Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Master and Commander

I like to think that giving Camilla that fudge last week clinched the deal. That someone mixing in Royal circles saw us and thought, “I say! That’s the wife of Lieutenant Commander Band. Jolly good show”. He told the Queen of our selflessness to duty, she thought, ‘Hmm, that’s the type we need’ called for her equerry, who informed the MOD, who in turn promoted my dear husband to Commander.
Hubby wasn’t quite so sure, “Nice theory Alice love but I think there may be more to it than that?”
“Oh, you mean all your hard work and devotion to the Crown?”
“Yeah something like that”, he laughed.
“Will you call me ma’am now and wear your brass hat in bed?”
“Dear God Alice I’m at work” he whispered loudly down the phone, “Will you please conduct yourself in a manner becoming of a commander’s wife”.
“Yes Master and Commander!” I giggled.
This news has made me reflective. Once I was a pretty, young officer’s wife, all apple cheeks and pink satin ball gowns, an ingénue when it came to matters Naval. When I met my husband, I fell for his height and handsomeness and the fact that he was a dab hand in the kitchen. We tolerated long separations due to global deployments and lost ourselves in each other when I flew to some far off distant land for a reconciliation that rarely saw us leave our hotel room.
It being an age before emails, the letters we wrote each other were long and loving and both he and I lived for the mail drop. Due to the nature of the mail and the fact that he could only post and receive letters in a bundle we would both have to number the envelopes so that we could read them chronologically. This was a must, due the number of couples who would spill their emotional guts to one another in one letter only to be dumped in another. If these were read out of sequence the effects were often quite traumatic. If however I thought that these long separations might have prepared me stoically for the time when, after having had my first baby, his ship sailed once again, then I was much mistaken. Nothing prepares you for that. Add subsequent children and living apart and eventually it is a real struggle to keep hold of what you once had. The demands of his career, the travelling, the children, the domestic over load, the little time to hold hands and really talk to each other may have wounded our relationship, though thankfully not mortally like many military marriages.
This recent news is yet another stage in our marriage not just to each other, but of Hubby’s to the Navy. His gag that I should not conduct myself in a manner unbecoming is not really a joke. If this were a sit-com now, I could show flashbacks of incidents that happened in years gone by that I will, most certainly, never get away with again. For instance, like the time when the police came on board Hubby’s ship to escort me off as I had entered the dockyard one evening without the all important Fleet Form 3 – having instead used my temporary pass as I was ‘temping’ there, or the time I removed my strapless bra at a Valentine dinner as it was digging into me and I couldn’t enjoy my food. The bra was very discreetly secreted into a waiting napkin then handed to tactful steward who removed it for safekeeping; or maybe the time when, after a few too many cocktails I threw up over a wall onto the parade ground at HMS Drake. Hubby, breathless with anxiety lest anyone should find out ordered the Dettol forthwith and bundled me, an ice bucket and Mags into a taxi and didn’t speak to me again for days. Or the infinite number of times when I have made social gaffes and Hubby has kicked me under the table. Getting up from dinner when one is bursting for a wee, is, as anyone who is intimate with naval dinners would know, almost a hanging offence. The only excuse to excuse oneself is being pregnant, only then will senior officer’s capitulate that a woman’s bladder is not what it once was and is prone to recklessness. Knowing this I once exploited this pardon for all its worth and, leaning over and whispering into the Mess president’s ear declared, “Hubby and I are expecting our third!” Undoubtedly he was so shocked that the woman sitting to his left had been knocking back the booze all night whilst a little foetus was inside her shouting “Cut it out will you?” that he was only too eager to let me leave the table. There was trouble later when Hubby came looking for me - on the warpath, “What bloody baby?”, “Sorry” I said sheepishly, “but I was desperate”. I should have known that was tempting fate and within a matter of weeks, I really was up the duff.
I wonder now, if, when at naval functions I will be regarded by young WAGS with the same guarded reverence I once held for the Commanders wives. Some were charming, others not so. Instead of gently advising me that perhaps off the shoulder décolletage was more appropriate for the service industry than the Royal Navy they would point it out loudly and acerbically. I shall be a far more benevolent old dowager. Never will I hiss when a young gal appreciatively strokes the mess silver nor passes the port in the wrong direction and never will I ever exclaim “Good lord!” when an equally bright young thing sips the port before “The Queen”. Forgive me ma’am and thank you for the promotion. It’ll help with the mortgage no end. I remain your loyal servant..


Jester said...

I'm still impressed with your writing. Very fluid, expressive and fun to read. Must be tough when your husband is away so much.

Are you accident prone at all or just enjoy the finer wines which leads to the removal of inhibitions. Keep up the great writing. Nice to see the use of "acerbic" in a blog.


Lisa said...

Great post, and congratulations!
I can't imagine the seperations, you must be cut from a very tough cloth!

Sally Lomax said...

Brilliant post Alice!!
I've been there ..the young officer's wife who got it wrong on more than one occasion...........

Many congrats to hubby, and well done you for sticking it all out. It's a harder task than many would ever give credit for!


Akelamalu said...

Congratulations to your hubby on his promotion.

I love your writing and I am sure all the new young WAGS will adore such a 'human' dowager! :)

Alice Band said...

Jester, Lisa and Sally,
Thankyou all for leaving a comment. Sometimes I feel that these blogs are a validation for something, not quite sure what but I appreciate it, because recently I haven't felt particularly valid!
The seperations are lousy but that is the lesser of two evils choice I made - stay in Cornwall next to family, friends and excellent grammar schools in Plymouth for the eldest two or move to Portsmouth - awful schools unless you can afford private - no way - or let the Navy pay but then you have to board them - absolutely no way!

Alice Band said...

Thankyou x

Sally's ED said...

Great post!I really enjoyed it...ma'am!
congratulations to hubby too!

Sally's ED said...

and I agree about the fabtasticaliciousness (!) of grammar schools!
I am at one now (my second, as I changed for the sixth form) and I have never been in happier academic environments!
(much better than snotty private schools daahling)x

Alice Band said...

Hiya Sally's ED! So what exams are you doing now? AS levels? Good luck to you. Exams are a detestable if unavoidable fact of life.

Little Miss Moi said...

Dear alice. Great post. I'm assuming Alice Band is your blog pseudonym? It's super cute, I love it.

headless chicken said...

Hello Alice
I really enjoyed reading your blog.
My Dad was in the Army when I was young and like you my Mum spent alot of time on her own with the kids. Dad was away twice,for a whole year and one of those was due to him being deployed to Aden for active service. This was when Mum was pregnant with me so Dad was just able to pop back to say hello after my birth and then leave again!
I often remind myself of how Mum had to cope when I'm complaining about my husband being away for a short while!
Although Mum admits it was hard she loved being a 'forces wife'.

Alice Band said...

Dear Little Miss Moi, and Headless Chicken,
I was feeling terribly flat and wondering what to write my column about, sitting here instead having emptied the cat litter tray and stuffing my face due to self pity, when there were two new 'faces' in my comments. It made my day. I'm serioulsy worried about my fragile state of mind!!

headless chicken said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels like this sometimes. It really does bring a little brightness into my day when someone comments on my blog. It sounds really tragic and like I need to get a life,I know but it's true!!!!

Sally's ED...candidate number 1130 said...

Yes, I am doing AS levels in French, German, English, Psychology, and the Über-pointless General Studies.

(In fact, I would rather be at dance school right now, but I didn't have the guts to audition last year, so I signed myself up for two grueling years of exams!)

I'm not being a very good student atm though - I SHOULD be doing English lit, but I'm on the computer...hmm...not good!

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Alice again.....

We all feel like that. Commentators make my day, and I really worry when they are slower than usual!

RE the bloggie awards thing I actually wrote a post about them today, and about the "in club". It was sort of in response to your comment to my blog yestoday!

enidd said...

excellent post, alice. there are more stories there enidd would like to hear if you want to write them. being married to an ambitious expat has its similarities to being a naval wife, she thinks.

Sally Lomax said...

Where's todays?!

Mary Alice said...

I had a spare moment to come back to your newly discovered blog and I loved this one. How well stated. I remember numbering letters, as well, and I too was "..the young officer's wife who got it wrong on more than one occasion" Now, I am the aging officer’s wife who continues, on occasion, to have to extricate her foot from her mouth. And I do know, first hand, of the excruciating length of formal military dinners. Once wearing ridiculous, but, infinitely beautiful heels, I thought perhaps I would pass out from pain during the posting of the colors and the invocation that went on.. and on… and on.

Sami93 said...

Such beautiful writing, I just discovered you through Google while searching "Navy Officer Wife's blog" and there you are. :) My boyfriend commissions in about two years and is trying to get me to prepare, having trouble and would like to reach out to other Officer wives for advice. And Congratulations to your husband on his promotion!