Seriously, this is nothing to do with my toe; some of these photos ARE distressing and show graphic pictures of war in Angola.
My toe is healing at an almost miraculous rate. I have finished the lengthy course of antibiotics I was on and last night fell asleep in bed before I had read even a single page of my book. At four in the morning I ran out of ammunition. The guy to one side of me was dead, to the other side the young lad whose name I kept forgetting was staring at me with impossibly wide open eyes, a huge red stain spreading across his shirt and his mouth opening and closing like a fish ashore as he drowned in his own blood. Then they were on top of me, teeth bared, bayonets fixed, insane with blood lust. I screamed.
Marcia shook me awake. Little Alex was sitting up in his bed looking terrified, Marcia also looked very concerned. I was bathed in sweat. The sheets of the bed were all in a tangle and soaking wet.
'Have I been talking in my sleep again?' I asked Marcia.
Jean Charles Gutner was everything I expected a war photo journalist to be. Tall, slim, indecently good looking as only blonde long haired Frenchman could be and very, very fit. He dressed, looked and acted the part. While everyone else was either keeping their heads down or at the very least keeping low and moving fast, he had his head up and was taking photographs. I had been billeted in what was supposed to be only temporary accommodation for me in the same guest house as a number of international journalists and stringers. That’s where I first met Jean Charles along with the BBC stringer, Chris Simpson and the Reuter’s correspondent, Nicholas Shaxson. We are all friends to this day. Chris and Nick had laid bets that I would not survive three months. If I was up against long odds, I couldn’t imagine what Jean Charles’ were.It wasn’t my job to take photographs and the few that I did have not survived. Jean Charles was, however, kind enough to give me a few hard copies of his photos taken while we were together which I fortuitously concealed in a large book (on Swedish Architecture actually) so they wouldn’t get bent and I dug them out this morning to take a look. Maybe by looking at them again, I could once again come to terms with what I had witnessed and put those memories to bed in the hope they would lay dormant for at least another decade. Since they cover the subject of my nightmare last night, I reproduce them here along with a little explanation of each.
|A moment of peace, Cubal, Angola|
|Captured enemy weapons, Huambo 1995|
|Independence Day celebrations. Angola gained independence in 1975. |
The civil war carried on for another 27 years.
Russians, Cubans, South Africans and mercenaries of every nationality fought on Angolan soil.
|The rich in the capital, Luanda, largely unaffected by the war, played on the beautiful beaches of Mussulo Island.|
|While civilians in the rest of the country buried their dead in the soil that they thought,|
after a long struggle for independence, belonged to them.
|Children of war. Caimbando, Angola.|
Boys as young as fourteen were pressed into service.
Girls of fourteen were raped.
|Civilian casualties being buried in a communal grave after a night artillery bombardment|
during the battle for Gabela.
|Civilian killing his cow, they had to eat.|
|Most African soldiers had their Fetishes, their Ju Ju dolls to protect them.|
I'd have been happier if they had just kept their fucking rifles clean.
|The artillery bombardment of Gabela begins.|
The rebels had already withdrawn, any men left in the town had melted into the bush.
All that was left in the town were terrified women and children.
Many medals for bravery were won.
|A moment to relax. Mabubas Dam.|
|A lost child, Benguela.|
Government held cities were flooded with orphaned street kids.
Many sought refuge in the drains at night and begged during the day.
|More fresh graves being dug|
|Civilians, desperate to flee, trying to storm an aircraft during the UN evacuation of Huambo.|
Huambo was fucking hammered afterwards.
|Some mother's son, |
Sadly for him, he was on the wrong side and met a good man behind a bayonet.
Look at this young Orphan of War.
Who is going to stroke his poor little head when he wakes up screaming?