Episode 21 - Helen Gray

Landmine Clearance Expert

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Summary intro

Demining activities may be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, but it doesn’t faze Helen Gray. She’s worked across the world to help remove mines, and now runs a farm, whilst being a landmine advisor.


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Ridding countries of landmines is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. In spite of this, this week’s podcast guest has spent the last 20 years of her life doing just that. Helen Gray hails from East Lothian, and while working for Halo the Hazardous area life support organization she ran D mining
teams in Angola, Colombia, and Mozambique at the moment she’s back in the UK and she joins me today from her family farm just outside Edinburgh.

ScotsCare supporting Scots away from home in London.

Hi Helen.

Hi Marcus.

How are you?

I’m good.

Thank you for joining the ScotsCare podcast.

Nice to meet you.

We’re recording this towards the end of January and it did occur to me this morning we’re recording on Burns Night and I did think, I know you’ve got sheep on the the farm and are you a fan of Haggis?

Yeah I love a bit of Haggis, I’ve I’m hoping my brother’s gonna pick me up uh some from our local butcher today.

You know I was talking to my kids about it, you know my my kids are all English you know I’ve been in just outside London for 20 odd years now so well I said to
my kids oh I’ll get some haggis tonight and we’ll do it and and my my nine-year-old almost 10 now Rafe said to
me what’s it made of and I said well you know and I was trying to remember it’s called the pluck isn’t it I was saying
well it’s the it’s the heart and the lungs and the liver and then they mince it all up and I just I was looking at
his face and I was thinking oh gosh this is too much information there’s no way he’s going to eat this yeah I think I
think the the best way to say is uh explain it is just say it’s a big sausage sausage you know and I was the other I
was thinking about you yesterday and today because yesterday I got in the car to run the kids to school and it said minus five and then today it was it was
you know a bammy minus one and I was thinking is that tough on a farm do you have to get out crack it on yeah no well
we were um we were scanning all of my users I don’t have I have a small flock of pedigree sheep and they were getting
their pregnancy scans last night but the the last week or so it has been it’s got
much milder but the last week or so is it’s been really cold here and so then
that is extra work just making sure they’re all right breaking ice on the water extra feed that that kind of um
thing just to to make sure that um everybody’s all right but yeah so I had
to move moved all my use yesterday morning into a shed so that they could um have their scanning experience and I
tell you what the the scanner came to us at the end six o’clock at night and he did the the 24 years in in no time at
all but he’d scan 2 000 sheep yesterday um which is pretty efficient isn’t it
yeah and do you get to know then and there how many of you are 24 are pregnant
yeah absolutely so there’s um uh 15 having twins and then
um there’s eight singles and there’s sadly one that’s been pregnant but is reabsorbing so she’s Something’s
Happened and she’s losing the pregnancy and then of the singles two of them
might actually be twins but they’re they’re a bit early on so um is there a number of there that is a
success for you do you as you know as a farmer do you say 15’s good but 11 isn’t
enough for uh 58 so if every you was pregnant and
gonna have one lamb that would be a hundred percent and if every year was pregnant you’re gonna have two Lambs that would be 200 and that would be like
that’s that’s what you’re going for so 200 is really brilliant uh but 158 is
absolutely fine and I’ve got quite a few of my user coming in a first first time
mums so um that uh you know it’s all right when they’re having a single I
actually do like talking about the Farms because they really fascinate me friends but you came to my attention because of
your work with land mines all over the world and I must say I didn’t know
anything I know about their existence but it was one of these things until you start to look into it when I started to look into it I was really quite shocked
I mean how many countries in the world are still blighted by landmines oh gosh I’d have to double check
um but they are still globally a significant problem affecting many many
countries I mean the situation has changed a little bit in the last sort of
five ten years with different types of contamination if you look at kind of um
Syria and Iraq and and changes in Afghanistan but obviously the the new um
you know massive contamination at the moment is you use Ukraine um and you know last last year I was in
um so I just worked as a consultant now and I mostly do do sort of Fairly practical trainings but uh yeah in the
last year I did a global training in Switzerland and then I was in Mogadishu Somalia
and after that in Yemen and then right right at the end of the year in in Ukraine
um so it’s it’s very much a an ongoing serious problem and I think something that sort
of we thought um you know there was been sort of big campaigns and stuff to see the end of
landmines by 2025 and um you know I don’t think that’s really realistic uh at the
moments I mean I I after I thought it’d be great to talk to Helen I started I I
was on the United Nations website and I was looking at the stats and it says that Egypt has 23 million landmines and
then that’s followed by Iran 16 million and these are mind-boggling numbers is is
that ever fixable I know the thing some some of those very big numbers uh you
sometimes have to do the math on them and that they’re not um they’re not totally accurate but I mean there
certainly are big numbers and they are I mean it depends how the mines are laid so I worked in in Colombia for for two
years which had um in sort of 2000 when I when was that there
2011-12 and then I was going back regularly to visit and it had one of the highest accident rates in the world but
the number of land mines are relatively low okay um the tactic that the
landmines are used by so they were you know mines were being used by the non-state
um actors so principally Fark and the Ln and possibly some narcotics narcos sort
of groups as well and you know protecting coca crops but also being laid on past the the military and the
the locals would Patrol on so they would use only a low number of items so one or
two items but everything that was laid was laid to cause an accident so each mind the percentage likelihood of having
an accident is very high so you didn’t have very many Minds there but you had a very high rate of accidents and then
back in the day I worked in Mozambique which is you know a huge achievement in
the it’s um declared um compliance with the the Mind Ban
Treaty which was just you know a real accomplishment for a country that had
been um very badly contaminated but I mean I worked on minefields there where you were looking at
um you know 80 80 000 mines um with about 3 200 mines per linear
kilometer of the minefield so really really hugely dense minefields
going for for tens of kilometers um and there’s similar ones on the the
Mozambique Zimbabwe border and the Zimbabwe border still being outside is still being worked on and and there you
have the really really high numbers of minds but to a degree you know people
have a much better understanding of where the contamination is so you do still have accidents when people make
mistakes um or are pushed into these areas for other reasons but the number of
accidents in comparison to the number of Mines is is much lower because of the the tactics that we used if that makes
sense yeah yeah and I suppose what doesn’t help is is the fact that you’ve
got these num you’ve got these numbers and that they are continually being laid by like you say Narco groups or whatever
and the the minds can remain active I read for 50 years when you look at the
sort of Soviet era um Factory produced landmines that you know I was dealing
with in place like Mozambique and Angola and particularly when they were in Sandy Sandia soils and stuff you know you’d be
finding them 40 years later and they look like they’d you know come straight out of the factory
um you know which is really really scary so I mean eventually obviously over time they will degrade but it’s very
difficult to you know put a Time on it um so you’re going to be taking your
family for a picnic um anywhere where you think they are
it could be Sunday football or Monday piano lessons whatever a child wants to
learn after school hours Scott’s care has grants to help cover costs parents
can’t always find the funds for those extracurricular Pursuits but there’s a good chance Scott’s care can
where were you brought up were you brought up in uh East Linton in uh which
for anyone who doesn’t know that area you’re about 40 miles outside of Edinburgh is that right but yeah so 30
miles outside of Edinburgh so yeah on a family farm just outside the Village of
East Linton you know typical Farmers with um you know on the farm most of the
time you know occasionally went on on holiday to having more or Cornwall or Wales
um so yeah very much uh grew up here and then when I
left school at 18 I think 10 days later I was in South Africa and I got off a
plane I’d managed to get a job through sort of farming and horse connections and uh yeah got for playing literally
got off the plane and realized they’d been cold for my entire life
I know that feeling yeah and and so how did you go how did you was there an expectation that you would you would
come back from University and go back into the family farm and that would be your life so and so to go from that to
you what for Halo the Hazardous areas life support organization that seems they seem you know polar
opposite so I wondered how you went from there and then when you when you I don’t know if you had a discussion with your
mom and dad or your parents your Guardians he said this is what I’m going to do and did they not say
Jesus Helen is this really what you want to do I think my mum spent the last sort of 20
years lighting candles every every weekend when she goes to mass
um but yeah um how did it all really start so I was very so I managed to before uni I
managed to work a bit in um into South Africa Kenya and in Zimbabwe
and I I really enjoyed that and then uh went to UNI and when I was there got um
was part of so I did Natural Sciences so biology and biological anthropology and
got to go to Madagascar as part of an expedition um in southern Madagascar and so we
worked in a you know we really um lucky and got to work with the tandroid people and really remote
um Southern sort of Madagascar kind of when we were sort of two days walk from
the closest sort of small village that uh a car could get into
um so it was pretty off the Beaten Track and I guess so that through that you know had experience of working with
people and managing in very remote in environments and you know actually having to really look after yourself and
then from that job I got um after University
I first worked for the Scottish seabird Center while looking for stuff abroad and then I I ended up running a
being the Expedition leader and looking after a research Lodge in the Peruvian jungle okay and which is brilliant you
know amazing experience again you know eight hours by canoe from Fort Maldonado
no electricity no running water drank muddy water from the tambapata river for
a year um straining it through a sort of um large sock would be the best way to
describe it did you get ill did you did you stay fit for that year no I know I’m pretty robust
no no I’ve I’ve had the odd parasite over the year but over the years but no
no been being pretty well and then I when when I was there you know we were doing uh working in in conservation
which I absolutely loved it was fantastic but also you know got to work with local communities and that was really interesting and I really enjoyed
that that part of it that part of working with with communities trying to find Solutions and um so when I was uh
home you know it’s like all of these things sort of by mistake you know I and ended up having a pint in the the local
pub with the a guy whose daughter had been in the The
Pony Club and I taught her a little bit and you know really funny and he’s a a
next Army Major and he was just like well what about the Halo trust you know do you know about land binds and I said
no uh I don’t know anything about land mines he’s like I think you should apply to them so I phoned them up and um the
the current sort of boss at the time said well um you can come for an informal chat but
we don’t really have women in the field uh anyway so I went for an informal chat
which was sort of like a panel my recollection is a sort of a panel interview with sort of 11x uh
no nine X army officers it wasn’t that informal
oh man I presume yes yes and uh but it
was fun it was fascinating and um yeah I think three or four months later I was in
the the north of Mozambique starting my operational training with Halo so you
know when you join the organization you go through we’ve got amazing uh training for people who come in so you know they
can employ people you know there’s a in the industry um quite recently there’s many people
that come from a military background but there’s also lots of people that don’t and I think what you know Haley does is
anybody who joins you know goes through a very comprehensive training program so
it actually means that you can employ from a sort of a wider background you know which is interesting
um yes I did did all my training uh initially in Mozambique and then ended
up um as a sort of early Junior person in Angola and it all went from there and
you sort of suddenly get sort of 15 years on and that’s 2004 and you’ve sort
of been in mine action in quite a niche thing for a very long time and that’s kind of what you know about listening to
your talk you come across as you’re a very pragmatic person and a very stoic person and I wonder
were you that person before you saw everything that you have seen and one of
the reasons I ask you that is when I went on to the uh the Geneva International Center for humanitarian
demining website and they’ve got a wonderful video on there and it was talking about what they do and the
benefits of what they do and they’ve got a lot of children there in the in the on the website film you
know and I’ve got three kids and and it was talking about the the dangers that
these children just wander into minefields or that you know they’re not kids that are killed by minds and I felt
just watching it from the comfort of my living room I was completely emotionally overwhelmed and I I wonder when you got
out there first of all have you learned to compartmentalize it emotionally or
did you suddenly think this is this is awful I
know at the you know the the pp the the sort of body armor and the mask and like
the first time I walked onto her mindful just in a Minefield physique you know when you just go and have a look around
seeing all of the other demanders and that just being a very
quite surreal experience um
yeah but I think I think I’ve always been I think I’ve always been very practical and quite pragmatic but um
yeah of course these things affect you and I think for for me
um one of the the greatest things that I’ve been able to do is particularly working with communities that have been
really badly affected by mites and so you know I work for for Halo for nine years and then I went to the the Geneva
Center but when I was with Halo you know I think of you know there’s there’s many communities that I sort of think of in
Mozambique that are hugely special to me because you know we worked there and and
now I worked with about 600 and then we expanded again about 600
most Beacon staff and many of whom were from the communities that we were
working with which you know improves kind of communication and understanding but it’s that you know when you start
working on a project and you take away the minds and when there isn’t further conflict obviously
in their minds they don’t come back you know so there’s peace afterwards you know and that’s So within the whole
range of development you know mine action can be one of the most kind of
rewarding things and there is something hugely special about coming to the end and handing land back to people and
knowing that their kids can walk to school or hurt the cows without you know
you worrying about them running into a Minefield because they’re trying to stop you know the kids are trying to stop the
cows from running into the minefields you know because that’s where the grass looks Greener
um because I presume the issues don’t just end with the danger to people it must it must you know hamstring whole
whole communities because you can’t oh yeah you can’t access water you can’t grow the businesses
absolutely it’s the it’s the it’s the whole Gambit and then you look at
um you know if you’re planning to improve infrastructure or put in water
or put in electricity you know are you going to do it in the community where there’s landmines or in the community where your your workers can operate
safely so it affects you know the whole chain of things so they you know it has
to the the risk has to be taken away for other development
um to happen but the nice thing about mines as long as people aren’t going back into conflict is once they’re gone
they’re gone whereas you know the the hugely tragic thing is in some circumstances you know you can see a lot
of effort being put into to build um a school or a hospital but then if
the pay you know pay for the teachers stops or or there isn’t you know there
isn’t spare parts the water pump or you know these things can kind of they can break again if the whole logistic chain
hasn’t been sorted but if you’ve taken away the mines at least that bit is done the mines themselves are you objective
about them though I mean the physicality of them because as much as they are the
horrific weapons of death but when I was looking at them I was thinking somebody’s thought these up and
they’re very clever in the in the video and the the Geneva International Center for humanitarian mining they were
talking about them and the different kinds of mines and one that will jump out the ground and then explore that
heart level and I kind of think I mean because monster thinks this up yeah it was somebody who was having a you know
in Brackets good day in the office I mean it’s just extraordinary isn’t it it’s like oh well we’ll start with you
know I suppose you go back to the original Minds for effectively you know a spike
that horse would stand on you know back back in the battlefields and then you have very simplistic you know with with
Minds you have anti-personal blast mind so something that you stand on and it goes bang and it’s not like Hollywood
you don’t stand on it and it goes click and you can grab a sandbag and slip that
onto it because of your foot that that only happens at the movies um and then you have you know escalation
from that to something more like a Grenade on a stick with with trip wires
or even um you know can be command operated so somebody who presses a button but yeah
sort of State minds and then then you have directional Minds so like in the in the Vietnam War movies The the Claymores
front towards enemies so stuff that puts shrapnel in the in the direction you want and
then these bounding fragmentation mine so the which are which are really really horrible so things that sort of jump up
and and blow up spraying fragmentation at kind of chest height so that’s obviously more lethal and then there’s a
whole you know there’s an increasing X escalation of of these um items you know
which happens I guess with all all weapons of war and it’s horrible yes and um and people get lots of money to to
develop these things or they did I thought I personally can’t imagine you know as you said some that’s your good
day in the office and then you drive your car home and you eat dinner with your family and your kids I really had a
really good day in the office today you know I developed something that was really horrible all right it’s just
mind-boggling yeah yeah and can you tell us about the different ways that that you when you initially go into an area
and you know there are mines there because I read that you can use dogs yeah you can so I mean what what I’ve
been working on a lot in really in the last 10 years and more is the the
initial step so which is the the survey so the the first steps of survey the kind of reconnaissance is understanding
where the problem really is so whether it’s with landmines or whether it’s with other explosive ordinance right uh
across the the range and you know the the industry
I guess if you look historically a lot of money has been wasted doing the expensive bits of clearing so where you
have people with detectors or with machines or with dogs working on land where there actually isn’t anything and
so if you’re spending money working on land where there isn’t anything then you’re
not getting rid of the stuff where it is and um you know it’s taking time and
it’s taking resources so so I’ve been really focusing on on helping train people to make better
decisions and really try and narrow it down and follow the evidence to where we think the the problems really are and
sort of work from the evidence out rather than taking um
a bit of more conservative approach of oh you know there’s contamination everywhere which doesn’t doesn’t really
help you um so that survey bit is done by
speaking to people by looking at the the history of the conflict
um all of the records from that looking at land use looking at where accidents have happened
um and you know speaking to the the speaking to land owners land users former combatants and putting that
information all on top of each other and trying to evaluate where where you really think the problem is and then
targeting the The Next Step so that that first step is called non-technical survey because you’re not sort of
intrusively going into an area with a bit of equipment but it’s actually probably
um the most difficult decision wise and then you have kind of technical
survey and full clearance and that’s when you start going into an area with assets that can uh identify mines or
other explosive Ordnance and that could be people with uh detectors with metal
detectors so if you’re looking for for mines that have got metal in them but
then you find with the detector all of everything that’s metal so I’ve spent a lot of I’ve spent a lot of time digging
very carefully digging little holes to find a sardine can or you know because
we’re aware there’s been fighting you tends of having soldiers like dropping lots of rubbish as well so of course yes
pops inside hands and and bullet casings and you know you get all this metal
clutter so I spent a lot of my life digging digs very slowly digging little holes so actually when you spend 20
minutes very carefully digging a hole and you find a mind you know that that feels worth it whereas when you’ve spent
20 minutes very carefully scraping a little hole and you find a you know an
old Coke can that’s quite just quite annoying but yeah so you you’ve got the sort of like using detectors or you
might just be Excavating internally soils you can just very carefully scrape or or break the soil to see what’s there
um all obviously done with very careful sort of operating standard operating procedures you know dogs particularly in
where there’s not lots of vegetation stuff to cut down you know animal detection can be can be really can be
really quite efficient but it requires really you know the people running the
the training of the dogs is highly skilled and people managing dogs and
there’s also one organization uses um the cane rats which I have to contest
I’m as a farmer’s daughter I’m always a little bit scared of I’m just uh I’m just quite scared of anything with a
with a naked tail um rats did you did you say rats yes yes to Belgian organization that uses rats
that they also sniff TV in Labs which is really interesting wow so both dogs and
mats but this is all back you know that that only works well if it’s backed up
by a really good system of of training and management and um
you know if you have you know you hear horror stories of when you know the the
dogs are you know once they’re trained for explosive detection or or mind detection you’re really really valuable
and they’ve got to be looked after well and they need to have you know really well-trained people looking after them
and you have heard horror stories over the years you know animals that have died because you know food wasn’t kept
in air-conditioned shelters so there can be quite a lot of more kind of logistics
um behind the animal detection but it can be really useful because obviously they’re sniffing for explosives as
opposed to a metal detector that’s looking just for for any old metal so it’s more
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can I ask you no matter how well trained you are Helen and how much experience
must be 15 20 years now of of doing this yeah do you still do you still go and
turn an operational area like a live mine area with fear and is is it a
healthy thing still to have the fear I don’t I don’t think fear is the the right thing but I wouldn’t I wouldn’t go
going to like visit a Minefield that was being worked on if I didn’t feel that
the operation was being like uh run to proper standards if that makes sense
that they’d be like you you shouldn’t be feeling fear if if everything is
correctly in place but certainly with um with respect and with caution and one of
the one of the videos that I watched what kind of astounded me is they were talking to some villagers and I can’t
remember in which country it was but they were the the native people were very
pragmatic they were very accepting of the situation and I I was thinking okay imagine I was going down the High Street
to Nifty Sainsbury’s and there was mines everywhere that’s just a situation I couldn’t possibly ever get my head
around but these people were so accepting of it and I I wondered is it because they’ve they’ve just had to live
with it for such a long time yeah many people do I mean it’s extraordinary what people
you know it’s amazing how acclimatized we can become to to many things
um you know which is also quite scary because there’s some things you shouldn’t become acclimatized to but you
might need to learn to live with but when you’re doing surveys obvious sort of the when you’re doing the initial
stages and you’re trying to figure out where the problem is you need to have very clear communication with people so
that they um you don’t end up standing somewhere sort of pretty much on top of mine with
the person saying look I told you there was something here yes um and because people are often you know
they’re really Keen to show you what they know and where items are so you
have to make sure that they don’t put themselves in risk or yourself in Risk
you know so sometimes people will be like well they’ve seen something but they would go closer because you were with them because they would want you to
to see it so that so that’s why you know all the sort of survey work needs to be done really carefully you know you speak
to people in your life you know I’ve been with people before and they’re like oh yeah the problems along this path and
you’re like well is anybody using that pathology yes no I go along that path and you’re looking at the Philly
overground and there’s no Footprints and you’re like no but you haven’t been going along the path oh well no well we haven’t been going along the path for
the last two years because somebody put the mind there and you’re like yes but you were wanting to take me along the path now yes but that’s because you
wanted to know where the mind was and I’m like yes no but we don’t need that’s fine you can just say that’s the path
tell me that it’s up there 100 meters or so that’s fine we’ll just stay here on the safe bit
so so it is all about you know careful and Intelligent Communication and and
you know respect and understanding and asking sensible questions and also not
um jumping to conclusions you have teams of all female D minors was that a
deliberate strategy to get more women into demining or can you tell me how that because when I read about that I
thought I wonder why that was was it just coincidence or deliberate so that was in that was in um so in
Mozambique and um after sort of after I’d basically been in mine
action for you a few years you know there was a sort of you know it started
to open up more to women and in Mozambique we basically changed our
recruitment changed our adverts um and rather than saying you know we’re
we’re advertising for the miners you know we said we’re advertising for demanders men and women can apply and
rather than getting 100 application for men we got applications about 50 50 so that between
men and women and um yeah so there was a there was a
drive particularly coming from the the donor Community but it was happening very much that we wanted to do to get
more more demanders in and yes I had some of the first uh all-female teams in
Mozambique who were just rock stars to to work with and did an amazing job have
you been to a place and then gone back and and lost friends over the years through accidents or or being killed by
mines um yeah no I know some people have had um particularly uh yeah had some
colleagues in in Mozambique um and yeah I know of other people
who’ve who’ve had accidents which is always just heartbreaking and Halo is a non-governmental
um organization and I was wondering if there was enough governmental legislation out there to make a
difference worldwide I I see that the UK government pledged 100 million pounds in 2017 is that enough did that happen is
that ongoing um I think we would there’s you know you could always have
more money um it is quite uh you know it is and
it’s expensive the the work is expensive by by nature but I mean that’s also why
as in as an industry and as um you know the sort of big the big organizations which are
mostly um non-governmental organizations like there’s two two big ones from the UK
which is Halo and mag and then there’s a very big Norwegian one called Norwegians
people’s way to MBA and um there’s the Danish Refugee Council and
some other smaller organizations as well um you know so there is Big donor
support sort of UK um us EU Japan
um Scandinavian countries so there there is a lot of bonus support
um depending a little bit region to region so southeast Asia you get more support from Australia for example but
um it is expensive and and funding sort of changes when you know there’s lots and lots of
funding going into Ukraine at the moment which is wonderful but that probably means that there’s funding that’s
dropping away from other places where you know the where you know we’re less
interested you know as a popular you know we’re looking not looking at so much in the in the news
so I mean I was in in Yemen doing some training um just in in November and you know
there’s there’s clearly scope for for more work and more funding there but it hugely challenging environment to to
work in I was wondering if when you’re in the field and you work in these these
places these kind of high octane environments for an amount of time and then
you you where you where you are grateful to be alive and it’s massively rewarding
and and it’s you know it’s just dangerous and then you come back to east east Lothian and after you’ve spent all
this time in the minefields is it difficult to kind of culturally readjust and go you know go down the
shops and look after the sheep and and work on the farm you know I don’t mean to make it sound like but is does
everyday life in in Scotland almost look trivial it doesn’t look trivial but it
is an adjustment and it is I mean it’s been quite difficult I mean I I moved I
moved home uh sort of properly kind of six years ago and I was really I
was pretty burnt out actually I’d had a really stupid thing I just you know I slipped out in love and and fell down
some stairs I mean just you know doing nothing going to get some toothpaste oh
wow um and having you know having sort of competed horses
when I was younger and done lots of you know physical sort of work and stuff I just thought I thought that that hurts
but it’s fine it’s just a bit of a bruise and um yeah three months later I got sort of shouted out by a doctor
until the been running about on a probably on a broken pelvis for three months
yeah I know really stupid and the benefit of my site and uh yeah and I’d sort of I had done some quite bad nerve
damage in my lower back and so I spent my last few years full-time in Geneva
sort of on really strong painkillers just to you know it used to take me
about 40 minutes to get out of bed and put my socks on here because I’d slip downstairs I mean just Bonkers and um
and so I think that you know I was traveling at that point traveling
globally sort of 80 of the times I had a flat in Geneva where I effectively wash my clothes kind of twice a month and uh
and I think that injury took away the sort of extra energy and the resilience if that if that makes sense yeah I
totally understand how where are you down and and suddenly got yeah got very
got very fried and I’m pretty tired and you sort of realized that you’ve been
running you know running on adrenaline a lot of the time you know and that that’s
how you you operate and you function and um and then so it’s so now it’s sort of
been you know done a lot of trying to work on creating balance at um and that there’s probably quite a lot
more work to do it’s a big adjustment you’re talking about years aren’t you Helen in the
field and then you know to come back but uh but I go you know so I know sort of I go away and do two weeks training
and you kind of click back into it and work 16 hours a day and and really enjoy
it and sort of sort of the lights go on you’re like zoom zoom zoom and they come back and I think oh great you know I can
continue working at this rate and there’s all this stuff that I’ll get done at home and on the farm and I know
and I just I’m getting old I can’t do it anymore damn I don’t see you’re younger than me
come on go to sleep for about a week you know and I think um and covered covid’s been
the same I did end up um uh I caught covid in in Ukraine before
before the escalation so um so but before the the last year so sort of two
just before um just been early early on in the
in the covid before before we had the vaccinations and ended up doing sort of
18 days in a room in in new um which which was quite interesting if
anyone ever gives me anything tuner again responsible for the consequences
um but uh yeah I think so I think I think after covered been a little bit
sort of post kind of a little bit post-viral you know a bit bit of brain fog and it’s all it’s all a bit harder
and I think that is all sort of consequences of you know when you work very hard and it’s all about you know
your your work is your life and it’s all quite sort of encompassing and it is um
you know that isn’t the healthiest way to be forever and it’s not sustainable so you know I am trying
fairly hard to have a little bit more balance and be a bit more sensible but um the people who are close to me would
would say that uh yeah I’ve still got some work to do I think it sounds you’re
on the right lines though I mean what I’d like to finally ask you is listening to you and it’s fascinating it really is
because it’s another world for me and a couple of weeks ago in the podcast I interviewed a guy called Colin McLaughlin and he’s a former SES Soldier
he was taking hostage in Basra and he was talking about being in in and you
know in tortured and and being in Sierra Leone and towards the end of the end of the interview I said to him Colin do you
have a faith or are you spiritual and he said that he’s seen the best of people and that he had seen the worst of
humanity and he kind of and he thought that that was the reason that he didn’t have a faith and I wondered you know you
you’re kind of similar in the way that you’ve seen you’ve seen some hellish things Helen and I wondered do you have
any faith or are you spiritual do you believe in a bigger power I don’t know so I brought up
brought up Catholic um but but very much lapse but uh I
don’t know there’s a you have have moments where faith in humanity is restored and then moments
where where it’s gone again so there’s there’s something but I I can’t really describe it no I think I think that’s
fair enough it is is you know myself too I have moments where where I am despondent by the state of the world and
then you spend I spent some time with my kids and I think oh yeah there is something greater than myself but but
you’re right and I think you’re on your way to finding a balance and I think because you’re in your 40s now aren’t
you yes yeah yeah so as you know it’s definitely not old you know but yeah it
is important I think as we get into our 40s to find a balance and find what makes us happy you know but but Helen
thank you for joining me on the Scottsdale podcast today it’s been brilliant listening to you I really enjoyed it thank you very much great to
speak to you and hopefully you’ll come back again one day that would be great thank you bye Helen bye
bye Scott’s care supporting London Scots with financial grants welfare advice
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