Thursday, June 18, 2009

Grim occupation

What a powerful drama Occupation (BBC1, this week) has been - and what good actors we have in this country. I don't know which aspect of the three-parter struck me most forcibly - the edgy, hand-held camera work, the bleak realism of the scenes set in the UK, the evocation of emotion kept under control until that control snapped under the tension - but the overall result had me gripped, tearful and shocked at what we do to people.

I thought for the umpteenth time how impossible it is for soldiers to return to what the rest of us call normality, how unreal civilian life must seem, how difficult it is for their families - in fact, how impossible it is that soldiers should have families at all, given the lives they have to lead. And it makes no difference where or when that soldiering takes place - after reading Conn Iggulden's excellent "Emperor" series I felt that the soldiers who served with Caesar in Gaul must have felt lost among the back streets of Rome.

Much of my recent thinking has been about the volunteers in the trenches of World War 1, but I can't help wondering if all soldiers see and experience things which make them different for the rest of their lives - if they survive. I always knew there were things my father never told me about his war in the Western Desert, and by the time I was sufficiently mature to ask the questions he was no longer there to answer them. But I feel the questions returning after this week. Can I find a soldier who will anwer them?


  1. It was splendid if very horrifying.

  2. One of my little flock is still waking up in the middle of the night screaming. Two desert campaigns, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Ireland in the Medical Corps have certainly had their effect on him.