Hagar Goes To Afghanistan

Has Hagar gone? Hasn’t he? Fuzzy Duck? Does he? Ducky Fuzz? Maybe he has. Maybe he hasn’t. The exact timings don’t matter. What matters is how we all feel. How does he feel? How do I feel? How do the kids feel?

I thought you might want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. From Hagar himself. I can’t really tell you how he feels. Only he can. Now he can’t be seen so unfortunately you have to watch me in order to listen to him. To find out what Hagar thinks you will have to watch the video below.

Everyone has their way of handling their life and we have ours. Hagar and I have always agreed that there will be no big goodbyes. Just business as usual. To us this is business as usual.

From my perspective. I have one life and I want to live it to the full. I can’t waste energy I can’t spare, on things I can’t control. I can’t control what happens in Afghanistan and I can’t worry about what I can’t control. ‘Que sera sera’, said Doris. Hagar knows his onions. He will be the best he can be. He knows what is at stake. He said to his guys, ‘success to me is that we come back with as many as we go out with’.

The Chinook is an army asset. It is tool used to help the boots on the ground to get the job done. Hagar knows he is there to support the guys on the ground to achieve the task, to mitigate the risk and deliver the unthinkable. This is the job. This is his job.

What do I think? I want him to be vigilant at all times. To come home again. It is tiring though being strong, putting your head down, digging in and pushing through – again and again and again and again and again. I can’t sit still, rocking under the table waiting for him to come home. We all have a life to live. A life to celebrate so I think I am just going to work, dance and drink through it and keep my kids smiling. I’ll tell them that daddy is at work and when they say, “I miss daddy.” I’ll smile and say, “I miss daddy too. It’s fine to miss daddy but he has a job to do so that he can buy you toys.” When you are 8 years old, saying food and keeping a roof over your head, keeping you safe at night, doesn’t have the same meaning as toys. Toys are an 8 year old’s currency. (Before we get into a materialism debate – The Grenade has real sense of kindness, helpfulness, manners and solid values. But he loves toys – what kid doesn’t?)

We don’t make a thing of it to the kids. Daddy is away. They don’t know where he has gone or what he is doing. This is just normal. Daddy’s here sometimes and sometimes he’s not; that’s just the way it is. I have said before there is a lot of away – exercises, night flying, day flying, practising – sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes a few months. Away is just away. My kids deserves a childhood free of anxiety wherever possible. I believe that my job is to protect them from the reality of war and give them a carefree childhood full of love and possibilities. They will have adulthood to contend with eventually.

Tick, tock, tick, tock – the clock ticks. Time passes and the war continues on. To stay or go. If we stay there will be trouble. If we go there will be double.


US declare 33,000 troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan

On Thursday morning at 07.10am I received a phone call from BBC Radio London asking me to comment on Barack Obama’s announcement on the withdrawal of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan. (Alas I wasn’t available at the allotted time frame.)

I was, however, also on the spot. What did I think? I didn’t even know. I waft in and out of knowledge and awareness about the conflict in Afghanistan. I find the whole situation frustrating and annoying. It’s been part of my life for so long now that it’s like an irritating relative, who is part of your blood line and we are stuck with each other.

Somebody told me an apocryphal tale about a conversation between a British Foreign Secretary and a senior member of the Afghanistan Government. The Foreign Secretary asked something along the lines of, “how long after the complete withdrawal of ISAF forces would Karzai’s Government retain power in Helmand.”
His reply, “24 hours, Foreign Secretary. 24 hours.”

Ding Dong, Osama’s dead! Ding Dong!Osama’s dead. Which Osama? The Wicked Osama!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Osama is dead.
Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Osama is dead. He’s gone where the goblins go,
Below – below – below. Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Osama is dead!

Barack Obama is a politician, whose power depends on the will of the people who vote for him. He put in 33,000 troops when he came into power because it reflected the will of enough of the US people. Osama Bin Laden was assassinated and the US work was done. The American people don’t care about the stabilisation of Afghanistan, most of them probably don’t even know where it is. They wanted to bounty hunt Osama Bin Laden because of the attrocities of September 11th.

On some level, Afghanistan was the gateway to that outcome. But now the wicked Osama is dead, the appetite for Afghanistan will wain. The US people will go about their business as usual. Move along, nothing to see here.

We can’t make Afghanistan it something it isn’t. It’s a complex place that requires a bespoke, long-term integrated solution and the sad reality is the ISAF nations don’t have the time, inclination or resource to deliver.

More life will be lost. The military who are all about the mission will have the rug pulled from beneath them. They will be irritated and frustrated; but eventually the West will brush Afghanistan under the carpet. There it may stay, or it may rear it’s head again and depending on the economic impact, or the threat to our way of life, will decide the response.

Hagar is back there soon. It will be his seventh time. I will half look. Half hide. Take a big deep breath. Suck it up. Accept that this is part of my life. Part of his life. He is ready to go. He wants to go. To do his job. To serve his country. Play his part. Use his skill. Be the best that he can be. He is good at what he does. He has a certain flair for it. He wears his aircraft well. We were talking about this on the train the other day. He said to me, “when you fly the same aircraft for a set period of time it becomes part of you.” He always greets the cab when he arrives and says goodbye when he departs. I understand on some level what he is talking about. I have sailed for many years. Sometimes every day for months on end and there is a transition when your skills move from learned to instinctive. When you can read your environment; anticipate, predict and react. Hagar’s whiskers are twitching. He is ready to get back in the saddle.

So I don’t know what I think about Obama’s withdrawal. I wish Hagar to be vigilant at all times. I wish the Government’s decisions were made on integrity and valour. I wish they would complete the task they set out to do and give the people of the Afghanistan the democratic freedom to decide for themselves who they want to be.

I’m a feminist not a lesbian

Last week, I was invited to speak at Farnborough Ladies Night because one of the organisers had seen an article by the Fleet Courier that the book I co-wrote Immediate Response had been a given a medal by The Military Writers Society of America. I am not sure what the ladies were expecting but I think they were expecting something a little more twee than me. Perhaps, they were expecting a demure, domestic goddess, who would proudly regale tales of awe inspiring derring-do and keeping the homes fire burning. Instead, they were presented with my candid analysis of how I constantly battle with my husband to pull his weight more in the house.

My opening line was ‘I am a feminist not a lesbian.’The ladies, whose ages ranged from 50 years old to 80 years old, engaged immediately. I could see them lift their droopy lids and either bristle, or giggle. I had two camps – those that looked at me with complete disgust and those who chuckled in naughty delight. The challenge that I often face when I proudly out myself as a card carrying feminazi is defining what I mean. Especially because the common conception of feminism is that you are a bean eating, carpet munching, communist. (No offence intended to those of feminist lesbian communist vegetarian persuasion – it’s just that I am not that way inclined) Hence my opening gambit.

It’s tough because I haven’t created an academic thesis to qualify this bold and brash declaration. But what I truly seek is freedom. Freedom to do what I want when I want. Genuine independence. This I don’t have through my own misguided choices. Shall I tell you who I blame? To quote the popular film, Pretty Woman – “Cinder-fucking-rella”. I walked into the Cinderella honey trap and stupidly fell in love, got married and had children. Doh!! Bahm, I sold my independence down the river.

I feel like recently I have had an epiphany. I want my freedom back. I want my independence. I want to do what I want when I want. Mission on. The reason why it is a mission because obviously there are people in my life and they are part of what I want. I don’t mean that I want to run away and abandon my choices that is not what want. It’s about finding the right balance between my own needs and those to whom I am responsible.

I think I gave up my freedom too easily. It was easier to take on the burden of responsibility and do-it-myself. In fact, I closed my talk to the Farnborough ladies with some observations on my 8 year old son, The Grenade. I said that I was just going to have to apologise to all his girlfriends because his will to do what he wants is often greater than mine to prevent him behaving in a burping, farting, slobbing in a gregariously male way. The note would read ‘I am sorry. I did my best. Please don’t hold it against me. Honestly, it’s not my fault.’

Clearly, in my younger years I blamed my mother-in-law for ruining Hagar and turning him into the flawed man that walks alongside the other flawed men in the species. However, now I am a mother to a son I realise that I have been very disloyal to his mother. It’s not her fault. I was blaming the wrong parent – it was his dad’s fault!! Mwah ha ha! I am only joking. It’s not their fault really.

So my mission is on. Wish me luck. Thank you Farnborough ladies for what was a very entertaining evening. It was great to share and learn that the trials and tribulations that I face that you too have a faced and that although there have been changes the majority of women are still slaves to domesticity.

I think I am back in the blogosphere – I have missed it so much. Blogging gives me a great sense of freedom. It’s my blog and I can write what I want to. I am back online. Toys R Us toy testing begins in earnest although my box of toys was delivered to the wrong address so what do you think my chances are of seeing that box of goodies again?

Britain’s Got Military History Talent

Britain’s Got Military History Talent
The Chalke Valley History Festival
July 7-9 2011

Nelson or Wellington, Monty or Rommel? Whose camp are you in? Should our leaders of today be learning better lessons from the past? Come and hear about the great arguments of military history and the face of modern battle from the people who know, at the inaugural Chalke Valley History Festival – the first national history festival – from July 7-9.

The strong military theme and the exceptional calibre of authors, advisers and servicemen, mean it is an event not be missed by anyone in or connected to the Forces. It is a rare chance to hear war discussed in depth by those who understand it and part of the proceeds will be donated to Help For Heroes.

“In a dramatically changing world, with political leaders often drawing the wrong lessons, a true understanding of history has never been more important,” Antony Beevor, the international bestselling historian and one of the Festival patrons, explains. “This new History Festival, with lectures and debates, is an excellent event to be welcomed and supported.”

Temperatures are sure to rise from the start for those representing the Army and the Navy as the Festival opens with Peter Snow, the contagiously enthusiastic broadcaster and author of To War With Wellington, sharing the stage with Andrew Lambert, one of Britain’s foremost naval historians. Will they settle the argument over who played a bigger part in vanquishing Old Boney?

After some supper cooked by Wiltshire’s finest chef, settle in for Monty vs Rommel with two of Britain’s most distinguished military historians; Gary Sheffield and Peter Caddick-Adams, who is also the most sought after battlefield guide to military commanders around the world.

Among a bursting list of treats, the picture broadens on Friday with that ancient set-piece of Greeks vs Romans before a fulsome schedule on Saturday which has something for all the family. Horrible Histories delves into the wonderful, wicked and weird publishing and programming phenomenon that changed history books for children. Caddick-Adams is back discussing tales of valour that earned Victorian and George Crosses.

The event closes with a formidable panel discussion; The Face of Battle, The British Experience of War from The Falklands to the Present Day. Patrick Bishop, the veteran foreign correspondent, chairs a group that includes two army majors, Fiona Stanford, an army wife for 15 years and author of Don’t Say Goodbye: Our Heroes and the Families They Leave Behind, Rick Jolly, a former Royal Navy doctor and Tim Collins OBE, the former colonel, whose eve-of-battle speech in Iraq was immediately immortalised.

The Chalke Valley History Festival takes place in the beautiful new Chalke Valley Cricket Ground, Bowerchalke SP5 5BA from Thursday July 7 to Saturday July 9 2011.

Tickets are between £4 and £10 and can be purchased individually for each event. A Gold Pass costing £74 will give entry to all events.

All proceeds will be spilt between the Chalke Valley Cricket Ground and Help For Heroes.

For more information and to buy tickets please visit; http://www.cvhf.org.uk or call 01722 781 206.

Help for Heroes – Father’s Day Special

(if you click on the above banner it should take you straight to the Help for Heroes shop)

Sometimes, I have these great ideas. I visualise in my head how it’s going to work out, and yet somehow, it just doesn’t play out how it was supposed to in my cotton candy, idealist, fantasies. So…… I have been talking with Help for Heroes for a while, and we thought it would be great if we could bring The Grenade and The Menace into H4H Downton HQ to check out their range of Father’s Day gift ideas so they could pick a gift for Hagar for Father’s Day. Hagar is off to the Afghan beach sometime soon, and so, I thought, I might, perhaps, buy him something from the children to mark this day of dads. To make it more of a laugh, H4H very generously agreed for Hero the bear to turn up too, to make the children’s Father’s Day present picking a veritable fun-filled treat.

Help for Heroes have taken over a business park in Downton, Wiltshire and has recently moved the majority of their staff over from their ‘Tin Hut’ origins in Tidworth. The H4H Tin Hut in Tidworth is manned by volunteers and showcases the meteoric and emotional rise of Help for Heroes. (If you are ever passing Tidworth then pop in. There is a shop there with a range of H4H’s great products to buy.) We were meeting Gaynor, the head of Trading at H4H HQ.

This was the plan: kids, Hagar and me visit H4H HQ, meet Hero the Bear, look at the Father’s Day pressies on display and kids choose Daddy a gift, whilst being delightful and engaging performing monkeys. Then I record the momentous occasion and share it on the blog with you all.

Well, it sort of worked out like that. Apart from….

The Menace fell sleep in the car so had to be awoken on arrival. She was very grumpy. The lovely comms team tried to cheer her up by bribing her with a lolly. Then she freaked out when she saw Alfred the border terrior and started squealing. Sharp exit out of comms and a quick dash across the car park we were at the hub of the H4H trading, warehousing and distribution. The trading outfit of H4H turnovers around £7 million per annum, and funds the operating costs of the charity so that all the fundraising goes directly to those who need it most. It is managed wholly out of the Downton HQ. As we made our way into the office Hero the bear, was sat in a chair with his head on her lap.

“Look mummy, Hero the Bear is a women,” squealed The Grenade. Fortunately, The Menace didn’t see the red headed young lady that was sporting the gigantic bear suit. We quietly backed out of the room ready to come again in when Hero the Bear had his head on.

As we walked in to Gaynor’s office to meet Hero the Bear, The Menace retracted herself further and further into Hagar’s shoulder and refused to play ball. I felt it was going really well so far. Gaynor’s office was an Aladdin’s cave of Father’s Day gifts from H4H i-phone covers to the great range of Hoodies for him. (I have to confess I did pick myself a Honeysuckle Pink hoody. I couldn’t resist which I spied on the way in. Ladies – I do recommend you have look at the lady hoodies – very nice with some great colours – I digress).

Before I could turn my attention to what we were buying for daddy, I was still trying to get a Santa shot of The Menace and Hero the Bear. However, this was the best I could do. (Excuse Hagar’s face – that is my rapid editing on the hoof with the anti red-eye pen. He’s serving though so it wouldn’t be right to reveal him.)

The Menace was not loving Hero at all – poor Hero 😦 In the end, we had to behead Hero to try and reassure her that it was fine really. He’s a lovely bear. The Grenade couldn’t wait to get his hands on Hero’s head.

In the end, I did manage to get a decent pic of The Grenade with Hero the Bear (after threatening to cancel his pending birthday if he didn’t sing for his supper. It’s amazing what he’ll do when this threat is issued.)

Eventually, we ushered Hagar out of the room and relieved Hero the Bear of her duties, whilst the children chose Daddy’s pressies. This involved sticking lolly over them. Noooooo! Aaargh!!

During the choosing The Grenade freezed, clenched his butt cheeks and then farted very loudly! As the stench wafted around the room, I was so embarrassed. Gaynor fortunately has a grandson, so smiled sympathetically as her lovely office is polluted by my vile child.

“What are you doing?” I exclaimed with horror.

“Ah c’mon I am your son after all, mummy,” he retorted.

“What is that supposed to mean? I don’t bottom burp in people’s offices!!” I was so appalled by his behaviour but also slightly flabbergasted by his complete lack of disregard that I realise that it really is just time to pick the pace up and get the truck out of there. This is certainly something to be dealt with elsewhere and not so publicly.

The Grenade choose a H4H water bottle and towel, which is great and just what Hagar will need when he is pumping iron at the Afghan beach, amongst his other war-fighting duties. (Clearly, I am being glib and trying to make light of it. Hagar is going to there for the 7th time. There is a war on but my philosophy is there is no use worrying about things you can’t control.)

And The Menace chose these great cufflinks, which will be the perfect acoutrement to his best mess dress.

Once the whole experience is drawing to a close The Grenade squeezed out one last bottom burp for good measure and I give him a ‘just you wait until I get you home you little bugger’ look! All I can think of is Jake from Two and a Half Men shrieking, ” I am baking air biscuits – get them while they are hot!”

Very embarrassed I quickly usher my two little non-performing monkeys out of Trading, apologising profusely to Gaynor, and head over to reception to purchase our gifts.

At reception, there are even more goodies and so I grab myself so H4H oven gloves for good measure and also to make up for the unannounced gassing of the head of Trading’s office.

It wasn’t so much of a sacrifice. Who knew? I did not know that there was so much good stuff at the H4H shop. I am surprised because I have supported the charity since the outset and I am a military wife so you think that I would be paying more attention. Father’s Day is on the 19th June – even if you think that it’s a trite, exploitation created by retailers to boost sales then at least spend your pennies with H4H and help support our sick, injured and wounded serving peeps.


No Broadband!

I am in hell. I have no internet connection at home now for the third month. I am comms down!! Please bear with me. I will be back soon I promise.

I need it fixed as I have reviews galore to do, and also, I am about to start the next Toys R Us Toyologist programme with lots of great giveaways. Plus Hagar’s deployment is imminent and the summer is coming. The piggies are growing nicely and I am a planning a music festival in my garden. There is tonnes going on. Not to mention I miss you all.

Please universe, please fix my internet connection. (I won’t bore you with the details but it has been a catalogue of errors from start to finish. The service provider is Sky but I am sticking with them.) Or as The Menace says ‘Pweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese’.

Thank you for your patience. Please don’t leave me. Love y’all AMMM xxxx

Help For Heroes Needs YOU! 1st & 2nd July – Please help!


Help for Heroes are calling for volunteers to help with one of their biggest fundraising pushes yet!

During the weekend of 1st & 2nd July 2011 there is a huge opportunity for you to do your bit during nationwide collecting days at your local Tesco store, whether that be for a few hours or all day.

The volunteering days form part of the Help for Heroes One Hour for Heroes (1H4H) appeal which launched earlier this month, which everyone, from politicians, companies, sportsmen, actors, celebrities to the millions of generous and decent people across the country are giving One Hour.

Bryn Parry OBE, CEO & co-founder, Help for Heroes said: “At H4H we rely heavily on our wonderful volunteers to help keep our overheads low and ensure more money goes to the wounded servicemen and women who need it. It is our hope that the 1H4H call to action will be heard across the country become a demonstration of National support for our boys and girls as well as enabling H4H to continue to provide direct, practical support to those who have been injured.”

“We’re often asked what people can do to help and hope these two days will give our supporters a great opportunity to raise much needed money for our wounded heroes.”

If you’re interested in collecting at your local Tesco store, or to find your local store, visit the Help for Heroes website at www.helpforheroes.org.uk/tesco

For other volunteering opportunities over the coming months visit the Help for Heroes website at www.helpforheroes.org.uk