In 2009 I returned to the UK after a notably intense operational tour of duty in Kosovo. Even though bullets were not flying past my ears, the 6 months I spent there made a lasting impression on me. Even two weeks into my time based in Pristina, I knew there was a book waiting to be written about the events I experienced that Autumn and Winter.
Fast forward to 2015 and I realised that I needed to put pen to paper. After reading through lots of notes made in the weeks immediately after my return to the UK in February 2009, I started writing, cross referencing events and conversations with my diaries and notebooks which extensively covered my tour. I had written frequently and in detail.
Bringing these notes and my strong memories together into a memoir has taken a number of years to complete. And now I am on the final straight. I have been working on the book for the last 7 months, on and off. I am now finishing the final couple of chapters on the coast. Every time I have invested time in this project I have had to be by the sea. There is something reassuring about the motion and predictability of the tides and the waves. They are a powerful combination when you are looking for inspiration. This final retreat is no different.
It’s not easy for me writing something about a specific time in the past. I have to immerse myself fully in the events from ten years ago. Every day when I get started, I take myself back to a familiar place, interacting with people who have become great friends, as well as reliving exchanges with people I would rather not see again. Essentially, I am living in Kosovo once more, remembering the meetings, the conversations and the journeys into the unknown.
This time it has been especially hard to get back into that place, but I have arrived after 4 days of prevarication and dodging the real purpose of being here; the need to finish my book. I am a master of finding reasons to get distracted: going for long walks; drinking coffee in town; helping old ladies cross the road; these are all necessary preliminary activities on my journey to the act of writing. It’s takes a while for the creativity to come to the surface. It can be frustrating, but once I am there, it feels the most natural thing in the world.
And I am now where I need to be.