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  • David Savill

Behind the frontlines on March 11 2022

On the M60 westbound in Manchester this morning civilians drove to work under clear skies in light, Friday traffic. An accident on the M602 caused minor delays and there were no serious injuries. At the Stromso Centre in Drammen, civilian shoppers were stopped from entering by a malfunction in the mall’s security system, caused by pigeons nesting in an electrical switchbox on the roof of the building. In the port resort of La Spezia, civilian park-keepers emptied wastebins overflowing with polystyrene cups and the smell of Mediterranean whelks discarded after the first Spring Festival at the Parco Salvador Allende. On the campus of Wurzburg University, a civilian protestor handed out flyers to civilian students arriving for morning classes, urging a boycott of campus catering facilities over the purchase of single-use plastics. In Ostrava, a civilian IKEA employee learned he was fired after CCTV cameras recorded him stealing kitchenware. The unemployed civilian wept in his car before walking into Kaufland and making an application for a new

job. In Zadar, a civilian teacher woke for the first day in her retirement apartment, opened the balcony doors onto a sea turned pure silver by the morning sun and felt suddenly lonely. In Charleroi, a civilian tourist walked out of his hotel on the Place Charles II to the sound of street cleaning vehicles, and wondered why the council of his Catalan hometown couldn’t keep the streets as clean as the Belgians. In Argeles-Gazost, a civilian woman with rheumatoid-arthritis was lowered into a warm tank of ironized water and imagined what it might be like to live without pain. In Turko, on the tracks of the Paavo Nurmen stadion, a civilian schoolgirl cleared 100 metres of hurdles for the first time, and briefly dreamed she was an eagle flying over the trees of Finnish forests. In Larissa, a civilian mother carried her civilian baby into a pharmacy on the narrow streets around Memorial Park. The civilian pharmacist made an urgent call to a civilian doctor. In Kecskemet, a civilian train driver sat in his cab deleting erotic photographs of his civilian boyfriend before departing for Budapest with a clearer conscience and 72 civilian passengers. At Ballycastle, fifteen civilian birdwatchers boarded the small blue ferry to Rathlin Island, their civilian breath punching the cool morning air with excited chatter about the possibility of a rare corncrake sighting. In the wheelhouse above, the civilian captain watched the black missiles of dolphins breaking blue waters. In Hrebenne, on the E372, a civilian boy sat in the back of his father’s Skoda and stared at a heron slowly raising a foot from the still green waters of the lake. His civilian sister kneeled on the backseat and smiled at the tired face of the man stopped in the car behind, before asking daddy if a traffic jam could circumference the world. In Brovary, a civilian software engineer followed the feet of his civilian, teenaged brother over the paths of Peremohy, watching the roped gangways of the Sky Park threaded through the trees above their heads, and remembering the look of his daughter’s face when she braved the zipwire for the first time. The rifle he carried held six bullets. In Kyiv, for one more day, the frontline held.

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