In a Check Point in Afghanistan, the ability to improve ones own surroundings is only matched by the time one has available to improve it. I am sure some professor somewhere would come up with an equation to show it, but the evidence of it is far easier to see and understand than it is to read a load of maths about it.
This afternoon, three young lads who were off their guard duty list and taking a break decided to make the area in front of their tent, where they chill out and relax and chat, a better place to be. One of them – one of the only two Royal Marines here – has already brought a bit of the Navy life into the camp by constructing a hammock out of heavy duty para-cord, and to improve things further has hung up a set of solar fairy lights. These give a lovely relaxing glow in the area right in front of their tent, and provides just a little bit of light for people to have a cuppa and a chat at the end of the day, as well as giving it a certain ‘ambience’…
So as I said the three lads took this level a step further. They spent the afternoon with hammer, nails, saw and old pallets of wood making a nice picket fence to go in front of their tent. Painted with white spray paint and sawn by hand so each picket has a nice even pointy top it shows the ingenuity of the lads out here.
Other tents have done similar things. Outside my own we have two mice comfy seats made from the remnants of some Hesco baskets with some padding on top. I m sitting writing on one now, and spend the 10 minutes afer my gym workouts here drinking my protein shakes. Another person made an Ikea-esqu reclining chair out of a strip of Hesco mesh – bending it twice in the right place has made a very serviceable and comfortable reclining easy chair – good for sunbathing when you get a bit of down-time.
Outside a further tent which faces south, and so has the sun on it for pretty much of the day, the occupants have rigged up a seating area (again made from Hesco, but also boosted by wooden offcuts) with a table in the centre of them – shielding this from the sun a poncho has been rigged up to give the area a very private feel…it’s almost conspiratorial what goes on behind there actually…no-one really speaks of what happens there! A final tent has opened up it’s area as what is almost like a patio. The plastic mesh flooring that covers all the walkways on the camp have been covered with what is called Roller-track making it level and easy to walk on without shoes. Here the young lads put out a paddling pool sent from home on the really hot days to coll themselves down when getting back from a patrol or when off guard duty.
Inside the tents is similar. In my tent people have rigged up hessian sheets to provide a bit of privacy – Myself I have the RAF ensign hanging from the roof of the tent at the end of my bed covering my mossie net, and my towel hangs in the ‘entrance’ to my bedspace giving my a chance to see out, but a bit of privacy when in there. I am lucky anyway that my bedspace is right at the back of the tent and so only one person – the guy opposite – will ever walk past my pit.
As I said, all this shows that that there is plenty of ingenuity to build things around the camp – to make it better, to personalise it a bit and to stamp their own personality on it.
It also showed that they had a fair bit of free time! But them their time was their own. They could have ‘monged it’ lying on their beds, or they could have sat in the Welfare Tent watching Celebrity Big Brother on BFBS…but no. They used their time to their advantage and the advantage of others. Because this little bit of morale hasn’t just improved their tent area where they sit and chat, but it’s also improved the morale of the camp just a tiny bit…because now, in the evening when you walk past their tent and you see the hammock set up in the corner, and the fairy lights and the white picket fence, you can do nothing but smile.