This blog entry, in contrast to my last, will be short and sweet. Reason is that I'm not feeling brilliant this morning. None of us are. But all for a good cause. Last night, Murilo, Anton and I decided to try our hand at Texas Hold 'Em. Our poker chips were cheap plastic buttons - blue for ten, yellow for fifty, red for a hundred - purchased earlier in the day for just this occasion, our sustenance a cocktail of Murilo's devising: rainwater, locally brewed sugarcane rum, and lime. It all tasted brilliantly, so much so that we drank far too much of it and moved from poker to hula-hoops to karaoke and, when the midnight hour struck, to bed. Was it a good night out? Absolutely. Healthy fare? Absolutely not. Good for team bonding? You bet!
Alcohol is a funny thing: it doesn't combine well with exercise, it is a no-no for commercial negotiations. It quickly produces behaviours that are politically very incorrect. It makes fools of the best, and voyeurs of the rest, of us. Yet in spite of it all - or because of it - it can also do wonders for team development: it breaks down barriers and cuts to the chase far more quickly and more effectively, than do more sophisticated team-building exercises: people lower their guard and, in doing so, show you their mettle.
I remember spending many a late night in various London pubs with surgeons and anaesthetists prior to their Afghanistan deployment. These nights followed days spent in cadaver labs, the smell of which never quite washes off. As the alcohol flowed, so did the tales, and with the tales the pain. And as evenings wore on, exercises were introduced, one sillier than the next, and with the silliness came the loss of control, and with that loss came gain: a gain of trust - trust in character. As a number of them explained it to me at the time, "people need to see you with your hair down if they're going to trust you".
And so it was good to see a different side to Murilo and Anton last night, and also to allow them a view into my own moral makeup - one I've not even begun to understand myself - and the early morning weariness is so damn worth the benefits of last night. After all, I will soon set sail with these very people, and it may come to a point where my life will depend on them, and only on them. Help will be far away, and far too far to be of use, but they are near and, after last night, nearer still.