We were drinking ale and reading the Sunday papers and when we left the pub it was raining.
We didn’t really know what to do with our last day together. After spending most of the first year of our marriage apart we had now grown accustomed, over the last three months, to being together again. While we were in Spain we had fallen into an easy routine, enjoying the beach and the sun and hiding from real life. Ten days here soon stretched into three weeks but all too soon the real world came calling.
And for the first time ever I would not be able to come with Georgie to the airport to see her off. And so we sat quietly in the pub, Georgie buried in the weekend magazines, me scribbling at the crossword, each in our thoughts.
I waved her off in the cold London street Monday morning 8am and by Tuesday lunchtime I was back in Spain, in a big, empty, quiet apartment.
So where’s she gone now, this crazy wife of mine?
Not for her the quiet life, not for her resting on the laurels of her Ebola escapade. This time she’s gone East – to the junction between East and West and one of the most troubled parts of the world.
There aren’t many of us who can watch disinterestedly as the refugees flee from conflict in Syria. But there are fewer of us still who take it upon themselves to help. Georgie has gone to Turkey where she will be based in the South East of the country, close to the Syrian border. Around two million refugees have fled across that border and whilst our news is flooded with images of the handful that have made it as far as western Europe by far the majority have remained in this area where they are struggling to make lives for themselves. There’s a strong Kurdish population in the area, too, striving to create their own independent state. And Turkey itself is going through changes after an inconclusive general election earlier this year.
And now Georgie has gone to help, to provide mental health and psycho-social support to this mixed and troubled population. They are lucky to have her.
Of course, I don’t for a moment mean to underestimate the scope of the problems in that part of the world – but Georgie is really good at what she does. She is smart and caring and incredibly practical. People who don’t know her well might mistake her for an idealist, a dreamer. But she’s not, not really. She looks at a situation and tries to understand the complexities, she tries as far as possible to step outside of her own paradigms, her own prejudices and experience and to understand problems from the point of view of those suffering. It’s why she was an excellent mental health nurse when she was working in the NHS, it’s why she was great when she was working to reduce self-harm in women’s prisons, it’s how she coped when she spent time working in Belmarsh prison with some of the country’s scariest offenders.
It’s how she succeeded in Sierra Leone, too, because she approached problems with an open mind. Where others sought to impose Western working methods and ideas on the suffering population, Georgie tried to understand and work compassionately in line with the needs and wants of the people of the country. She built trust and showed compassion and adapted her working methods to fit.
Turkey will be a new challenge for her. It will be the first time she has visited that part of the world, and certainly the first time she has worked in that environment. She hasn’t worked with victims of conflict before, or tried to support refugees. She’s going to find it hard.
But she’ll do what she always does. She’ll approach problems with a smile and an open mind, with a will to work and a desire to help. She’ll listen and absorb, she’ll immerse herself in the work and the culture. She won’t make assumptions and she’ll learn as much as she can.
I miss her terribly, I’m sure you’ll believe. But Georgie has a chance to do work that she loves, work that she enjoys, and work that makes a real difference to the world. How many of us can say that? I’m proud to be her husband, and I’m pleased that she’s doing something important.
But I can’t wait til she comes home.
The countdown to Christmas starts now, folks.
(Check back tomorrow when I hope to be able to share some of her first thoughts)