More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 26

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, edited extracts from the memoirs of Scottish war correspondent, Paul Harris. ‘More thrills than skills: A half-life in journalism’, is being scheduled for publication next year.

NOBODY knew what would happen in the future. Everybody was suffering from some sort of stress.

Not so much post-traumatic stress syndrome as a continuing stress; the stress of not knowing how long the nightmare would go on. T

he scientists originally said the volcano would probably be active for two years. Then they said it could go on for another four years…

In fact, the passage of the months and years would see Mount Soufriere go back to sleep again, for the moment.

Every native Montserratian seemed to have the sort of problems which would terminally fracture any British family: businesses gone, homes and possessions destroyed, people were uninsured and usually still paying mortgages on property they most likely would never see again, paying rent on top of the old mortgage or, worse, living in a communal shelter.

For the older and the frail, the deadly silica already was clogging their lungs as silicosis set in.

You couldn’t help thinking most societies would have collapsed long ago under these type of pressure.

But, here, the mutual support mechanism ran strong and deep.

If you were driving along the road and somebody else was walking, you would stop and give them a lift.

That simple. If a friend was driving in the opposite direction, you stopped and talked.

The traffic behind stopped and waited patiently. The horn was hardly ever used. The ties of family, friendship or simple acquaintance seemed to endure notwithstanding recent unsettling events.