More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 35

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.

THE sleek the coupe driven on British plates and sporting the St. Andrews Cross of Scotland tended to occasion curiosity wherever it went.

Police and military checkpoints were an universal feature on virtually all the roads.

The car was a great icebreaker at normally tough checkpoints.

There was usually guaranteed to be an officious chap who wanted to look everywhere. Inside, under the seats and in the boot: sometimes he insisted on the ‘boot’ being opened up.

Making sure the others are in on the joke, I made a great show of refusing: “Nothing in there.”

Then I would shrug my shoulders and open up the ‘boot’ – to reveal the engine. Everybody got a good laugh – and then the inevitable drinks and cigarettes were handed round.

It got me places an ordinary car wouldn’t reach. In the second year of the Bosnian war, I travelled the notorious northern corridor – the Serb ‘lifeline’ through northern Bosnia – without any of the many necessary permissions.