There I was thinking after a 5-month tour in Afghanistan as advisor to the top British General, I would take it easy for a bit and avoid the war zones I seem to be drawn to on an almost continuous basis, both in uniform as an army officer and as a field producer and reporter at Sky.
I had decided to give up my staff job at Sky News on my return – I’ve been deputy foreign news editor for the last few years. I wanted more of a challenge, and the flexibility to do more reporting, writing and the option to grab the opportunities I was increasingly being offered to do more as a consultant in strategic communications.
So much for some quieter time in leafy Hampshire with my husband and cat, occasionally squeezing in a bit of work between selecting cuts of meat from our local farm shop and training for marathons across the fields.
They were creating a job based on my skills, around my experience.
They were not talking to anyone else.
They would offer whatever I would be willing to accept.
They wanted me to go to Mogadishu.
Somalia. Well, that’s one so-called failed state I’d not been to.
I would be running the African Union/United Nations mission’s news operation. I would have crews across Somalia, a documentary team, editors and a base in Mogadishu.
I would advise the African Union commanders and Somali authorities on a communications plan; how to promote their work, their successes and build support from the local population and international community. My experience of doing a very similar job with the NATO mission in Afghanistan and within the UK Ministry of Defence would come in very handy.
So the job was tailor-made for me. And the contract was based on a rotation that meant down-time at home. My husband and the cat were quite content that this was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. And anyway for my husband it would just mean a prime opportunity to launch forth into yet another of his ‘projects’ during my time away (a previous Iraq tour had resulted in a new pet, my recent Afghan tour a new motorbike and hand-made boat…)
I’ll be flying out as ‘Deputy Director of Communications for the African Union/United Nations mission in Somalia’ at the end of May. Sunglasses and headscarf at the ready. Body armour and helmet in-hand. Accommodation will be basic but reassuringly familiar from previous adventures – portacabin for sleeping, another portacabin of showers and loos, and a bigger portacabin for eating. Home Sweet Home.
And what a country to explore, a story to discover and a challenge to get my teeth into. I’ll always have time for a spot of writing and farm shopping in leafy Hampshire during my weeks back in the UK. And I can enjoy the fevered anticipation (trepidation) waiting to find out just what entrepreneurial ‘project’ my husband comes up with this time. And whether we’ll have space for it in the garage.