching it heat up.

Then the noise – then the steam – then the sound of real, fresh, hot, thick coffee brewing. People wandered past, wondering what I was doing. I lost count of the number of times I had to explain how the pot worked and made the drink…but this only added to the anticipation… And then it was ready.

A paper cup of thick, strong black coffee. And the taste. It tasted of real. It tasted of home.

For a minute or two, despite the heat, the sun, the fact I was sitting on a plastic mat by the side of some gravel which had a tiny little stove heated by what is basically a firelighter, as numerous people walked past, shaking their heads at me, I was home. I was sitting in my kitchen, at the kitchen window where the sun comes in, reading the paper, drinking a cup of coffee, whilst my daughter played under the table…and my girlfriend makes me some bacon sandwiches for breakfast.

It didn’t last long…but it was good enough to last just those few minutes…and a couple of minutes later I was brought back to earth by the shout that an Afghan local was at the gate who wanted to talk about a project that he was working on, and wanted to complain about some of his workers…

But you know what? ‘They’ are right. When you do get a luxury. No matter how small or insignificant, you should savour it. And when you don’t have many luxuries…often the smallest ones mean the most.

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14 thoughts on “Smell the Coffee…

  1. tangerinebean on said:

    Like you I love a ‘proper coffee’. That sounds like a divine moment! Hope there’s enough for a few more cups.
    Small pleasures. :)))

  2. ATC Padré Nick Rutter on said:

    You, and your colleagues deserve every “little luxury” you can get! Thanks for everything you do. Shakram.

    • Thanks Nick, in Pashtu one says ‘Manana’. I am Sloooooooooooooooooooooowly picking up a bit of the language. The interpreters are very patient with me, as are the locals.

  3. I know exactly what you mean. I wasn’t anywhere near as remote as you, but for me a hot shower after my shift and watching some crappy TV on BFBS were always savoured and looked forward to treats amoungst the monotonous boredom of deployed life.

    Love your writing, looking forward to the next installment. Stay safe..

  4. Oh, wonderful!!! I can understand entirely, fantastic you got the chance and even more fantastic to see how you enjoyed and appreciated it!

  5. Was having a “glass half empty day” untill I read this.
    Thankyou.
    Stay safe.
    Chris

  6. This makes me think that my morning coffee doesn’t give half as much satisfaction as yours did 🙂

    Thanks for the blog, a great read.

  7. Kerry Maria Lawson on said:

    Alex, the smell of coffee took u2 a place that only u know-Brew it slow savor the flavour, smell the aroma & get home soon.X

    • Seconded….It feels weird knowing you’re out there and your tweets and blogs aren’t coming from the safety of “home”. So glad you could get even a little “fix” of home today.x

  8. johnginger on said:

    So where are the 5* hotels for you when you get to Afghan then?

  9. johnginger on said:

    Sorry if that came over wrong – looks like you will be in for a fairly rough old time of it when some of your counterparts are in the lap of luxury…

    • No one is in real luxury out here. But some people have better conditions that others.

      But to be honest, there isn’t another place in Afghan that I’d rather be right now. It might be basic, it might be simple, but it’s probably the best Patrol Base in Helmand.

      • johnginger on said:

        you are all doing a bloody sterling job – everyone at home is proud of you !!

  10. This really brightened my otherwise relatively gloomy evening. Thank you. x

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