Saying goodbye


This weekend we had a final lunch with the Colonel’s work colleagues whom, over the last year and a half, have welcomed me into their world. The world of the military. A life where there are rules, many unspoken, there is hierarchy, also unspoken and there is a system. A system that works. It is a life of order and precision in a world of chaos, unsettled politics and endless conflicts.

Their kindness have at times overwhelmed me and their patience never-ending, when I have asked them yet again to translate the letters and numbers that relate to places, people and events which dominate conversations. I try to remember that they work on the 24 hour clock and punctuality is expected and the norm, whereas ‘fashionably late’ is simply ‘intolerably late’.

Words are chosen carefully so that any potential confusion is eliminated. Of course this is all drummed into them from the very beginning of their training. Precise and clear instructions and not a lot of waffle. It’s laughable to try to imagine CGS (Chief of the General Staff) issuing vague orders … it simply would never happen! The chaos that would ensue…!

I recall one early meeting with them, and as the Colonel went to the bar to order more drinks, he asked a colleague to ‘look after me’ as he left my side for a just few minutes. This was executed naturally and smoothly without a pause in the conversation and said colleague without any hesitation chatted happily, asking me questions until the Colonel returned to me and he then slipped quietly away. From young subalterns they learn how to look after their guests. They have by then, enough life experience and confidence to be able to talk easily and more than enough manners to engage with their companions and make everyone around them feel comfortable as though their guests are as interesting as Mandela or Gandhi, as amusing as Chaplin or Robin Williams and as respectful and important to them as their own wife or mother. Manners maketh man and all that …

They have a unique sense of humour and a banter all of their own, formulated from extreme situations within the cramped metal confines of tanks or in any of those dire places in 45 degree heat in full combat gear, where at any moment they can be under attack with IEDs causing complete and lethal devastation. Where they, and they alone, are responsible for keeping each other alive as one of them begs for a trigger to be pulled as the tourniquet is tightened further and his muffled screams fill the dusty air yet again, but knowing that it’s only minutes before he’ll bleed out. There are fine sand covered body parts spread over the filth as they wait for the longed for throbbing of the chopper to take them within the golden hour, to relative safety. Time is the killer now.

So whilst I pack my boxes, organise and make lists, and my anxiety and stress levels are wanting to creep up the scale, I think of those soldiers and officers and am able to keep it marginally into perspective. It is simply moving again. That’s all. We all have different levels of pressure and stress that we are able to cope with, mine being fairly low. But that’s ok, I’m working on it. And once I’ve waved goodbye to our lovely home here and I’ve managed to pack up the house without tears, tantrums or actually packing the Colonel into a box, I’d say I’ve done rather well …

Katie xx

14 thoughts on “Saying goodbye”

  1. This is quite beautifully written …. eloquent, poignant and moving. Thank you for giving me this touching window into soldierly life. As you pack and walk away once more to open a new door to a new chapter which you know will also be hallmarked with impermanence, don’t try to be strong, just do you. You are what he loves, you are what he wants at his side, opening the door at the end of the day, it is you he longs for. Betty can go to hell in a hand basket, because you have a soldier who loves you xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is beautiful … thank you. And although Betty comes too, I think she’s no longer going to be in the next door room, she’ll be out in the garage where she can shiver alone. Thank you for your lovely words. You are always so kind 😘

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good luck with the move! Yes, we all have different stress levels – I am calm as a cucumber in interview situations (arguably a lot at stake) yet a nervous wreck when I have to get on a flight (safer than crossing the street) which is really irrational as neither makes much sense! Moving, however… I read somewhere that moving is one of the most stressful things we do and that does make sense, I’m for one not good at leaving my own habitat that I’m used to for a new one. You seem to be doing great though! Keep us posted on how it all goes. (And it’s absolutely OK to freak out as well!) Sophie xx PS. Soldiers = gentlemen in the real sense of the word!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely … the very best gentlemen! The moving itself I’m fine with, I’m finding the packing albeit monotonous, quite therapeutic … the tricky bit for me is finding things at the other end, like the kettle and the duvet. Hopefully my labelling of the boxes has been better this time! Xx Ps I totally get the nervousness about flying … what can possibly be normal about being propelled at 500 miles an hour above the clouds without a parachute? Madness really … x


    1. Ahh so you understand. Since that post was written we have moved again! After a year in London, we’re now in New York. Very interesting and despite all speaking the same language I’ve found culturally it’s extremely different. I’m rather liking it!

      Liked by 1 person

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