Pull up a Sandbag – Part One. ‘Italians in Iraq’

Anyone who has read the ‘about me’ section of this blog knows that I served eleven and a half years in the Royal Air Force.

In my wisdom I’ve decided I have too many unconnected stories in my head to ignore. They have to come out.

So, this is it, the memoirs of my time served.

So, there I was, single (or unmarried for want of a better word). In the hot desert of Basrah, Iraq. It was 2005 and if I’m entirely honest I was happy to be there. I have always loved the heat and being on tour. Especially a tour where alcohol was being served.

I was lonely and distraught because some Royal Navy wanker dumped me a month into my tour. My Army comrade mopped my wine drenched, pathetic ‘ditched on tour…I thought I was beautiful’ tears, when a group of Italian soldiers descended on The Toucan Bar. Two can rule…Toucan bar, get it? Well, never mind.

They swaggered over to the bar, my Army friends eyes lit up. I personally was uninterested by the rippling hot arrival of our European brothers in arms, but I thought I owed my Army friend a favour by at least attempting to act enthusiastically towards our rather sun kissed, muscled allies.

One of the more desperate ones immediately sidled up up to my rather heavy set manly looking mate whilst I commented that his friend looked somewhat like Sylvester Stallone. I am a huge ‘Rocky’ fan, I also relayed that information at the same time.

The Sly lookalike (he really did look like him) relished in my compliments. A little too much perhaps. So I added that if there was one thing I hated it was facial hair.

The Sly lookalike mused his beard and explained that he needed it to guard his face from the rays of the bright Iraqi sun. I agreed wholeheartedly that that was great for him and I understood his reasoning for the beard but that I didn’t find facial hair attractive in the slightest.

I left the Toucan bar that night entirely satisfied that I persuaded the Italian hunk that I wasn’t attracted to him at all.

My Army counterpart had arranged for her and I to be taken to a pizza night over at the Italian part of Basrah camp the following evening.

It was official, I was ‘taking one for the team’.

I was still wallowing in my own self-pity and wanted nothing less than to be surrounded by a bunch of self-serving Italian ‘I love me…who do you love’ twats. The way they held themselves said it all.

The next evening came, after a day at work where my colleagues told me how wine was served at breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Italian mess. I started to feel more comfortable about the encounter the coming night. If theres so much wine it wouldn’t be too bad, I thought…

Might even be worth it?

So, my eager Army mate and I went to the ‘Toucan Bar’ with our BIA (Basrah International Airport) Alcohol Ration Cards, (There is a whole blog post about those coming up), and waited for the slimy Italians to show up.

I was busy chatting to a colleague when it seemed that the air stilled and silence descended on the bar.

The only thing I heard was a giggle eliciting my Army friends lips swiftly followed by the word “Fuck.”

I looked towards the entrance, it was filled with two rather bulky looking Italians. There had been more the previous night, it was obvious to me that these two had staked their claim on us Brits…

One did look vaguely familiar.

More like Sylvester Stallone than ever.

The silly bugger had only gone and shaved his bloody beard off!

My Army friend, of course, thought it was absolutely hilarious. She knew I wanted nothing to do with it. So she was extremely lucky that I went to the Italian camp with her that night.

We were the only us two females amongst a sea of about seventy to eighty Italian soldiers that night. My mate lapped the attention up (bless her) whilst I spent the evening getting as pissed as possible on free wine that wasn’t rationed and dodging the unwanted attention of the Italians.

I’m pleased to say I was relatively unscathed by that particular experience. I say relatively because I spent the day in the walk in fridge trying not to be sick. The now beardless, ‘all for me’, Italian, I hoped had learnt his lesson.

My Army friend was a little less lucky. She started seeing one of them. She didn’t speak Italian and he spoke very little English…that only left one thing for them to do when they were together.

Sadly, she invited him over to The Toucan Bar one night. He disappeared, she eventually found him spearing one of the girls who lived in our tent with us…awkward! 

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