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The muse have fled, or so it would seem. Best I have been able to do these last ten days is drag out an old journal entry from the Solomons! I drove from the airport directly to work and had half a day at the desk before I headed home before I fell asleep in the office. And as I did so, through newly sprung maples and watching sulphur crested cockatoos playing in the wires near home I thought how safe and boring it all was. I thought I would still have insights and things to say about the place but by the time I resurfaced a week later from Board meetings and other distractions I discovered the stimulation of the place had been fuel to my muse and now I regret constraining myself to an entry a day. If that environment was stimulating to the muse then this environment is enervating, something I had not really appreciated before. Sure, the alertness and “liveness” I felt in Baghdad revisited previous jobs in edgy places that I have enjoyed in the past. But I had not appreciated the impact the environment has on my creativity or on the desire to pry into what makes things and people tick. I could talk about the sound of news choppers here and all that is trite and mundane when those sort of comparative exercises are worked through but I suspect they would be seen for the contrived efforts they could only be. Perhaps rather a note here that I have some images seared into my mind as the visit recedes into history. The face of a driver of an old Datsun as we passed him on the road out of Baghdad – eyes reflecting the shrieking silent fear of being out there on his own (while I took some consolation in my protective armour and team). A solitary middle aged figure standing in front of his empty shop, gazing at us as we swooshed past. The faces and poses of men standing outside their cars with their hands up – just in case. Indolent soldiers on the street behind their anti aircraft cannons. Three men standing by the Tigris with nothing to do. Watching us closely and our own security people getting edgy under the idle scrutiny. Old women chatting in front of blasted shops, as if there was no war happening at all. A woman and her small daughter pulling along the sidewalk as fast as they could go, not looking around for anyone or anything. Other children going to school as if this was a normal street – they and that attitude will be the salvation of Iraq. Rows and rows of blank faces waiting outside the ministry, with no work, no place to go, no home to return to with any dignity. Best to look like you have been at work all day. Smoke on the horizon marking someones ruination. Silent shadows appearing over the Tigris and settling into their nest on the banks of the Tigris, choppers of all types silently returning from whatever they had been up to. Faces. Faces. And more faces. I need to get back there. Soon.