The Easy Day Was Yesterday

BOOK: The Easy Day Was Yesterday
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This book is dedicated to all my mates who are no longer with us and will not have the opportunity to take the piss out of me as they read my story
.

CONTENTS

Title

Dedication

Introduction

1 –
Breaking Point

2 –
Bugger

3 –
Interrogation

4 –
Standby Patrol

5 –
Nightmare Day One

6 –
SAS Selection Course

7 –
Nightmare Day Two

8 –
Growing Up

9 –
Nightmare Day Three

10 –
Nightmare Day Four

11 –
Nightmare Day Five

12 –
Nightmare Day Six

13 –
Steven

14 –
Nightmare Days Seven and Eight

15 –
Nightmare Days Nine and Ten

16 –
The Last Frontier

17 –
Nightmare Day Eleven

18 –
Nightmare Day Twelve

19 –
Nightmare Day Thirteen

20 –
Deployed to hell

21 –
Nightmare Day Fourteen

22 –
Nightmare Day Fifteen

23 –
Nightmare Day Sixteen

24 –
Nightmare Days Seventeen and Eighteen

25 –
Nightmare Day Nineteen

26 –
Prepared to Die

27 –
Nightmare Days Twenty and Twenty-one

28 –
Last Days

29 –
The Iraq War 2003

30 –
Freedom Beckons

31 –
Asian Tsunami

32 –
Home

Plates

Copyright

INTRODUCTION

This is not just another story about an SAS soldier and how tough they are — that’s been done to death and, frankly, they all read the same.

This is a story about a life of struggle and adventure, about looking for the next challenge, about getting out of difficult situations and about making the best of the ordinary hand you’re dealt. This is my life story and it’s told simply and without exaggeration. This is me. I begin my story with my arrest in India for a simple, honest mistake. I only spent 24 days in that rat-infested toilet, but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do (and I’ve been through a fair bit of shit in my time). During my stay in prison I had a lot of time to think about my life, what I’d done, what I’d seen and what I’d been through.

I was an SAS soldier — a warrior, the best of the best. While I was sitting in my cell I reflected on the SAS selection process, how I got there and how bloody tough it was. I thought about my childhood and how my father abandoned the family to a life of poverty and a daily struggle just to make ends meet. I thought about my brother’s death when I was 11 and how that had an impact on the direction my life took. I thought about the jungles of Borneo and how hot it was. But it was hotter trying to sleep in the police station on the night I was arrested.

I went through the last war in Iraq with CNN. I prepared the humvee in Kuwait until the crew and I were embedded with an American cavalry unit. I drove through horrendous ambushes in Najaf, caught an artillery barrage in As’ Samawah and got hammered on the freeway to Baghdad with a violent, brutal attack that never seemed to end.

In Papua New Guinea I killed a criminal. In the Solomon Islands a rebel tried to kill me. In Rwanda I watched about 4,000 people being butchered in one day.

I wrote most of these stories as diaries and mainly for therapy. I have no experience of writing. This is my story and I’ve called it ‘The Easy Day Was Yesterday’. The title comes from an old warrior who taught me a lot about the profession of soldiering and was responsible for selecting and moulding scores of SAS soldiers. ODC, as he is known, was as hard as nails and a great soldier. At the start of each day’s training, ODC would say, ‘Men, the easy day was yesterday.’ With that, we’d all let out a silent sigh contemplating the tortures that lay ahead of us. I’ve carried that mantra through life. Those challenges and difficulties I faced in my childhood and as a young soldier set the bar high and, while I’ve certainly faced some challenges since then, they can’t compare with those early years and so have proved far easier to negotiate. This, then, is my story.

1.
BREAKING POINT

July 2008. I am summoned to the Warden’s office by a prison guard — the usual nightshift, Ugly Prick, who speaks to me in short grunts. It is late and almost time to be locked back in the cage for the night, so this is not the procedure I have grown used to. I slip on my flip flops and stagger across the prison yard with Ugly Prick in tow, carefully stepping over the piss drains, rubbish pits and where some bloke, clearly suffering from a nasty dose of bronchitis, has spat a horrible green blob into the dirt. In fact, if you look closely, the yard resembles an oyster farm with green, disgusting mounds everywhere — fucking pigs. I look but don’t see. The crowd of prisoners parts and stares as I head towards the wooden door that separates the yard from the administration area. A guard stationed at the door pushes me aside and motions for me to get back to my cell. Well, at least that’s what I am able to determine from his hand gestures and the sound, ‘arrrrrrgggghhhhhyyy’. But another guard steps in and tells me to go to the Warden’s office. The first guard decides I need help through the door and gives me a good shove. I want to turn and give the fucker a beating he will never forget. I want to give him one of those savage prison-type beatings you see in the movies where one bloke just keeps on throwing the hits until the other guy’s just a bloody pulp. But then if I do that, I’ll never get out of here. So I turn and say, ‘Thanks for that, mate.’ He grunts, spits and walks off. I shuffle past the two prison clerks sitting behind an old table stained with tobacco juice. They wear a look of concern and whisper, ‘Mr Paul, there are doctors waiting to see you, be more sicker.’

‘Okay, fellas, thanks,’ I whisper back.

I enter the Warden’s office and he tells me to sit down. The Sub-District Magistrate (my new friend, Bala) is there and he says ‘hello’ to me in his very proper accent. I sit in the plastic chair and try to control my breathing. The walk to the Warden’s office is only 30 metres, but a diet of biscuits and water for 16 days and doing nothing but lying down all day is taking a surprising toll on my fitness. This, combined with the skin infections, ear infection, rat bites and flu, is really slowing me down. If a chance came to escape, I’d have to question whether I still had it in me.

Bala tells me I am going to court tomorrow. I nod. ‘If you plead guilty, you will be given maybe a six-month sentence, but the maximum is five years, so maybe it will be more,’ continues Bala as my heart skips a few beats. ‘So, you must plead not guilty, okay?’ I nod in agreement. Then he introduces me to the other two men in the room. These are the court-appointed doctors who start their medical examination of me while I try to pretend to be sicker than I really am. They take my pulse and blood pressure then examine my various ailments. One doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to my heart and, after a minute or so, declares all to be in order.

‘That can’t be right,’ I protest, ‘listen again.’ I grab the end of the stethoscope and try to jam it into my left atrium. Again, the doctor says I am fine. Bugger, I thought. This isn’t going well. Aside from those infections and some weight loss I was okay, but what I didn’t know was that Bala had already made it clear to them that I was to be transferred to the hospital tomorrow regardless.

‘Is everything okay, Paul? You don’t look well tonight,’ suggests Bala with a hint of concern. Oh no, I’m fucking great. There’s nowhere I’d rather be on a Friday night than this filthy shit hole. Oh, life doesn’t get much better than this, I thought.

‘I’m not feeling 100 per cent today, Bala, just a bit tired, I think. This has dragged on longer than I ever thought it would.’

‘Well, you should go back to your cell and get some rest, you have a big day tomorrow.’

‘Thank you,’ I said and, after weakly shaking hands with the less than helpful doctors, I leave the office.

When I get back to the prison yard, it’s dark and all the other prisoners have been locked in for the night. I can hear their murmuring voices and see them peering through the bars as I wander back through the ambient light towards my cage. I mull over the proceedings with the doctors. Had I done enough to ensure I would be sent to hospital? Were they convinced I was on death’s door? I didn’t think so. So I pick the only relatively clean piece of ground in the yard — the concrete area immediately surrounding the old water pump where we all wash. I stagger towards this spot and collapse in a heap. It is a beautiful performance, really something to behold. I go down like a sack of shit; not too hard, though, as I don’t want to hurt myself after all. The prisoners watching me erupt into screams. In fact, it sounds like every prisoner is watching and screaming. Roughly translated, they are probably yelling, ‘That white bastard has gone down!’

Guards come running, as do some prisoners who haven’t completed their daily duties and are yet to be locked up. As I lie there with people fussing about, I feel like a big girl. How has this become my life? I’m in prison, for fuck’s sake. I’m in prison in the poorest state in India for something utterly ridiculous. I thought I was better than this. Man, I really fucked up. Big time.

2.
BUGGER

The rickshaw ride was massaging my tired bones and calming my overworked brain. Standing up for six days teaching Nepali journalists was good fun, but bloody tiring and I was relieved to have 24 hours off to catch my breath. The training had finished after lunch and we were flying to the new location late the next day. Before Nepal, I’d been doing the same in Japan for a week, so I was really looking forward to a day off when I could just mooch around, catch up on sleep and not talk to anyone.

Ujwal, my Nepali interpreter and general guide for the duration of the training, suggested we get out of the hotel and maybe take a rickshaw ride to look at the Indian border. Ujwal wanted to show me the border and do a little shopping for his wife. Frankly, I couldn’t be arsed, and when I found myself still lying on my bed at 3.00 pm, I thought he’d forgotten about the whole idea. The border might have been interesting, but I just wanted to stay where I was and do nothing but catch up on sleep. A few years ago, I was in Lahore, Pakistan, and visited the border with India. There they have a parade on each side of the border where they open and close the border gates with real pomp and ceremony. The enormous soldiers from both countries try to outdo one another with their perfect drill. It’s quite a spectacle, draws lots of tourist and they even have tiered seating to allow people to get a better view of the display. But today I really just felt like relaxing and then maybe taking a lazy walk around town after a nap. I went for a decent run the day before but, on the final 200 metres, I managed to pull a muscle in my calf. I had a little bruising and a limp, so I was using this rest time to get my leg up and onto a bag of ice the lads in the kitchen brought for me and, yes, I felt like an old man. Ten minutes later, Ujwal knocked on my door, poked his head around the edge and said, ‘Shall we go?’

Ah bugger it, I thought. Perhaps a ride in a rickshaw might be interesting and at least I can say I’ve seen the Indian border from two different countries.

‘Yep, I’ll just grab my bag.’

I always carried my pack with me everywhere when travelling overseas, particularly in Nepal. The hotel we were staying in was the best in Biratnagar, but by normal standards it was very ordinary and the lock on the door wasn’t the best. So I always carried my valuables and lifesaving kit with me. My rationale was that, if the hotel was destroyed in my absence, I could still survive. So I carried my passport, plane tickets and money. This would ensure I could at least leave the country if everything else was lost. I also carried some bottled water and my camera for happy snaps.

Ujwal managed to secure a couple of rickshaws for the princely sum of about two bucks each, so away we went, with Ujwal and his rickshaw leading the way. We’d only travelled about a kilometre when we left the built-up centre of Biratnagar and travelled through beautiful flat farmland. The paddocks were green and the grass about two feet deep. If they didn’t worship cattle this would be great beef country. Not only was there plenty of grass, but there were waterholes every hundred metres or so. The cattle would thrive here; they’d be fat, lazy and happy. The cattle back in Australia have to walk all day for a reasonable feed and then all the way back again for a mouthful of water. This would be like a cattle version of a health spa for Australian cattle.

BOOK: The Easy Day Was Yesterday
4.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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