More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 86

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 village was trashed and ruined, roofs burned away, timbers exposed and doors and windows missing.

There was evidence of the former Serb presence. We helped to lever open a wooden lid on one of the wells.

The sky went black with insects released from the depths and which had, presumably, been feasting for many months on the putrefying flesh.

I brushed away a couple of insects from my skin and thought little more about it.

From the foul waters of the well below protruded the rotting limbs of the unfortunate women. The smell was, of course, appalling, but Vaughan and I did our work; evinced the hope that it might help the village and went on our way back to Pristina.

Vaughan went off to edit the tape and I wrote some words about the experience.

When I woke up the next morning, my leg ached. Ached like hell. I examined it carefully but all I could find was a tiny red mark a bit like a mosquito bite. I shrugged it off and went out and about, seeing some British military types to find out what was going on.

The ache got steadily worse but alcohol seemed to help.

However, things were much worse in the morning. We drove out of Kosovo and into Macedonia where I dropped my colleague, Tim Ripley, at Skopje Airport.

I didn’t like the idea of seeking medical assistance in that part of the Balkans: there was virtually none available in Kosovo and Macedonia did not appeal either.

I made the decision to make the overnight drive to the Greek ferry terminal at Igomenitsa and to try and get to Italy. The Alfa eats up the winding Greek mountain roads effortlessly: at least it did on the way in. But my rally-driving skills are now at a low ebb. That night I found myself shaking uncontrollably.

By the time I got to the ferry port, not only was I finding it difficult to walk but I couldn’t eat any food.