Over at the Huff Post I am talking about where I will be watching the Olympics 2012
Over at the Huff Post I am talking about where I will be watching the Olympics 2012
“Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan,” President Barack Obama said. “We will draw inspiration from their lives, and continue the work of securing our country and standing up for the values that they embodied.”
RIP 38 lives lost in the US Chinook crash
Saturday 7th August 2011.
I had a gypsies warning that the news was going to break. I knew before the news was released. I knew it wasn’t Hagar. I didn’t have to reconcile the information and establish the facts so I was calm. Then at 10am the electrical power in my house cut out completely.
You see when you are alone, and carrying the burden of responsibility of two people, you can pretty much guarantee that you will have to face some form of calamity, with varying degrees of severity. This particular calamity had been building progressively since just before Hagar departed. The newly installed electric shower on/off button slowly ceased to function, so the only way that you could switch the shower on and off was at the wall. Then, one press too many -‘bang’ the fuse box popped and the power in certain rooms was gone. ‘Ah,’ I think, ‘yes, the shower is f*cked’.
Many men come and officially diagnose it’s f*ckedness, concurring that it is verily f*cked, but not able to rectify the problem until much later than is ideal.
In the no mans land of officially f*cked shower and living in house, the Grenade one night, on the landing, heading for a late night pee, accidentally switches the shower on instead of the loo light. In an instance the house is catapulted into an inky, pitch blackness, where you actually can’t even see the outline of your hand. (I live in a place where the is no cultural lighting – it gets proper dark.) The Grenade starts screeching like an injured wild animal because he is terrified of the dark. I scramble from the downstairs to the upstairs at a great pace to connect with him in the darkness. He promptly jumps on my head like a freaked out cat and engulfs me with vice like grip. Aunty Pat comes out of her room onto the landing and I have to negotiate even more stairs in the blackness to handover The Grenade to her so that I can seek out the torch; which is downstairs in the kitchen, to then resolve the power failure. I go down the stairs on my arse and feel my way into the kitchen, where I find the biggest, heaviest, most phallic torch in the world, which I would never buy but I am now eternally grateful that Hagar did, and then there is light.
A few days later our friends arrive, and Mrs Ladyfriend makes the same mistake, but in the hours of daylight and how we laugh at the chaos of the f*cked shower. We then head off to the pub, get verily, merrily inebriated and the next day I get the gypsies warning about the cab going down.
At 10am the power dies. Everybody runs crazily around the house, shouting ‘powercut, powercut’ accusing Mrs Ladyfriend (who is actually in the same bathroom as the shower, trying to have a hungover poo) of switching on the f*cked shower again. The Menace (aged 3) bangs angrily on the door and provides a tirade of three year old abuse.
“Did you do that to the shower again? Did you do that so that it is not working? What did you do? You turn on the shower again?” she shrieked.
I follow a few minutes later, with a similar but more articulate line of questioning, and Mrs Ladyfriend explains in no uncertain terms that she did not switch the f*cking shower on and could we please leave her to her ablutions.
This poses many dilemmas. Not in the least because we have no power; but all of the fuses are in the on position, which means that this power cut could extend beyond my own property and not be a result of the f*cked shower. I then ring the neighbours and discover they have power. Next, I ring the electricity board and explain to them that we have a power cut and could they please send an engineer out as electricity is our only source of energy. (This means we have no gas! Just in case you weren’t clear.) However, due to the quirks of the residence I need them to send a special engineer because I have a special unit – it’s a CT unit or something like that! And it requires a specialist. The electricity board duly note this and an engineer is raised. This will take an hour.
The hangover is beginning to take hold and we all need hot beverages and breakfast. I remember that we have a gas BBQ and so we get Mr Blokefriend (husband of Mrs Ladyfriend) to boil a kettle (I have a kettle that can be boiled on an Oz pig) make scramble eggs and toast on the BBQ. (BBQ is long way from house, it’s raining and it has nettles growing out from underneath it. Note to self – move BBQ nearer kitchen for future usage). It turns out Mr Blokefriend has never made scramble eggs before and says in Welsh (he is actually Welsh and not just speaking in a Welsh accent for comedy, egg making purposes), lyrical tones, “what do I do with this then? Do I just stir it?”
“Yes,” is my somewhat curt reply, married with a ‘what are you a talking about you crazy fool?’ look.
BBQ toast is very crunchy with charred bits on. The eggs were great. I discovered, under a metal flap that our BBQ has this little gas side ring on it, which I was able to use to boil the milk for the coffee. It was very handy. Later, in the day we were also able to use it for more kettle boiling. We found boiling the kettle on the griddle took ages and then I lifted the flap and there was the gas ring. Would you Adam and Eve it??!!
In the meantime, the children, 2 x theirs, and 2 x mine run around the house slowly discovering which entertainment devices are powered by electricity. It’s a revelation for them but eventually they resort to more Lord of the Flies, feral behaviour and run crazily around the garden like little mentalists.
Eventually, the electricity board engineer arrives, and of course, he is not the right one because despite my brief that they needed a special one they send a normal one. Having dismantled the kitchen to access the behemoth. He then takes one look at the meter and says ‘I am not qualified on this, you need a specialist.’
I think, ‘no shit Sherlock!’
Anyhoo, turns out there is only three of them specialists in the country. Then the negotiation begins because it’s really about who is responsible for fixing the fault – them or me. Plus I need to get the power on before darkness falls because I don’t have enough illuminating devices to get The Grenade through the night without him sitting on my head like a freaked out cat, clutching me with a vice like grip. I need a contingency that means should we have no power and the darkness falls then we need to be somewhere else. (Contingency in place – we would head to Mrs Ladyfriend and Mr Blokefriend’s house an hour and half drive away should power not be restored. Not ideal but beggars can’t be choosers in a crisis.)
The non-specialist then starts phoning around to see if he can speak with one of the three specialists to get some tips to diagnose and discover who has to pay for the repair. As you can imagine these specialists are as elusive as the Scarlett Pimpernel.
In the interim, I line up an electrician to come in and take over the baton should the electricity board determine that the responsibility is mine. During this process I learn more about the functionality of an electrical meter than I ever wanted to know. This takes literally hours. Eventually, we (and I say ‘we’ because I was instrumental in the fault diagnosis) discover the fault (someone had bridged this mahoosive fuse – biggest mother f*cking fuse you have ever seen in your life) and establish the responsibility is mine. I then step up my electrician, who is going to take another hour or so to arrive.
I write on facebook status:
A Modern Military Mother is powerless
The children at this point are now beginning to experience severe electricity withdrawal and simply cannot understand why the promised swimming trip has been cancelled, the internet, the TV, the ipad, the ipod, (not to self – must be more vigilant in charging electrical devices for child entertainment in the event of future power failures. Please note it is difficult to entertain and supervise children when resolving crises especially when Aunty Pat is away shopping in nearby city and not at home during power failure) etc, is not working, despite our very calm, lucid and rational explanations. Their world quite literally is falling apart. They cannot quite fathom why the adults are not gripping this situation and resolving the problem. (By the way, Mr Blokefriend has headed off to the local pub to watch the rugby.)
Eventually, the electrician arrives and Mrs Ladyfriend’s eldest son feels that he must take matters into his own hands to get this problem fixed. As the electrician steps into the hall he is greeted by an 8 year old’s perspective on how we find ourselves without power for such a sustained length of time. I am feeling quite jaded at this point, but after 15 minutes decide that it is time to release the electrician from the 8 year old’s version of events and gently send the 8 year old back into the jungle so that he can continue the mass genocide of the stuffed animals that is occurring on the set of The Lord of the Flies.
The electrician then proceeds to be starstruck by the awesomeness of the meter and I yet again find myself engaged in further chat about the meter and it’s wonderment. Anyway, without boring you with the detail – he does a bit of jiggery pokery and moves some fuses and the power is restored!
Mr Blokefriend returns from the pub. Wales lost to England. He says, “the story about the crash is on the news”.
Time passes…..eventually, I catch up with my facebook. Following my status is a friend sending kisses, another says “I have been thinking of you all day’ and there are kind words and thoughts from folk who know that Hagar is Afghanistan. The electrical black out meant that I had no access to the news as it rolled out.
Today my status reads;
“yesterday’s power cut was a gift – was in news black out – like a comfort blanket. RIP those tragically killed and great vigilance to those who fly in the ghostly trails of their vortex…..but the battle continues on”
Do we want the truth or do we like to wrap ourselves up in someone else’s fantasy life? The grip of the news hacking story is dying down now and Cameron is hanging on by his finger tips.
“I did not have any inappropriate conversations” he declared to parliament – Cleverly put.
What he is really saying:
“I did have some appropriate conversations though.”
I don’t know what is the truth. But if I were to speculate, I’d say this; in my humble opinion (IMHO) – I hasten to add:
1.) Cameron brokered a deal with Murdoch for his support (IMHO)
2.) He agreed to take Andy Coulson on his team to give the Murdoch eyes and ears inside Downing St (IMHO)
3.) In return for Murdoch’s support he agreed not to oppose the BSKYB bid
But the truth is that we let this happen because we are apathetic and we want someone else to make our decisions for us. The majority feed off the salacious scandal, the muck digging and the rise and fall of those in power. We let this happen because we gorge on the junk and invest our pennies in it. We bought it – we drove it and we supported it.
A friend sent me an article recently written in The Times declaring that celebrity film interviews were vacuous and pointless because they are so heavily minded by viperous PRs. The journalist wrote this article anonymously because they feared would be blacklisted by celebrity PRs and they wouldn’t get their 10 minutes of guff. The PRs are in charge because they provide access. But maybe journalists aren’t working hard enough to stick to the truth. If the truth is so important to them they would just write what they see. Or maybe folk just want to know that all is well in Happy Ever After and we need the fantasy escapism of perfection to keep our aging inferior selves satiated. Could we handle the truth?
The thing is now I don’t feed off it unless I am in the beauty parlour being plucked and polished so to indulge in a mindless cheese-fest of the empty helps keep my mind off the torture of beauty I am enduring. I don’t invest it in myself because I am not bothered. I am barely interested but I am interested by those who are. I am surrounded by early 20 years olds at the moment – they invest it and they believe it to be real. They are bothered. They buy into it. They want to be Kate Middleton – the fairytale myth of Cinderella centuries on still permeates society and girls buy into not understanding that it’s a honey trap and will inevitably result in domestic slavery.
I just want to runaway. Live in exile, off grid, self sufficient – un-influenced and un-interrupted from a world, I can’t control and vice I can’t avoid.
The truth is that Hagar is at war doing things I don’t agree with. The truth is that many military wives are unhappy but are frightened to say the words out loud. The truth is the military want us to be all cupcake bakers and backbone but give words of thanks they don’t mean. Why am I supporting unpaid, the methods of combat, in a war, we shouldn’t even be fighting in this way?
Hagar is paid for his job – he is not a volunteer yet he has equal responsibility to parent his children and yet he is sent away for months on end. So tell me why should I carry this responsibility? Why should I support the military and the Government? Especially, when the military make up the rules as they go along to suit their own ends. They will punish me when it suits them and then use me when it suits them as well. I am at their mercy by marriage. For the record, ‘no I did not know what I was getting in to when I got married’ and ‘no, I am not used to it.’ When I say these words in other places I am subjected to a barrage of abuse about how wrong I am. But the truth is most can’t handle my truth.
By Heledd Kendrid
The day I married my husband I didn’t realise how much I would be marrying into the institution. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rant. It’s not my nature and equally wouldn’t go down well with my counterparts, who have lived this reality for years without so much as a rumble of complaint. However, last night was a typical day for me really.
I’m working long hours at the moment to get my business off the ground and with two young children to manage I’d be fooling myself if I said it was plain sailing. Being a Military Mum is different; you’re a single parent 80% of the time added to that you’re away from family, friends and the natural support structure you would have created for yourself had you been a single parent. You are everything and more; you are the cook, the cleaner, the taxi service, the disciplinarian, the mother, the entertainer; you do bath times, storytimes, fun times; you spend your time formulating a structure that makes his job easier as you can’t rely on them to be there all the time.
I know because I’ve been a career woman working in the City of London, Canary Wharf with the suit and the power pay. I’ve also been single Mum, on my own with a young child. I met my husband when my daughter was a few months old having left her Father, because he was blatantly a completely unsuitable Father. I fell in love with my husband because he was a caring , good man who worked hard and loved my daughter as if she was his own. (But that’s another story, I married him because I loved him.) You see, I know the struggles of a single Mum on benefits but now I know the struggles as a military mum and believe me the latter is a much bigger struggle.
Take last night for example, it was a family social occasion. I was expected to have clean, tidy presentable children by 5pm at the mess, not to mention myself in high heels and a clean tidy happy me wearing a dress which covered my shoulders, was knee length and was not too revealing, ( I do have images of a slut march through the camp at times) the dogs needed walking, the guinea pigs feeding, oh, and the kids. Sprinkle this, with a working 14 hours a day from home at the moment.
It was 4.15 (sorry, 16.15 hours) and sometimes things have to give. Last night was one of those nights. We had meltdown from my 4 year old daughter, who was so tired from a busy weekend camping (I had decided to drive down to Cornwall with 2 kids to take them camping as Dad was working) she just wanted to snuggle down in front of the telly. She unleashed the full monty of tears and tantrums.
I called my husband who again couldn’t answer the phone as he was too busy to explain to him that we couldn’t possibly make it tonight. By now it was 4.40pm. Harri my 2 year old had dried baked beans smeared all over his face and Aderyn was only beginning her meltdown. All I wanted was to get them to bed and sit down with a large Gordon’s gin.
Like a Flash my husband arrived, briefly played with the kids, ran up the stairs leaving a trail of destruction amongst what was an already chaotic house, showered and left saying he needed some aftershave. I had a quick peck on the cheek and he was gone.
6am the next morning, no husband, I call, (this is not out of character as I’ve been here too often), eventually he stumbles in through the bedroom door. Immediately, he was on the defensive, telling me that he wasn’t that drunk, slept on the sofa as not to wake me and went to work telling me that I over reacted and I need to take a grip.
Now, reading this you would think this is the most objectionable man you have probably met, but without sounding like a doormat, it’s the job. It’s OK to drink and expect your wife to pick up the pieces, despite the mad day she’s having. Some wives I know they don’t allow it but then apparently these guys aren’t respected at work. They’re seen as feminine and under the thumb, ‘pussy whipped’ and that doesn’t demand respect from your soldiers. Funny that the military push the fact that a strong home underpins good fighting power and in turn an effective workforce. So falling short of me walking out nothing will change him.
You see, my husband comes from a good family. His father is a headmaster, his mother runs her own childcare business, his brother happily married is a teacher and his sister is a nurse you couldn’t find a more supportive family. Even with this stable base, my husband feels he has something to prove, an identity, one of the lads, someone who is in control of him and his woman. As that is all I am to him and the military, there are three people in this marriage; myself, my husband and the MOD. If he had a job in civvie street this wouldn’t happen.
All quiet on the Western Front. Hagar’s epistles are sparse and in-frequent.
“Just a quick note to say if it ever goes quiet from my end, it is usually because we have to minimise (ie stop) any e-mails or phone calls from here as a result of a death. As you will have seen on the news today a UK serviceman was unfortunately killed so all comms are stopped to allow the next of kin to find out first! Anyway, please don’t worry is my point.
All is well, morale is high and looking forward to any mail coming my way! It takes around a week or so to arrive out here, depends on flights.
Anyway, happy to hear all is well in UK, apart from the rain, but hopefully the sun will come out for the whole of August!”
Meanwhile, back in Blighty, I am running around like a blue arsed fly. (I love that expression – what does it mean? Flies fly not run – anyhoo.) Thankfully, it is the school holidays so I don’t have to muster The Grenade. I am working full time on a freelance contract, actually in an office (I normally work from home) until the end of July so I am up and out before the house stirs. My aunty is staying with me to help out with the kids while I work. It’s such a luxury. I am so very lucky. She had the audacity to pop home for a few days last week and I literally thought my right arm had been removed. I even had to look after my own children!!!
There is no rest for the wicked whilst Hagar is away. The workload doubles. I am looking at the rain with horror and watching the grass grow and grow. I was wondering if I should put a notice up in the pub – to see if anyone fancied doing their bit for the war effort by coming over to mow my lawn! And ‘no’ that is not a euphemism for trim my beaver, or come around and give me a good seeing too – I ACTUALLY want someone to cut the grass!
On the whole, I don’t know how to stop. I have to keep living at 100 mph, which invariably involves consuming vast quantities of alcohol and staying up until the early hours, then digging in the next day, washing down tonnes of ibruprofen and taking the kids swimming. I have joined a club with a pool so that we can swim whenever we want. It has an outdoor pool and we can go everyday. This is my holiday. The pool is so warm that the pool temperature is often warmer than the air temperature. The kids are hardier than me they can stay for hours and hours while my lips turn blue.
Then I still have my business to run and deals to wheel. I am in the process setting up the next quarter. It is full hope and excitement with some great contracts being finalised. I can’t tell you because I would have to kill you. All will become clear in time.
All of this is played out with the backdrop of News International-gate which I am still utterly gripped by. I see people dropping off the story now but my hunger for it hasn’t changed. It is so significant – it will change the face of the next election. Will Cameron survive? Today, was a big day – the first mysterious death. The saga unravels like a Jeffrey Archer novel. I can’t wait for the film. This is as big as Nixon and Watergate, for sure.
Did I mention that my kids don’t sleep – they are never asleep before 10.30pm. Every night, even when you get them up early. It’s a constant source of endurance that you have to experience to believe. I am an insomniac too and don’t need much sleep but I am older and I need more than them. They are young versions of me sent to test me. Onwards and upwards. Sleep when you are dead. That’s what I say.
I work mainly nights when on det, it’s the safest time of day out here. The dark is my friend so I embrace it and hopefully, it will look after me. I get up around 4:30pm. It’s still hot outside, low 40s Celcius. You can feel the heat even from inside our 2 man air conditioned room. A shave and a clean of my teeth and I am ready to get dressed into my fire proof Multi Cam combat trousers and shirt. A cotton t-shirt or flame proof long sleeved layer goes underneath, along with cotton underwear. In my right thigh pocket is an escape map, printed on silk, so it is small and yet strong, in my left, some American dollars and a morphine syrette, safely contained inside a plastic ‘coffin’ so it doesn’t auto-inject me by mistake (as has happened to some pilots in the past!). My left hip pocket contains a lip salve and mini leatherman tool, my right a small wallet with my meal card (more on that later) my various compound passes and my ID. My shirt chest pockets hold my work mobile phone and pager. Around my neck goes my dog tags and small head torch that always lives there for when I am in the dark and need to see! I wear desert socks and tough desert boots, with sole that won’t melt in a fire – I often wonder that if I am standing in a fire that is hot enough to melt the soles of my boots I won’t care if they are melt proof or not, as the rest of me will be melting anyway! On my head go my issue ESS sunglasses (going from dark to light is hard on the old peepers) and my Multi cam floppy hat with cut down rim to make it look less like a sombrero……
I walk the 5 minutes to work with some of my crews and we check in to see what’s on the cards for us work wise, sometimes busy straight away, sometimes not. If we are not busy, we have scoff, then gym, then TV, sometimes we go shopping…..
Around 7pm we go for ‘Breakfast’ ie Scoff, but that is evening meal time for most people, so we have pasta or salad or steak or burgers etc. The choice of food is pretty good, as the choice of eating establishments (around 5 at the last count – hence a meal card so we can eat anywhere). If we are busy, it is: in, eat, out, no messing – a habit I always continue for a while after I get home – speed eating (along with Det tourettes). I usually grab a triple coffee at that point with plenty of sugar, to take away, if its going to be a long night. If we are out all night flying we usually get back after it gets light, so we go from day into night into day, which is a bit of a head fuck until you get used to it. When we land, we de-brief the night and then give the aircraft back to our engineers who fix our trusty steeds, make good all the things that re broken, patch any holes the bad guys have made in them, feed and water them, and get them ready to go out to work again later that night. They are bloody good, our engineers, I like them a lot, they look after us – we need them too.
Once we have popped back into work and shut things down for the night, we usually bimble off for brekkie, sometime a full fry if its been a hard night, sometimes fruit salad, always loads to drink. In fact I seem to drink all night when I am flying, endless bottles of water passed forward to me by my crewman and I never need a piss until after I land – that’s what flying in fire proof gear, sitting in an armoured seat, wearing body armour, a frag vest and survival combat jacket, in a glass cockpit with an outside temperature of 35 degrees C at 3 in the morning, does for you. When we get back to the block, its shower and chill time for a wee while then collapse into the lower bunk of my bunk bed (the top bunk holds my junk) and with a fond look at the pics of my kids above my pillow, I fall asleep. The sleep of the tired and the damned, or maybe, just maybe, sometimes the sleep of the righteous. 14 hours per day, 7 days a week, 10 weeks.
That’s was my day. How was yours?
In Crapistan – news from the frontline:
“So, finally back off to war. It’s a strange feeling leaving home, kind of bittersweet; the excitement of heading back to a conflict zone, versus the pain of leaving those you love. Its hardest as you get on the bus from camp to the departure airhead. Everyone sits in silence after the initial banter; deep in their own thoughts of what they are leaving behind and what awaits them in theatre. You get to the airhead and the buzz begins again as you check in. It’s the usual banter about business class seats and fit air hostesses……
Then more waiting and thinking. The flight usually seems to go quite quickly, on the way out. Before you know it you have arrived and then it hits you once again – the heat. 37 degrees in the middle of the night. Walking down the steps from the air conditioned jet you begin to sweat. It takes a few days to get acclimatised so you immediately become aware of how much water you will have to take on every day – we always have a bottle of water to hand when we can, especially on the cab – usually warm!
You get a small adrenaline buzz as you first step back onto Afghan soil. Memories of previous dets come flooding back and a shiver runs up your spine, not knowing what is to come on this one. Mainly though you are glad to have arrived; looking forward to getting stuck in again, doing the job you love. The job I love. The flying here is the best, the most challenging, the scariest and the most fun.
The other thing that hits you is the smell, dry hot smells; aviation fuel, burning fires and human excrement – the smell I miss the least! At first your senses become almost overwhelmed, then quickly you become used to it again and you simply crack on. A different life from the one you have just left begins, you move forward, onwards and upwards. Now is the time to step up to the plate and do what you have training to do for a long time, things may have changed since you were last here, but the job is essentially the same; fly hard, provide support, provide effect get everyone in and get everyone out. Simple.”
“I am hooked on the News International scandal of the decade. I am gripped by the corruption and subterfuge. It is endemic. I predict that this will be as big as Profumo. Everybody disagrees with me. But I think it could be bring Cameron down. It certainly could fell News International. I keep waiting for Rebekkah Brooks (RB) and James Murdoch to resign and I am astonished that they are still yet to do it.
It’s the best telly we have had for ages. I hear tales of old school tie. Of power elites in London of top media types rubbing each others backs and lining each others interest.
What surprises is me is that everyone is so surprised. Quelle horreur – what is this the biggest news corporation in the world is corrupt and adopts underhand practices to get to the heart of the matter by scurrilous means? Surely not? Non! And it appears that nobody at the top knew about it – really? I put it to you m’lud that they all knew about it! Even Cameron! And they all thought that they could just sweep it under the carpet and put a chair over it. (IMHO – obviously, I am speculating. Please don’t send the chief of wolves out to get me so I can be turned to stone. But c’mon!! Who in Great Britain believes that they didn’t know about it! Seriously!)
The crisis reminds me of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The White Witch is the land’s self-proclaimed queen. She tyrannizes Narnia through her magically imposed rule. Her spell on Narnia has made it “always winter but never Christmas” for a hundred years. When provoked, she turns creatures to stone with her wand.
But who is Aslan in all of this? Please don’t let it be Ed Miliband. What’s Nick Clegg up to? So I watch with baited breath – will this crisis bring down Cameron? I have heard he is very good buddies with RB. He had the whole News International team over for drinky-poos the other day at number 10. I wonder if he hosts a Guardian Media Group drinky poos too. To be impartial, of course. Is this the fall of Rome – are the walls crumbling around them or will they weather the crisis? I am gripped and am just loving watch the drama unfold. Is the collapse of News of the World a house of cards that will bring down the Murdoch empire? You couldn’t make it up and make it more exciting!
This has proved to be a welcome distraction in the face of Hagar’s recent departure. Interestingly, I was interviewed by Heart FM about how I felt about himself going to war for the 7th time. The interviewer made an interesting point, which I didn’t have the heart to jump upon at the time. She said something along the lines of ‘the job of the wife is to’…..Being a wife is a job? I didn’t know that when I said ‘I do’ I had taken on a job. I am naive, I suppose. If I had known that being a wife was a job then I would have negotiated the T&Cs much harder. I would have asked for a better pension, a wage, better working hours. I had never thought about being a wife as a job – or being a husband as a job. If I had known it was a job I would never have signed the contract in the first place!”