THE LAST COLONIAL WAR
BY MARK FRANKLAND
'We heard the rain on the window
Like a simple waste of time.
We heard the sirens wailing
Like the world had lost its mind.
So I'm Sam.
I guess the first thing I need to do is to point out I am a Sam short for Samantha, not Samuel. I'm a female Sam.
Introducing myself like this isn't my idea. It feels a bit tacky to be honest, but I am not the one calling the shots. My publishers have insisted, and they are the ones who have written the nice fat cheque.
How much? Everyone is asking me how much. Well, I'm not telling. I guess it will probably leak out at some stage, but I will cross that particular bridge when I come to it. Let's just say it's more than enough for them to get to call some of the shots.
But not all of them.
They want me to take the opportunity to tell you the reader all about Sam the person. Well, I'm afraid edited highlights are all you are about to get. I have never been a person to tell the story of my life through my Facebook page and I am not about to start now.
So. The bare bones.
I was born in Edinburgh in 1998 which means I am thirty three years old as I type these words. I grew up in Scotland's capital city and I wanted for absolutely nothing. Both of my parents were lawyers. They are still lawyers. I wasn't quite born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I was close. We lived in Morningside and we lived well. Mum shopped in expensive delicatessens and dad always drove expensive cars. I have a younger brother – Martin – who arrived with us in 2004. I suppose I have always been something of a typical older sister. I was the sensible one. Martin was always the idiot. He still is. Sorry Martin.
We both went to private schools. I tended to be found at the top of the class and I aced every exam I ever sat. Martin was often as not to be found in the headmaster's office and he never bothered much with his studies. Educating the both of us cost our parents a fortune. I guess they probably feel they got their money's worth with me: not so much with Martin.
For as far back as I can remember I only ever wanted to be one thing.
Why? I have no idea why. I just did. Always have. Still do.
After school, I took a degree in English at Edinburgh University and emerged with first class honours, no debts, and an undiminished desire to become a hack. The only reason I got a toe hold on the bottom rung of the ladder was my parents' ability to buy me a one year internship.
Yes, I know. It stinks. Of course it stinks. I get it from Wendel every bloody day, so don't you start. Spoilt little rich girl from Morningside, right? Well, yes. That was me. Is me. Would I have made it without Daddy writing a cheque? I doubt it.
My first paid gig was as a cub reporter on the Lancashire Evening Post. I was there for five years and I pretty much hated it. I inched up from cub reporter to actual reporter and I waited for my phone to ring. Surely the Times or the Guardian would come calling?
When the phone eventually did ring, it was the Hereford Times and a slightly more senior role. Slightly. And that was that. I turned thirty and became wracked with self doubt and angst. Was the Hereford Times going to be as far as I was going to get? It looked like it probably was.
So there I was in my tidy little flat in Hereford living out my rather dreary little life. I covered mundane little stories and my editor was happy enough with the words I always produced well ahead of the deadline. I made a small circle of friends, none of them particularly close. I got a cat. I went to the gym. I spent my holidays at home in Edinburgh with a different set of friends.
And this was the first 31 years of my life. Privileged. Safe. Unremarkable. Pretty boring actually.
Then one night my life collided with Wendel's life and things started to get a little crazy.
And then everything went completely crazy – the crazy I will try to lay out over the next three hundred pages or so,
Right. Enough of me. More than enough.
Like I said before, I always planned on becoming a journalist but never in a million years did I ever see myself writing a book. Which kind of means I haven't got much of a clue where to start. The reason my publishers have been so generous with all those digital numbers they fired into my bank account has nothing to do with my writing talent. I have won this gig for one reason and one reason only.
I was there.
I was there all the way from the get go to the final curtain. I had a front row seat for the unfolding drama that grabbed the attention of the world and held it through the baking hot summer months of 2030. My dad said I should write a history book. Who did what and when and what did it mean? Not a chance! I might have been top of the class, but I'm nowhere near organised enough for anything like that.
So I have decided on something of a schizophrenic approach. When I describe the events I was involved in personally, I will be me. It will be I did this and I did that. When I describe stuff which happened somewhere else, I will be the dispassionate observer. You know, he did this and he did that. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. We'll see I guess.
My publishers wanted me to start the story at the point it all started for me. You know. The moment my life went stir crazy. To be honest, we've had a few heated arguments. I dug my heels in and played my very best stroppy cow card. Maybe you won't be so very surprised to learn I am actually pretty good at this. Over privileged girl from Morningside.....? Of course I am good at stamping my feet and getting my own way. I had a pal at university who always wore a favourite T shirt when she went out on her horse on a sunny day. 'Saw it. Wanted it, Threw a tantrum, Got it.' I can feel my dad wince as he reads this. Sorry dad.
Stories like the one which gripped the world last summer don't just happen. There is always background. The tectonic plates which grind away for thousands of centuries until the moment comes for a vast earthquake to rip the ground open. And the main players who turn the tide of history don't just happen to be in the right place at the right time. There is a reason why they are there. There is always a back story. And without the back stories, the men and women who make history wouldn't have been there to make it. Is this pretentious? Probably. Well if it is pretentious, then sod it. My stubborn Caledonian mind is set on this one and I have told my publisher it is non-negotiable.
Which leaves me with the title I suppose. 'The Last Colonial War.' These are not my words. I have stolen them. The words made up the title of a long piece which appeared in 'Time' magazine a couple of months after the guns fell silent. As soon as I read the words, I knew they would become the title of my book. Because that is exactly what it was.
'The Last Colonial War.'
There will never be another. After hundreds and hundreds of years, the events of 2030 will forever be the last chapter in the story of the British Empire. And there was a kind of perfect symmetry about it. London's first Colonial Wars always involved marching their armies north into Scotland. As the years rolled by, London's redcoats fought any number of vicious little wars in every corner of the world. Old, cracked oil paintings carry the memories of these blood soaked encounters which ensured so much of the map of the world stayed red for so many years. When men with spears tried to take on men with cannons and rifles, we tended to win big. Like Ulundi. Like Ondurman. When the other guys had rifles of their own, things didn't turn out so well. Like Saratoga. Like Spion Kop. And as the great Empire withered on the vine, the punishment battalions lost the ability to punish.
After the 1956 Suez fiasco, many said there would never be another Colonial War. They were wrong of course. The British found a last hurrah on the windswept moors of the Falkland Isles.
And then the music stopped. No more African slaves. No more Indian opium. No more South African gold. No more unclaimed places to conquer and strip bare. No more Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh and Cecil Rhodes and Winston Churchill. No more buccaneers and privateers. No more East India Company. The sun finally set on the Empire it was supposed to never set on.
For a while, it semed like Britain might have found a new place in the world as a part of the EU. But when you've been a playground bully for so many hundreds of years it is hard to learn how to be a goody two shoes.
In 2016 the English spat out the dummy. They threw their Brexit tantrum and dreamed of a return to the good old days. But this time there was no Walter Raleigh. No Cecil Rhodes. No Winston Churchill. Instead everything fell apart. Scotland upped sticks and left. Then Ulster. Then Gibraltar.
And in the long hot summer of 2030 London was ready for one last desperate throw of the dice.
London was ready to launch its last Colonial War.
And I was there.
I HAVE WRITTEN THIS STORY TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE FOODBANK I MANAGE IN DUMFRIES, SOUTH WEST SCOTLAND. OVER THE COMING WINTER OVER 3000 PEOPLE WILL COME THROUGH OUR DOORS AND RIGHT NOW WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH CASH TO HELP THEM ALL OUT. MAYBE YOU MIGHT BE WILLING TO HELP US OUT BY BUNGING A COUPLE OF QUID ONTO OUR JUSTGIVING PAGE? I HOPE SO. JUST FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW. I HOPE YOU ENJOY THE REST OF THE BOOK AND IF DO, PLEASE SHARE IT. MARK.
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