I’m privileged to count Sergeant Rick Clement a friend – if only by Facebook definition.
He’s been to hell and back and now lives in Blackpool. There must be a joke in there somewhere and I’ll rely on Rick to crack it on social media later.
Rick, a man who’s lost so much yet gained immense stature in the process, reminds me of all I’ve lost … as a journalist.
Rick gave me one of my last interviews for The Gazette – something of real consequence to carry into my own life on civvy street.
By then I’d seen the impact of terrorism at first hand – abroad on a UN tour and at home after the IRA brought fire bombs gift wrapped for Christmas to Blackpool.
I’d seen live firing exercises go horribly wrong and leave all too real casualties. And I’d learned lessons in perspective from veterans refusing to let anything stand in their way at Blackpool’s base of Blesma, the limbless ex-servicemen’s association.
Along the way I’d acquired immense respect for the local regiments which represent individual families within the extended clan of the British Army.
Aristotle said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Sergeant Clement is greater than the sum of his parts.
If that sounds blunt, remember Prince Harry’s comment when he met Rick who lost both legs, damaged his arm and suffered massive internal injuries when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan.
“At least your hair has grown back…”
A bit of banter goes a long way. Rick roared with laughter. He was one of the wounded – an almighty understatement – veterans who met Harry at a private view of Canadian rock star and photographer Bryan Adams’ exhibition The Legacy of War at Somerset House.
And those pictures blew me away , with apologies for the pun, with their sincerity, simplicity and starkness. There’s almost forensic precision in their presentation. They reminded me of Blackpool war artist Leo Rawlings’ graphic drawings of life in a Japanese prisoner of war camp – the injuries and diseases witnessed there.
But what really stands out in both camps is the triumph of the human spirit.
You don’t find much self pity in service ranks. Even the broken tend to make do and mend. Rick’s registered charity, A Soldier’s Journey, makes a point of helping those broken inside, as well as out. It’s what Rick calls the “unseen consequences of conflict.”
Rick, 34, has raised more than £160,000 for soldiers’ causes and is driven on by one thought: “Wouldn’t it be nice to raise a million pounds before I die?”
I’ll leave you with the last post I read from Rick on Facebook this week: “ People say to me all the time ‘how can I moan when you have been through so much?’ Yes, I’ve got through a lot but that doesn’t make anyone else’s problems any less significant to them than mine. To some people a house bill can be the cause of immense stress, to others it might be an illness, we are all guilty of moaning about things we shouldn’t so the next time someone moans about something, instead of thinking shut up whingeing how about asking if you can help? Or just listen. Sometimes this is how we can change the world.”
Is moose too much for Christmas?
There’s a moose loose in the hoose at Layton – and probably other branches of a leading discount chain.
Moose, wild boar, venison and kangaroo have joined seasonal delicacies along with stuffing umpteen varieties of fish or fowl together to make the Christmas joint of many colours, textures and flavours – some of them frankly conflicting if you haven’t glugged enough wine to blur the lines.
I know we live in the second Elizabethan age but I already drew the line at deer, wild boar and Tudor ‘turducken’ (birds within birds within birds) on such a grand scale – before Skippy hopped in.
As for moose? Haven’t we got enough on our plate by now? Must we add the largest of the deer species for Blackpool’s bargain hunters?
It may be low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein but surely it’s pretty heavy on air miles … and I really don’t want to eat anything with antlers this close to Christmas or beyond.
No moose is very definitely good news for me. And as for Skippy cold cuts on Boxing Day – hop off.
Hanging on the telephone
Locals have complained they have to hang on for as long as four minutes before anyone picks up the phone at the Town Hall.
Given the cutbacks at the council I’m astonished they have got anyone left to turn the lights off let alone pick up a phone.
I’ve spent longer trying to report some yobs on the non-emergency line for police.
Or get an engineer round to repair a boiler.
And don’t get me started on how long it takes to get through to the dentist.
Apparently the classical music played on hold is also irritating.
I’d suggest the Town Hall switches to Four Minute Warning (Radiohead’s version had more street cred than Mark Owen’s).
Before we get too hot under the collar remember that back in the Cold War days four minutes was considered time enough to confirm a nuclear strike by the Soviets and alert the nation…