Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Back to life, back to reality. My post holiday feeling lasted a matter of minutes before Hubby felt the need to unburden himself. We were literally sitting down at the dining table having just driven back from Exeter airport; the weather was as sunny as it was in Menorca, the windows were flung wide open onto the garden and my own olive trees were bowed as though in deference to the heat. Hubby had prepared a selection of delicatessen-worthy salads, the bread was Continental and chewy, the cheese Continental and creamy. All was well with the world.
I was relaxed, contented and brown. The girls were excited to be home and regaled their father with all sorts of stories, some taller than others. As I munched and dipped and sipped my cold beer, I gazed at them all lovingly. Perhaps moments like this are memorable because they are so few; it is as though we instinctively know that we must take a snapshot of them to save to the hard drive in our minds, before they are deleted forever. Hubby, who up to that point was relishing having his girls back, had one on his lap helping herself to his salad and the other attached to his thigh, beaming up at him. Did he sense my gaze? Was he aware of my watching them? Did he feel the time was right, or that it was best to spoil this perfect moment lest I became too happy? He looked up at me, his expression solemn.
“I’ve heard from the appointer”. That as any military wife will tell you, is all you need to hear, that or “I’ve heard from drafty”. It all means the same thing. Change. The need to once again readjust one’s professional and domestic life to fit in with the needs and requirements of the Royal Navy. Undoubtedly to some who have recently lost their jobs in this recession, I will sound churlish and ungrateful. After all my mortgage is being paid, I have a good standard of living, my children rarely go without, and we can and do entertain friends regularly. But still, at the mention of the appointer’s name my stomach instantly went into knots and my once delicious salad was now a bowlful of slimy, inedible leaves, the delicate garlic dressing which had evoked the epitome of Mediterranean al fresco dining, now smelt pungent and made me feel instantly nauseous.
“Oh yeah”, I said so articulately, “And what did the appointer have to say? Keep it to words of one syllable. I doubt I could take on board your naval acronyms at this point. Tell it as it is”. So he did.
“Mid August. Middle East. Seven months”.
“When mid August?”
“You actually have to go on your daughter’s 14th birthday. Actually on that day? You can’t postpone it by a few hours”. You could tell by his expression that he’d never even made the connection between the dates.
I got up from the table. All my plans were immediately stymied. My mind raced as I recalled all the things I’d intended to do in the next few months. How could I now take up my place at university? It was going to be a full on, one year intensive course. It would have been hard enough with Hubby at home, my children wouldn’t have seen much of me, but at least we would both have been around to work out the logistics of various extra- curricular activities the children enjoy. My assignments would have been written at the weekends. This would now be impossible. How on earth could I leave a four and seven year old to fend for themselves whilst I holed myself up writing essays? My place would have to be deferred if the university would accept it. Even my cafe job, which I love, seemed another headache to organise. Hubby’s leave would have taken up the month of August; ergo I wouldn’t have to think twice about childcare. Now my basic salary would be used up paying for someone else to look after them in the holidays. Who that someone else would be, I had no idea. My mind flitted from one thing to another. Hubby came looking for me and tried to put his arm around me, I shrugged him off.
“I can’t even do something as trivial as the quiz anymore”, I said, a distinctive lump in my throat.
“Of course you can”, he replied.
“No actually I can’t. Thursday nights are when our son has band practise. It’s a rush as it is. I teach from 4.30 to 5.30, then I throw food down everyone’s throats, then I drive our son to the train station in St German’s, then I go home and clean up, put the kids to bed, you come home, I go out and whilst I am at the quiz you fetch him from Saltash. I can’t be in two places at the same time and it goes without saying that band practise will come before the quiz”.
“Will you be home for Christmas?”
“We’ll come out to you then”.
“I can’t even get into the loft. How will I get the decorations out? What if there is an emergency? What if the kids are ill? What if our son fails his GCSEs? What if his school won’t have him back?” The what ifs have gone on and on, most of them I haven’t even voiced. It’s just pointless. I have no control about him going whatsoever. It’s a fait accompli.
We’ve reached an impasse. Hubby and I just skirt around each other now, neither of us willing to communicate our deepest thoughts i.e my bitter resentment and fear, his anger at my being an ‘unreasonable basket case’. My life once again, is on hold. It’s good training for him though. By the time he goes, he will be accustomed and inured to living in a hostile environment.


DL said...

Oh dear, I'm sorry to read this.

You're probably not looking for silver linings or mitigations just now, but the time will fly by for both of you. It will have been and gone, almost before you know it. That's not to diminish the trials and tribulations in the meantime, however.

Mary Alice said...

I completely understand how you are feeling....because that is how I feel too. It is the shits.

hester said...

Hi Alice

I've come via Jen's "Comfy Place" and loved reading your blog - very vivid and honest. It struck a chord as I have some Cornish blood and an ex submariner brother.

Sorry to hear about your husband's posting. I find motherhood a huge challenge and can only imagine having to do it alone for months at a time. Good luck with everything.

thefoodsnob said...

Oh, I'm so sorry.
It stinks, timimg-wise and other-wise.
Being a parent is hard enough without being a single parent who happens to be married.

The Cowgirl said...

Oh Alice, I feel for you. Why, as military wives, do we spend our life holding our breath and sacrificing independence? We must really love these men...

Anonymous said...

I read your blog with interest. Are you not the wife of an ex-Naval appointer who spent two years of his life doing exactly this to other military wives?

Alice Band said...

Dear Anonymous - Yes I certainly am. Was that bad karma? Should I have left him when he got that job?
What goes around comes around. More on this later..

Anonymous said...

If my advice is worth anything Alice, don't beat yourself up. You seem to take on so much, relax, you can't do everything. It's very admirable doing a degree/keep fit/quiz nights/theatre/cooking and entertaining as well as being a mum. If you put some on hold for 7 months, you'll find your friends and family will be just the same. Look after yourself.

Alice Band said...

Dear Anonymous,
Do I detect a hint of facetiousness in your typing? I could pretend and wax lyrical about how admirably I cope with everything, how charming I find the little nuances of life, how adorable my chidlren and husband are, how popular and fabulous I am. But guess what? Truth will out.

beck said...

Hi there lovely! It's been a while since I popped by to say hello and I seem to have landed in the middle of a doozy!! Phew. What's up Anonymous's bum? I am detecting some heavy duty vibes there! I'm with you, I like reading your blog because you are very honest and real about what's going on in your life. I can often relate to what you write about. Sounds like Snakey Pants has her own adgenda. Hope things pick up at home, hang in there! Beck xoxo