Friday, May 22, 2009


I haven't posted anything for a while because time has been so short, what with the field and my course work. Kay has gone off to Bulgaria to meet the child that she is hoping to adopt from an orphanage in Plovdiv, so I have additional child-care and driving this week.

The Cyprus National Guard operates Soviet-built Hind Helicopters (the main gunship that the Russians used in Afghanistan) from a base just down the road. One crashed recently, just beside the motorway into town, killing the Cypriot pilot and Russian instructor, but there are still eleven in the country -- at least one still at Paphos Airport. They overfly me regularly, often as low as 150 metres, and even though I know that they are benign -- to me, at least -- they make me feel very vulnerable.

I wrote the following poem -- or, I should say, it wrote itself -- in about ten minutes while drinking my coffee after just having been overflown by a Hind. I had been meaning to write something about it, but it never occurred to me that a poem would come out! The style of popular verse owes a huge debt to Australian poet Banjo Paterson -- creator of Waltzing Matilda and The Man From Snowy River, and , of course, to Rudyard Kipling.

When I’m working in my field

And a ‘Hind’ flies overhead

I don’t have to run for cover;

I don’t have to think ‘I’m dead!’

For the pilots they are our guys –

That’s their base, just down the road.

And the gunners don’t have rockets

That they’re itching to unload.

But in some benighted countries

When a gunship clatters by

Then the farmer in the field

Wonders if he’s going to die.

For he well knows how a rocket

Can destroy a home and hearth

And he’s sometimes buried children

Who were caught up in its path.

When the gunship clatters over,

Terror makes the eyes flare wide,

For there’s no safe place to run to,

There is nowhere left to hide.

The roar of close explosions,

And the acrid tang of smoke,

The crash of falling masonry,

The cries of injured folk.

Makes him hunker ever closer

To the cold, unyielding ground

While his eardrums ache to bursting

And the shrapnel whistles round.

I’ve never had a helicopter

Hunting me or mine

And years have passed since last I heard

A rocket’s screeching whine.

But I still feel pinned and helpless

When a ‘Hind’ roars overhead,

‘Til it wheels and soars off gracefully

Above the peaceful Med.

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