Posts from the “Autobiography” Category

Exposure

Posted on February 8, 2012

I remember seeing my first gun battle. It was September 1979 and I was strolling through the streets of Beirut looking for somewhere to eat. Two cars collided. The occupants jumped out and started to argue. One produced a handgun, fired without warning and ducked down behind the bonnet of his car. The other opened his boot, pulled out a Kalashnikov and sprayed the other car’s windscreen with bullets. More cars arrived, gunmen emerged and a full-scale battle ensued. I remember everyone scattering and diving for cover but I just stood there transfixed. It was after all my first experience of war. Bullets ricocheted everywhere and the sound of police sirens echoed through the narrow streets. That’s when I saw the man beckoning me…

A Lutta Continua

Posted on February 7, 2012

It’s 6.30 in the morning and the dankness hangs over the city trapping the smells of poverty and despair. The curfew has ended, the roadblocks are being dismantled and the exhausted troops are returning to their barracks near the airport. From the slums and shanty towns near Massacres a long line of emaciated bodies head out towards the town centre in search of food and the wherewithal to survive another day. Luanda, the capital of this once proud country totters on the brink of self-destruction as the guerilla war rages on its outskirts. We stand on the tarmac next to the domestic airport staring at the planes loading their cargoes before taxiing out towards the runway. Huge Russian Aleuyshins laden with tanks, armoured personnel…

Return to Beirut

Posted on February 7, 2012

The last time that I had been to Beirut was in 1982 during the Israeli invasion. I had escaped the bombing and terrible destruction on a small yacht, the Sea Victory, sailing from Jounieh in Christian East Beirut to Larnaca in Cyprus. The boat had been packed to the gunnels with families escaping the carnage but our crossing had taken almost three days as we were constantly intercepted by Israeli warships that forced us back at gunpoint. At the point of desperation, we had secured safe passage through the American consulate. Returning in 2005 after over twenty years was extremely emotional and I have to admit to being very apprehensive. The assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Prime Minister, a few days earlier on…