Thursday, 23 July 2009


As I sat, silently weeping into the sequins that I was hand sewing very shoddily onto my daughters dance costumes, Mags burst through the front door.
“Aha, thought I’d find you here”, she said, before opening the glass cabinet, withdrawing two wine glasses and then, like Mary Poppins, she dipped into her holdall and removed a bottle of rose, a squashy chill-pack squeezed onto the bottle, “Thank the good Lord for screw top wine bottles eh?” , she added before a little, grunting noise accompanied her efforts as she unscrewed the cap and poured out two very ample glasses. She took my needle and sequins away from me and replaced them with a glass. The wine was so chilled, rivulets of frosted water ran down the stem and as it trickled down my throat, the combination of the cool liquid and fruity bouquet was completely perfect and worked as a balm for my general state of melancholy.
“I feel better already”, I said.
“So, what gives?” she asked.
“Just thinking that the next time I have to prepare a costume for the girls show, it’ll be Christmas and Hubby won’t be here to see it. I’ll have been doing the donkey work for months and no doubt will be in some sorry state of disrepair”, I sighed.
“How do the kids feel about him going away?”, she quietly asked, almost too apprehensive to hear the answer.
“Well, the eldest just gets livid if Hubby and I have strong words with each other, as if every minute between now and the day he deploys we have to be like love-struck teenagers, snogging and swearing undying love. The irony if we did! They’d all be groaning and telling us we’re sick, blah, blah. God forbid I should get irritated by Hubby, because immediately our eldest daughter pipes up, ‘Just be nice to Dad ok?’, as though it were some bad omen not to be. It’s a strain. Then the youngest ones keep crying and trying to understand the implications of what seven months without daddy is really going to be like. The four year old just knows something ominous is afoot but obviously cannot foresee what that’ll mean, whereas her big sister has had her Hannah Montana calendar out and has realised that several significant dates will be celebrated without the company of her father. There you asked” and I downed my glass.
Mags poured me another.
“Hmm”, she said ruefully, “You are going to have to get yourself a plan. Have you considered meeting him somewhere?”
“Well I’ve thought about it. I think he gets some R&R somewhere along the line but as ever, the childcare logistics are too complicated, my in-laws couldn’t look after them for more than a couple of days and dad bless him, well...”
Mags giggled, “No Alice, much as I adore your father, I cannot see him looking after four children, a dog and three cats, which is why I’ve been looking at my diary. I get a week off in January and thought I could spend it here. I’ll come on my hols with the kids. We’ll have a blast.” I started to cry again.
“What is it now?”, she wondered.
“You”, I replied, snivelling, “You are such a great mate. You’d give up a much needed and well deserved week of annual leave just to give me a break? I makes me feel so humble. How could I possibly pay you back for that?”
“You do, you do. You are always doing little things for me”.
“I don’t think one can compare giving up a holiday with having one of the kids for tea or picking up a few specialist cakes from IKEA.”
“Just call me Mother Theresa!”, she laughed, and then, as if to prove her point, delved into her holdall again and pulled out a tub of glisteningly, oily olives and a packet of fancy nuts. It was a feast fit for kings.
By the time she left, the sequins had been chewed and subsequently and with much disdain spat out by the dog but at least I was feeling bolder.
“I’ll cope, it’ll be fine” I repeated to myself like some sort of fortifying mantra. Tea time came and went and I put the little ones to bed. The teenagers were around. Languishing. Hubby came home late. There was no denying a little kick in his heels.
“Hello darling”, he said, catching hold of me before throwing me backwards into a film star clinch.
“What’s the matter with you?” I could not but ask and, nice as it is to be a movie star, it plays havoc with your back and so, stiffly and clutching at my hip, I stood up straight again.
“Sit down. You are not going to believe what I’ve got to tell you”.
He was right.
“I’ll come straight to the point. The appointer called me earlier”. I let out a weird primeval, moan.
“Anyway. Thing is” and he grasped both my hands and looked into my eyes, “I’m not going to the Middle East. I’ve got a job nearby! Just up the road! Starting almost immediately. Two years!”
My heart beat faster than it ever has as my mind tried to absorb this information.
“I don’t understand”, I said, more to myself than to him.
“There’s nothing to understand darling. I don’t need to go into it all in detail. You’ll only forget it anyway. All you need to know is that it’s a great job and comes with a silver topped cane!”
My eyes lit up. “God Alice”, he laughed, "you are so predictable".
The Royal Navy though, is not. I have given up my university course, my children have been in various states of distress, our wills have been written, my marriage tested and found to be intermittently faulty. All for nothing. They don’t even play mind games like this in Abu Ghraib.


belleek said...

does the silver topped cane mean a promotion then? In the RN I served promotin was usually referred to as 'another ring' or 'scrambled egg'. Anyway, that must mean more money as does 'local' - no travelling! He must be in 7th heaven!

But the saddest thing is your university course ... will they still have a place do you think?

(Blogger still pretending I don't exist so sorry for unlinked comment)

Just a bloke said...

Good news, but sorry to hear about the sacrifices!



DL said...

Fantastic news! You'll probably be able to get back onto the University course. What's the new job, may I ask?

Best wishes,

soundslike said...

I love your writing but then I always have. It was great seeing you today in the usual spot. You look fabulous but then so do I. X

Alice Band said...

Belleek- Not promotion but a job whereby I cannot be seen again to can-can behind Bad Manners on a Friday night at the local pub. Too bad !!
Hello boys! My God I've always wanted to say that!
DL - I'll write to SL and tell her where Hubby is going to work. You'll certainly know it!

Just a Bloke - Who art thou?

Soundslike - Is this who I think it is? Noel Coward couldn't have envisaged it...

soundslike said...

I've had time to read your blog properly, and It is addictive reading, it's in my favourites now. I was so taken aback to see you yesterday and left you a billet doux which you won't read
you know who I am

DL said...

Hi again AB,

I've got a couple of guesses. Drop me a message on Facebook...?


Anonymous said...

Just found your blog via Mary Alice's. Sounds like good news & I really hope you can make your uni course.

Check out my blog to see that I am, relatively, harmless!