Kabul Stories: A minefield of comedians and doctors

Kabul is an unlikely place to seek comic inspiration, but Henry Naylor, a former Spitting Image gag writer who makes up half of the Parsons and Naylor Pullout Section on Radio 2, had been out since 5am.

With his photographer, Sam Maynard, Naylor was gathering material in post-conflict Kabul for his role as an unscrupulous war correspondent in Finding Bin Laden, which debuts next month on the Edinburgh Fringe festival.

Naylor's character practises his poses and bamboozles his editor by poking into the occasional cave. After collecting enough clues from other reporters' files, he attempts to lead the authorities to the al-Qa'ida leader. The carrot of a $25m (£16m) reward means he puts up with a lot of stick.

Afghanistan is literally a minefield, though, and the researchers didn't find much to laugh about in an orthopaedic centre for young mine victims. A jaunt to a hillside palace was equally sobering: a splash on the wall marked the spot where a landmine had been triggered the week before.

"It was exactly where we would have come through the entrance," Maynard said. At a US military base, one soldier threatened the pair with barbecue tongs, apparently upset at being grilled about his exploits by comedians.

Naylor and Maynard found the mujahedin considerably more co-operative. All it took was a fistful of Marlboros to get them to re-enact the historic liberation of Kabul from the communists in 1992. According to Naylor, the "muj" looked like passionate fighters as they danced on top of their vintage tank, "but it was because they were barefoot, and the metal got so bloody hot in the afternoon sun". The warlike image was further undermined by the fact that international peacekeepers have insisted that the gun barrel of the tank be tied off with a handkerchief.

"We are trying to look at Afghanistan from a humanist point of view," Naylor insisted. "We still haven't worked out the ending." Nor have the coalition forces.

I was glad Waheed was on hand to help when I sank up to my armpits in slime.

Somehow I'd failed to notice the diggers excavating the moat around the US embassy. I lost my footing on the mud-slicked street, and slid into a nearly bottomless ditch. My fall was harmless enough, even if I felt a fool.

Journalists in sticky situations rely on a special breed of interpreter-cum-fixer to keep them out of harm's way. In Kabul, the best tend to be former medical students, most of whom speak excellent English. Waheed, Ebidullah, and Humayun are all young physicians who can be relied on to patch up wounded egos or mend any breaks between government spin doctors and correspondents. As translators, they can earn up to four times a month's salary in a single day. Afghan doctors typically earn just £20 a month, and attempting to treat patients with only basic medical supplies can be heartbreaking.

Waheed works the morning shift at an emergency clinic and supports 22 relatives through his work for journalists. He says television pays better, but is riskier. His last employer insisted that he led the way through any potential minefield. Me, I'd prefer the doctor to follow behind, with his emergency kit at the ready.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high