My Ocelot Column, The Second Quarter

I blame the editor, it’s entirely his fault, the bastard. Well, I’ll put my hands up to 1% – I emailed last month’s scribblings in, and failed to make clear that my last line wasn’t for publication. It read “I’ll try to be funny next month” as I was getting all pent up and worthy about antiquity being drowned in the search for power (not a metaphor, oddly). It was meant as an aside for him alone, but somehow made the magazine. At least I’m not deluded enough to have over-qualified it with ‘again’.
Leaves me with a quandary though – where can I go from here? I’ve heard a few Kurdish and Iraqi jokes in my time here, some need a little cultural explanation, some are a bit lame and whilst I have free rein here, the banana one is a bit too…oh fuck it, I’ll say it, the banana joke is too fruity.

So we have lost an old dame since we last met, and certainly there has been a lot of mirth and merry-making since that elegantly-coiffed old bastard shuffled off their mortal coil. In fairness, and in life, Richard Griffiths was a happily married man, but he will always be the frightening, camp and indulgent Uncle Monty to me. For those of us a few years either side of forty, Withnail & I remains a tragicomic feature of our adolescence. The gut-aching stoner giggles, tempered by the I-must-get-my-shit-together paranoia of the final scenes. So, here’s hoping the editor does a reverse on me this month and cuts my final word, as by all accounts, RG was the antithesis of Uncle Monty and anything but “a terrible…”

I was something of a winter baby, that’s to say I was a surprise (or, as my siblings put it “a mistake”) to my parents as they got settled into their forties. Dad, free from the RAF was working for the GPO, because letters and letters are important, and Mum had opened a nursing home in Malmesbury. My arrival didn’t throw anything off the rails, and I was lucky to grow up with many delightful proxy grandparents, alongside some marvellously batty ones. I’ll never forget being given some keys by Tom, and told to me go and get the truck. I wanted to, but I didn’t know where the truck was, and at 5 my feet wouldn’t have got to the pedals. I remember Mum physically tackling him on more than one occasion, as his confusion darkened. She’s tough like that, working as homes for adults with challenging behaviours well into her 70s. She was felled by a one inch step last month, glasses conspiring to leave her needing over 100 stitches in her forehead. When away, no one wants the email, “Mum’s had a fall, call now.” I called, and she joked about looking like the bride of Frankenstein and has continued to stun me with her resilience since. She insisted on having those stitches under local as well – God love her, she’s harder than I could ever hope to be.

It’s alive! She flies! My mid-life crisis disguised as a business idea has taken off. We’ve all heard of drones and the seemingly arbitrary terror that they rain down across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. You might not know so much about the use of multi-rotor ‘copters as aerial photography platforms. Connected as I am to a photo agency over here, I have been expounding the virtues of these machines for many a month, and in October last year we had a client with a requirement. Investigations were made, and although we missed out on that particular job, we ordered a hexacopter and sent it to the UK. I bought it back in January (customs were very obliging when I told them it was a toy for a friend’s son) and got it out of the box. It needed a little extra construction and we fiddled and diddled, but still couldn’t get the transmitter and receiver to talk to one another. It’s been sat on my table for the best part of 6 months, a silent white elephant, goading me for being a techno dunce, and one $2,000 out of pocket at that. And then I asked an engineer at a bar the other night, who by chance knows exactly what he’s doing. First client has agreed – happens to be the client from October and Project Halo is go! (Halo means eagle in Kurdish, see what I’ve done there?) STOP PRESS: Guess which dongbonnet crashed his hexacopter on the first job?

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