I happened to be indoors on the first morning of the war, tidying up the chaos of the flat after three days of redecoration. I sat down for a break and reluctantly turned the TV on, which I never do in the daytime, to be confronted with the reality of war – that there are huge chunks of time when nothing actually happens. Of course, these days, this doesn’t stop the main TV channels from continuing to broadcast nonetheless. Faced with this, Nicholas Owen found himself interviewing a ballistics expert on scud missiles. “We’ve heard a lot about the use of scud missiles,” said Owen to the expert, who, shot from behind, was revealed to be miked up so comprehensively that he looked like an android. “Can you tell us something about them? For example, what is a scud missile?” The robot-expert churned out a textbook definition of a scud missile, which seemed to be basically that it was a missile that exploded when you fired it at something. Owen then introduced a report from a journalist sitting in a tent in Kuwait wearing a gas mask. The despatch was also broadcast via the trendy new technology of videophone, which reproduces for the ordinary television viewer the exact experience of watching a movie downloaded off the internet on a 56k modem. “As you can see, I’m wearing my gas mask,” mumbled the flickering journalist. The rest of his report seemed to amount to little more than “not much has happened since last night”. Owen, keen to milk the despatch for as long as he could, said, “I see you’re in a tent. Can you pull the camera back a bit and show us what that tent is like?” I decided I didn’t really want to know what the tent was like, and turned off the TV.
I was sad and angry enough that the war had finally started without having to contemplate crap like this. The whole thing reminded me of something my Grandad once said: “War is ninety per cent total boredom and ten per cent total terror.”