Well, that was quite a 14 months…

Hard to believe, but it’s more than 14 months since I last posted here. As for the rest of the world, it’s been a whirlwind – so just wanted to post a quick update on what I’ve been up to, and the thoughts that it provokes.

As many of you know, as Covid-19 hit and the world shutdown in March 2020, I found myself drafted full-time into the British Army. For obvious reasons, I’m going to be sensibly vague on my activities during the pandemic – but I can say that it’s the hardest I have worked since the Sri Lanka war.

Find myself back in uniform and at the eye of the storms of the last year has been at various points fascinating, exhausting and intense. Military service brings experience and connection you just don’t get elsewhere – but also frustrations, challenges and more.

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and there’s probably nowhere I would rather have been, particularly for the first dramatic six months of the pandemic.

Being by far the most disabled individual in full-time military service – as well as a specialist in emerging forms of conflict that the army has yet to build career tracks for – has been first and foremost an amazing privilege. Unsurprisingly, it has also seen frustrations, challenges and issues I still need to engage with but am also still processing.

Overall, though, I feel as though I’ve made it work – and that the team I built and managed I are just at the start of achieving good and useful things (again, without giving details). I was released from part-time service last month, and am still reconnecting with the world.

At the time Covid 19 hit, I was still in the midst of running as an independent candidate for the Labour Party National Executive Committee. It was always a long shot, but I had been gathering what I felt was some momentum, including endorsements from multiple Constituency Labour Parties around the country.

All that, of course, went by the board in the face of the pandemic. For the last three weeks of the campaign, instead of visiting some of the constituencies that back to me, I was working flat out for the military, vanishing from social media altogether. Once I was mobilised into full-time service, Queens Regulations prohibited political activity in any case.

For all that, I banked an impressive 10,071 votes, nowhere near those of the candidates backed by the large left-wing and centrist factional political regimes, but still enough to make me the second most successful independent candidate.

That I did that well, I suspect, was in part a reflection of the widespread frustration within the party over years of infighting, bullying and other issues that have permeated the Blair to Corbyn eras and still remain too prevalent under the current leadership.

As this month’s local election results are shown, that’s a fight having – although that does not necessarily mean that I will choose to be the one that has it. A mix of restarting my journalistic career and some over-running military work left me without the time to campaign in the local elections just passed, and I’m still deciding when and where to re-engage.

What I do know is that there are other parts my life outside journalism, soldering and politics that could use some work.

In terms of more enjoyable activity, in the last few weeks I’ve enrolled in a memoir writing class at Gotham Writers in New York, hoping that will finally prompt me to get my story down in the way that it deserves. I managed a yoga and meditation lesson this week, an article in UK tabloid Metro on sex and dating with a disability and am about to take some leave.

Lockdown has seen more personal growth than I expected – as well as good food, good sex, inched in relationships and discovering just how hard I can fall in love. Still mending, healing and growing after the latter, with a view to taking things more lightly (so if anyone is in the mood for casual sex or more with me, I might well be available…).

Either way, it’s good to be back…

PS. Also great to be back doing columns for writers and events with the Project for Study of the 21st Century. Check out the latest podcast from the latter here, talking to some really interesting speakers over what we’ve learnt about the world this year.