More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 39

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.

NOTHING beats having your own vehicle and driving yourself in a war zone.

Local drivers can work out to be splendid chaps of the highest moral fibre, incisive intelligence and developed instincts. But, usually, they turn out be seriously flawed in at least one of those departments.

In eastern Sri Lanka, a spot of midnight shelling over the roof of the hotel in Batticaloa led the driver to vacate his room and spend the night on the beach.

In the morning, he blithely announced over breakfast that he was off, back to the capital, Colombo, and that I should either accompany him or make my own way in the world.

I told him to clear off and come back on Saturday (which he didn’t do) and was not altogether sorry to see the back of him. I had only discovered at our first pit stop that he had a prodigious appetite for alcohol, which he expected me to finance.

Travelling in India, I developed the technique of open auditions for drivers. I would go to the busiest local taxi rank and announce that I required a driver.