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Earlier today I was walking the dog and emerged from the woods to cross the road into a gated field, just behind a platoon of soldiers, training in camouflage and rucksacks, all queueing politely to negotiate the sprung gate at the corner of the field, one at a time. I joined the end of the queue.

The two soldiers at the back of the line, just ahead of me, had no rucksacks but instead wore dayglo tabards, and I took them to be in charge, although like the others they looked to be about nineteen. While we waited I struck up a conversation.

“It's like the London Marathon!”

The taller of the two, blond, neatly cut hair forming a precise line over his ear and around the back of his neck, turned and I saw a pair of amused green eyes under white-blond lashes that disappeared against his pale skin except when he blinked.

“At least the weather's good for it.”

“Yes, and the forecast says it should continue like this all day.”

The soldier turned back to face forward and we all watched the slow progress ahead of us as each soldier took his turn to squeeze past the gate with his rucksack and run off.

I don't know what came over me, but I was suddenly emboldened to quip loud enough to be heard at the front of the queue: “You're doing it wrong, guys: it's a kissing gate!”

I might have been lynched, but actually there wasn't much reaction, they seemed more concerned to get through the gate and continue on their way. Eventually they all got through and the three-man-wide queue on one side of the gate turned into a single-file straggly line of runners disappearing into the distance, leaving behind, I noticed, two men who had taken the opportunity presented by the scrubland to stand with their backs to the path and relieve themselves against the bushes. There was a little banter about choosing a spot with a bit more privacy, and my mouth ran away with me again: “You're embarrassing my dog!” I called out.

I have to assume that British soldiers are very well trained, because I'm still alive.

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