It's been a while since I've needed them but this evening I dusted off my flak jacket and helmet for my return to the Middle East on Thursday.
Stuffed in the bottom of my holdall I found a tangle of generator leads, a hotel key for the Sulaymaniyah Palace Hotel and a tin of molasses tobacco -- reminders of the last time I wore the jacket, in Northern Iraq exactly a year ago. The belongings scattered around my hotel room were hurriedly thrown into the bag by colleagues after my accident and brought back with me on the medevac flight to Britain. They were still in the bag, just where they'd been packed.
Unzipping the holdall was like opening one of those lead-lined time capsules buried in the ground, packed with mementoes for future generations.
I feel a strange mixture of emotions about heading back to Israel after just over a year away -- excitement at the thought of seeing my friends there, depression at the fact that I'm only going back because the seemingly endless cycle of violence is set to intensify and -- I don't mind admitting it -- a hint of apprehension.
Will my time there be uneventful? Or will it be marked by suicide bombings, rocket attacks and helicopter gunship raids?
I sincerely hope the flak jacket won't be needed -- but I'm fully prepared if it is.