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Breathing in, breathing out
London, September 2022
Aneesa played in the fields as her dad dug up potatoes. Logar, Afghanistan, July 2022
Hello from London, where I’ll be based for some time. At least three months to six. If you’re around, let’s have coffee.
My apologies for not writing sooner.
The reason is there are blood clots in my right lung, I’m taking blood thinners. I’d been struggling to breathe fully for around six months and on visiting a few doctors was told it was a muscular issue. I felt it wasn’t. On returning from the most recent trip to Afghanistan in August, I had six days off and was due to head to Pakistan. I was enjoying this pace, the travel, meeting interesting people, taking photographs. But there was something wrong.
Because I was on a tight timeframe, I went private. An X-ray showed some issues in the lung and on returning to the NHS I was given blood thinners. There’s much to be said for how strained the NHS is. But the upshot is I’ve been told by nurses and doctors not to travel. I was meant to head to Pakistan, the country is being affected by heavy flooding and an already strained medical system.
There are times when you have to stop. This was one of them. So I looked for a place to stay in London. Instead of loading myself with work I took time out. And found I have nearly two thousand photographs from the last twenty months of visiting Afghanistan. After ordering some test prints saw they looked good, several people have asked to buy them, will set up a shop soon.
I am one of the lucky ones to be living here. I went for walks and slowly got back to exercising. I ate better. Drank water. The drugs are working.
Over the last twenty months I’ve travelled across Afghanistan where in some cities there is good medical provision but largely in the villages, and where the earthquake happened in Gayan and Barmal, an area I visited several times with different news crews, there is a doctor visiting with a few pills every once in a while, today aid organisations have flooded the area, but ordinarily if you had blood clots going around your blood stream, you’d have to live and maybe die with them.
What I aim to do now is take photos in London, I may get on a train to Paris but no long plane journeys. If you are doing that, wear compression socks (I’ve done so for several years and still had this issue), walk around the plane, even if you’re on a night flight, stretch, exercise.
I’ll rebrand this note as a diary because that’s one thing I can keep up with, something weekly is the wish.
Tonight on BBC Two and on HBO at 9pm you can see Escape from Kabul, a documentary I worked on for a couple of months at the start of the year in Kabul, it tells the story of the days from when the Taliban took over the country to when the Americans finally left and the lives of the Afghans in between those events.
I hope you are well, wherever you are. Get in touch if you’d like to meet, I’ve got a lot of time at present.