Off The Grid with Luke Coleman

Our Man in Iraq

It feels strange to be back. There have been some subtle shifts in life in Erbil during the two weeks I was back in England (bookended by overnights in Beirut on this occasion).

Dropping off the bacon, sausages and cheddar ordered by a friend, I noticed a whiteboard next to the front door. On a grid, the house mates’ names. Next to that “In/Out?” And then “Location” and “Est. Time Home”. I was going on to a house party, where the same arrangement greeted me at the door.

The street on the way, that passes the US consulate compound, has been shut. There are extra guards. More guns. Erbil is jumpy after an Islamic State-sponsored car bomb detonated about a kilometre from my house, rattling the windows, and our nerves, albeit temporarily. Two Turkish men, enjoying a regular Friday coffee date, were killed in the blast, and an acquaintance of mine was among the wounded.

But we can’t let that change who we are, and why we’re here. I’m making plans to do some reporting from the frontline – if anything, I feel a stronger need to bear witness, to keep the story on the morning pages. I understand it’s difficult to maintain interest in a country that has for so long been a shit show. But I’m grateful for the chance to express a little about a country I love dearly on this monthly page.