War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

there is no such thing as "just a cook"

today, recovering from the heavy emotional/intellectual/spiritual/psychological of yet another draft of the Requiem (the penultimate I’m hoping) AND of submitting 48 pages of work to my Post-Graduate Committee (BOTH due on the same day), a knock on the door. the genial gentleman who fixes things here in the campus accoms.

I scrambled to dress properly (still in nightgown having shovelled child out the door to school), let him in, showed him the broken plug and we get yacking as usual. he sees my dishevelled state and I tell him what I’ve been doing, and my subject matter.

“I was in the Falklands,” he tells me, “I know about some of this [war] stuff… but I was only a chef”

I say to him, “there’s no such thing as only a chef or cook in my opinion” and I tell him how one of the first things I learned on Ex was to be super polite and grateful to the chefs (and this wasn’t difficult because they were excellent and their food was great). I was told that the worst thing one can do would be to “piss off a cook”.

I told the chap today how I liked to hang with the cooks and slap spuds on plates as the Padre told me to (“you’ll see how the boys are doing by looking at their eyes as you do feed them”). I also said to him how I know how important to one’s wellbeing good, hot food is and how for every guy on the front lines it takes at least 11 in support trades to keep them there. I speculate that might be even more for the fliers (because of their complex multi-million dollar birds).

I remember how the mess at Camp Mirage was a curious thing. strangely holiday-like in its offerings of exotic weird-ass fruit, its camel yogurt (very very smooth, creamy, delicious), it’s sandy “beach” volleyball court, it’s bougainvillea flowers and warm breeze. and yet it was a strange place too. almost a last supper or “cafe at the end of the galaxy” feel to it in that inevitably, some who ate there it would be the last time they ate a meal outside the wire in their entire life. and for others on route home from the war zone, it would be their first meal in months where at least a part of them needn’t be on alert (though they were, even tho’ they check weapons upon arrival… and oh, what a sight that is to see all that weaponry hanging there in an incredibly secure lock-up…. and the women checking in the weaponry handling high powered rifles as if they were incredibly expensive coats being handed in to some weird-ass coat check).

Camp Mirage, the worst kept secret camp in the world (one could google earth it for heaven’s sake), was like a bizarre bus station/club med without the pool. it was either nervy with people heading INTO war, or jangled with people heading OUT of war. and being housed in VIP quarters (which I hated) I never had a chance to see the troops. instead I was with senior officers and next-of-kin and the fly boys that were the Charons into and out of war.

I find it interesting that little memories trigger big ones. today a conversation with a man coming to replace a plug. and he tells me how he reads the poets. and loves Owen. I lent him a book of contemporary soldiers’ poems. thanked him for fixing my sink. allowing me to work.

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled there is no such thing as "just a cook". It was posted here on March 02, 2012.


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