The Final Countdown …

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Only a few more days now until I cycle off into the sunset with husband dearest and two adoring sons waving their handkerchiefs with damp eyes, gazing desolately at my lonely departing figure …

Or perhaps not?

“Pub?” I hear them ask each other, grinning widely.

“Let’s go!” and they march off smartish towards the nearest ale-house without a single look back at yours truly.

I somehow suspect that the latter scenario is infinitely more probable than the former.

Bastards! Ahh but they can now ditch the salad, eat chips, finish all the expensive ice creams and with no one to keep them on the straight and narrow, when I return, will I find an empty larder and only a small green morsel of mouldy cheese staring back at me from the fridge? Will I find that they have all developed rickets and scurvy? .. And will there be three inches of dust on every half-empty pizza box and penicillin-growing mug-covered table? Will I find dirty laundry spilling over onto the floor and not in their colour-coordinated baskets? Quelle horreur! Interesting how I am more concerned about the laundry than the scurvy, but I digress… How will they cope without me?!

Sadly, I flatter myself. My husband as most of you know is a military man. He requires order, precision and tidiness. I believe that his ideal picture of a perfect home is the one in “The Sound of Music” where Captain von Trapp blows a whistle daily and the children rush into line for inspection. I have mentioned this to him in jest, but instead of poo-pooing my theory, quite worryingly he nods and agrees, muttering to himself as he disappears into the quiet of the study. He does however then put his head around the door to remind me that he is of higher rank than a captain. Quite …

So no, rather irritatingly, I suspect that the house will be sparkling, the larder will have been reorganised, my herb and spices cupboard (a very irksome place for him, that he is usually barred from) will have been cleaned and all those tiny pots and jars which are usually out of date will have been mostly disposed of and the remaining ones placed, yes placed not shoved, with their caps on properly in perfect alignment and in alphabetical order. There will be none of my little hair bands, lipsalves or hand creams left on any surfaces (or in the car, dammit) and my bedside table, usually covered with books, clocks, photographs, more hand creams, eye creams, frankly any creams to help keep old age at bay, will have had a major overhaul, aka it will have been tidied within an inch of its unfortunate and usually cluttered life.

Do I mind this? Of course not! He will feel extremely satisfied as he explains to me the benefits of keeping order and how tarragon should be to the left of thyme, and how folding my clothes at the end of the day and placing them on the chair is infinitely preferable to ripping them off, randomly throwing them ‘nilly-willy’ in the vague direction of the chair and bouncing into bed chattering to him happily and trying to convince him that some rose-scented cream would benefit the lines on his forehead. He will mutter something about them being stress-related from living with me, but within a few minutes I shall be fast asleep, curled up close to him and he will have some long-awaited peace and quiet. No wonder he enjoys going to work so much, and quite probably why he is maybe just a teensy bit looking forward to my imminent departure. Can’t understand it myself.

Katie xx

How do you cope when your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend goes away?

Do you throw yourself into a cleaning frenzy, party for 48 hours non-stop or go into a complete decline?

Saying goodbye

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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