Home and Away

In Crapistan – news from the frontline:

Hagar writes;

“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.”

Home front:

AMMM writes;

“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!”

The Cost of a Wife

If I died Hagar couldn’t deploy. He would have to stop flying. We have two kids. He would be responsible for them. My mum died in 1974. I was 2 years old. My dad hadn’t insured her. He had insured himself to the hilt in case of his own death so that she wouldn’t go without but he had under-valued the impact of her role in the advent of her death. We have talked about this since. It wasn’t a malicious act. Maybe it was a reflection of the attitude at the time.

Her death was unexpected. It was sudden and tragic. He was left solely in charge of me. He had to sacrifice his blossoming career to raise me. He was working as a British Rail manager doing some type of operations role at the rail freight terminal in Anglesey, Holyhead. Not far from RAF Valley and not far from where Kate & Wills will be setting up home. (I hope she has more fun there then my mother did!) For a few years he was a single parent.

Not so long ago, I was having a cuppa with a milly wife, whose husband had deployed for six months and she said to me something along the lines of, ‘my other half doesn’t mind if I don’t work because it would cost £24,000 in childcare if I wasn’t around.’ I nearly choked on my brew! And the rest! It was then I started thinking about the cost of my replacement in the advent of my death, or severe disabling, (divorce doesn’t count) in order for Hagar to deploy for 6 months of the year, plus attend the exercises and also do the night flying, to deliver his life to the same standard that he experiences right now, he would require at least:

3 x full time qualified nannies (£30k p.a each)
1 x housekeeper (£275 per week – £13k p.a)
1 x part-time gardener (£2000k p.a)
1 x part-time personal assistant ( £100 per week – £4800 p.a)

Approx £109,000 p.a – which is considerably more than he earns.

(We don’t have the family back up that could step in and help either just in case you were thinking he could palm the kids off to his mother or mine. Mine is dead. His is too old to handle our two kids even now when we are both alive!)

In reality, he couldn’t even afford to hire me at my commercial rates as a freelance consultant. I make an expensive cup of tea. But the hard facts are that even though I am insured, if I was to die Hagar would have to give up flying and could no longer deploy. The taxpayer has invested in well over a £3 million pounds to keep Hagar operational and current so that he can deliver his role at the sharpest end of the pointiest bit of the conflict. Once you are father you have responsibilities to your children that are solely yours and the mothers’ of your children. It shouldn’t be under-estimated the value of the role the supporting parent gives to the service to enable the serving parents to deploy and fight for their country. I can only say what I see in my own home but Hagar loves his job. He wants to deploy and he wants to serve his country. It’s not for me to stop him and I support him without complaining. (I truly do!) But, honestly, I do think the partners are played lip service to, that we are an imbuggerance that has to be tolerated and the role they give is not wholly appreciated or the enormity of it is taken for granted.

Hagar doesn’t even see half the stuff that gets done in our house. In fact, he once made the mistake of arguing that he did 50% of the domestic chores.

‘Interesting!’ I thought.
‘I know’ I said, ‘I have an idea. You write down a list of all the jobs that need to be done and then put a percentage next to it indicating how the jobs are divvied up.’

Hagar was feeling pretty bullish at this point. He was fairly confident that he was going to prove his point and the status quo that he was aiming for would return. But alas, it was not to be so because the reality was when he formed the list and allocated his percentages to all the tasks that we have as a family unit, he omitted at least 50% of the jobs from the list because he didn’t even know that those jobs were being done in the first place!!

At the end of the day, would the tax payer be willing to bear the cost so the widowed father can deploy and they can get their return on investment? Err No! But it’s a crying shame that a woman has to die before her true value is appreciated!

I guess like Joni Mitchell sang in Big Yellow Taxi,
‘Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone.’

My Christmas wish is this, I wish that the world would stop taking women for granted.

NB: Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas so very few men are going to say ‘I agree. Yes, let me do more!’ And the battle continues on…….

Gumboots and Pearls

I was floored today by BBC Surrey’s Nick Wallis. (The interview is 2 hours 39 minutes 29 seconds into his show. This link will expire in 7 days) He rendered me unable to respond lucidly because I hadn’t anticipated his question.

He asked me if any of Hagar’s superiors read the blog and then later on jokingly said that I could be responsible for destroying his career. At the time I was so surprised by this question that I didn’t feel like I answered it very well at all.

So retrospectively here is my answer:

Yes, Hagar’s boss reads my blog. He said that if he was asked he would never publicly admit it. He said it takes him through a range of emotions from hilarious laughter to toe curling cringing.

I have been in touch with the MOD digital comms team, they have checked out the blog and have agreed to support it as long as I remain friendly. They are in the process of designing me a special badge and they will be putting a link on The Defence Social Media Hub. Hopefully this will go live fairly soon.

Part of the reason I started this blog is that I am fairly representative of the wife community. Most wives swear and drink – how else would we manage! Many wives have vocational careers an juggle them in the face of a dynamic existence. You need to be a robust, independent individual to schlepp around the place, living in box and making it a home, managing your work, life, career, kids, family, his family and a vast array of other things on the go all at the same time.

As for whether my vulgar and obnoxious blog will ruin his career, I should really hope not. Hagar is a decorated operational pilot, who proves himself on the battlefield, through leadership, management and his skills as an aviator. The distance between the squadron and the domestic community is much further than many might think. The modern military, I hope, is more professional and less draconian and those old school days of wifely repression are not in play. I am not going to lie and say that it has not been without it’s moments in the past. PERSEC and OPSEC (personal security and operational security) are important to consider and I try to be empathetic to this when I post. I have discussed it with the MOD as well but Household Diva 6 in the USA lays the notion on the line better then anyone.

Maybe I should read ‘Gumboots and Pearls’ and get back in my box. I have to say it’s fairly unlikely though I just seem to be allergic to doing as I am told. It must be the free spirit in me. I think it’s the free spirit in me that enjoys being married to the military. There is a lot to be said for having your husband leave you alone for a few weeks at a time, it means I can go roaming and catch up with the friends he doesn’t know. Sometimes it’s not all bad. They don’t just go to war, practising to go to war means away time too. Sometimes they are away practising. There is a lot of away.

I was hoping the Nick would ask me about how we cope when our husbands are away. I wanted to talk about the milly community, but somehow I ended up talking about Hagar and the book which I am banned from promoting (whoops-sorry!!!) We millies are a stoical, lively, fun loving, gregarious community and I want this blog to dispel that myth that we are twin set, pearl necklaces (ahem!), chocolate laborador owning, Laura Ashley frock wearing, Sloanes because we are not!! When is it allowed to be about us?!!