Monday, 18 April 2016

An Ode to Military Mums

I've spent a lot of time watching military training programmes recently; Royal Navy School, Royal Marines Commando School, etc etc. I find them fascinating. Obviously, I hear a lot about the intense regimes these guys go through from my husband and friends in the services - but seeing it first hand makes you realise how tough you have to be to make the cut. I'd last all of five minutes!

But something else I picked up on was the difficulty Mum's face when waving their kids off to the military. My own mother-in-law has often told me how hard she found it when her son went to RAF Cranwell and left his family home. Watching these shows, I can understand why. It's so tough - having to give all the support you can whilst also masking your own fears and concerns.

Anyway, I found this really poignant poem called 'The Silent Ranks', which I think explains the difficulties a military mother faces in a much better way than I ever could. It was originally written for military wives, so I've altered it slightly and wanted to share it with you:

The Silent Ranks

I don't wear a uniform, no blues or greys or greens
But I stand in the services, in the ranks rarely seen 

I have no badge upon my shoulders - salutes I do not give
But it's still the military world, in which I always live 

I'm not in chain of command, orders I never get
My child is the one who does, this I can't forget 

I don't fire any weapons, or put my life on the line
But my job is just as tough. I'm the one that's left behind 

My child is a patriot, with a brave and prideful soul
And the call to serve our nation is one they serve for all 

Behind the lines I see what's needed, to keep this country free
And my child makes the sacrifice, for us, and you and me 

I love and admire my child, for all that they have done 
And stand proudly among the silent ranks, known as a Military Mum

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Pros and Cons of Living on Base

There are so many pros and cons to living on base. Even after 4 years of living in military houses in various locations, I still can't decide if the positives outweigh the negatives.

People automatically assume that having the option to live in military accommodation is a no brainer, but I don't think that's always true. For the last few weeks we've been trying to buy our own property (seems to be taking AGES!!). It's so exciting, but the process has really made us both think about the best and worst bits of base life...


Cheap accommodation - there's no denying that living in a military house is loads cheaper than renting a property independently. That said, rates are changing and some people will notice a big increase in their rental fees in the coming years. Make the most of it whilst you can!

No water bills or council tax - bonus! Water bills and council tax cost a small fortune, so avoiding these is a clear advantage.

Save money - in turn, it is much easier to save money when you can, putting you in good stead for the future. Or, in my case, leaving spare cash for holidays and gin.

A supportive community - this varies from base to base, but we've always been very lucky and lived on bases where there is a strong sense of community and support. Sounds trivial, but if you need help, knowing where to find it is massively reassuring.

Good social events - perfect if you're new to an area! Not so great if you're antisocial. On most of the bases we've lived on there has always been a good social life, which is great if you want to meet new people. Word of warning though; if you don't have children, you may feel a little excluded.

Worry free maintenance - IF it gets fixed, it won't cost you a penny! Great news if you boiler breaks... although expect to suffer weeks of cold showers and no heating whilst you wait for Carillion Amy to replace it!!

Mowed lawns - I'm lazy. I love that my front lawn is cut for me :)

Security - on days when my husband is away and it's cold and dark outside, I always feel a sense of security when I see the guard cars driving around.


No escape - coming home should mean switching off from work, but you can't do that when you live next door to half the people you/your spouse works with.

Not your own home - even if you're one of the lucky ones that manages to get a lovely house, it's never going to be your own home. I like the house we are in at the moment, but it's frustrating not being able to make changes that you would make if it were yours. I spend far too much time staring at wood chip.

Old buildings - the majority of military houses were built in the 50s (some earlier), so you can almost guarantee that you'll have to endure shoddy kitchens, brown tiles, poor heating, musty carpets and some crazy psychedelic curtains that should have been ditched 40 years ago.

No choice - I'd rather pay more and pick where I live. Yes, costs are cheap, but some of the houses on offer aren't fit to live in and located miles away from anything.

Little privacy - low fencing is the bane of my life. Don't get me wrong, our neighbours are lovely, but I don't need them to see me when I've fallen asleep in the sun with half a boob out and drool slathering down my face. 

Carillion Amey - bastards. #nomorewordsneeded

Nosey neighbours - I'm sure these exist in every street, but you normally manage to avoid them. On a military street, there's no escape! Woe betide you if you leave the house 20 minutes late; by the time you get home, the whole street WILL know.

I suppose in the end, it comes down to what suits us as individuals! And I bet there are loads of other pros and cons that I've missed... feel free to add them below xx

Saturday, 11 July 2015

When PTSD Rears its Ugly Head

I’ll never forget the day that my husband finally realised he had PTSD; it hit him like a high speed train and came out of nowhere.

It was April 2012 and we were sat in the garden of our house in Anglesey. He was chatting about a friend of his that had recently been diagnosed with this horrid illness and explaining some of the symptoms and feelings he’d been having. Something clicked and I casually asked him if he thought maybe he was also suffering with PTSD (as you do!)? And then came an unbearable silence... followed by realisation.... lots of tears... and 3 long years of recovery. On more than one occasion I’ve wished that I had kept my 'casual' mouth shut that day.

The reality, of course, was that I’d known something was wrong for a long time. Ever since his last detachment in Afghan he had changed and in the immediate months that followed, he had become very withdrawn. At that point, he was due to move away from Chinooks and pursue a new opportunity on a Search and Rescue squadron. In my naivety, I hoped that a fresh start somewhere new, away from the monotonous cycle of tours to Afghanistan, would give him the pick-up he needed. We’d only recently married and were looking forward to starting a new adventure. Sadly, things didn’t work out in the way we expected.

The move to Anglesey, miles away from friends and family, seemed to make things worse, rather than better. My husband was back in training, which he enjoyed, but had lots of time on his hands – which, in hindsight, I can see was spent remembering awful moments from the past. The longer we were there, the worse he became and there were lots of times that I wondered whether it was me, or whether he regretted getting married. He became more and more withdrawn, very low, irritable and refused to socialise, which was difficult because I was desperate to meet people and make new friends.

It’s a difficult illness to understand. Some days were better than others. Some days were horrific. And I just couldn’t understand why; we had just married, had a beautiful new house, lived in a stunning part of the country and had our whole future ahead of us... what was there to be miserable about!? You can’t help but question yourself. It wasn’t until he started talking about his friend’s situation that everything started to make sense... but even then it took a while. He’d mention something in passing every now and then, which would ring an alarm bell, but then you'd push it to the back of your mind and carry on. Eventually, I pieced together a massive jigsaw and I suppose that day in the garden, the final piece just slotted into place.

Once you’ve acknowledged something like PTSD, it’s really hard to hide away from. And even more hard to know where to go with it. I remember wondering about what would happen next and what I should be doing to help? Should I be calling family and letting them know? Getting in touch with a doctor? Calling a helpline? It was very confusing. And watching the man I love crumble into a person I didn’t recognise made it harder.

But I'm sharing this story because I want others who are going through the same thing to know that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. It's a long, trying journey, but you can make it. Jumping forward to 2015, we are happy, settled and excited about the future. I'm not ashamed to admit that our first 3 years of married life were challenging, but that was because of the illness, not because of us. And getting through something like this only makes you stronger Рsuch a clich̩, but so true!

You have to be patient and be kind to yourself. As the spouse of someone that is suffering with PTSD, you often feel neglected and lost – it can feel like you've turned into an afterthought. And then you feel selfish for even thinking that because you can see what the other person is going through and it's distressing to watch. Being the person that has to carry on is tough and it's OK not to feel too chuffed about the situation you're in; but sometimes, you literally have to man up, pull your shit together and save your tears for another day.

The thing I found hardest was waiting… waiting for things to 'get back to normal'. You kind of forget what 'normal' is, to be honest! After a while, normal is just feeling sad and wishing you weren't. But suddenly, things just start to change and you don't feel so sad anymore. It happens so slowly that you don't even notice it! Then, all of a sudden it hits you. For me it was when we were both sat in the garden drinking wine (standard) – we were joking about something (probably pissed) and laughing and I felt an overwhelming sense of happiness and relief - “Thank fuck! We've made it!”

The strangest thing was that as my husband started to get better, he actually wanted to go back to flying Chinooks. It took him a year to take the plunge and ask to move back to Odiham, but so far it was the best decision we've made. He's back doing a job he loves and has no regrets.

If you're helping someone with PTSD, keep strong. Things do get easier. And when you're out the other side, you'll be glad you stayed xx

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Positive Postings - Helping Nepal

We all know that horrid, all-too-familiar-feeling, when we get told our loved ones are about to get posted away on detachment. Eurgh. Awful.

However, I've got to say that hearing how our troops are heading out to Nepal to offer help and aid following last week's catastrophic earthquake, made me feel proud. It was genuinely warming to know that our military forces are being put to good use and being sent somewhere where they can actually make a difference.

For too long, we've associated postings with Afghanistan - knowing that they are risking their lives for a worthless cause. Admittedly, the cause is up for debate, but I have personally seen little worth in our presence in Afghanistan and certainly no justification for the loss of life we have encountered.

Obviously, we have to accept that having loved ones in the military will mean having them sent away and being put in danger; often without really understanding why they are having to put their lives at risk. There are a string of previous conflicts behind us that suggest it WILL happen again in the not too distant future.

But, for now, it's great that our forces can offer aid to some of the poor people in Nepal that are in desperate need of help. For the first time in a long time, I felt proud and patriotic whilst watching the Chinooks depart for duty. Quite refreshing after so many years of despair and fear. 

And it's not just troops on the ground that are offering support - lots of the local bases have also been collecting blankets and warm clothes to send to those that lost their homes in Nepal and are having to sleep rough.

I know we will never avoid being in conflict, but it's nice to be a part of something that is saving lives instead of wasting them.

I'm sure there are lots of other military divisions that are assisting with the earthquake support that I'm unaware of, so please feel free to share details below so we can build a bigger picture of what's happening.

And it goes without saying that my thoughts are also with our troops who have been sent away from their families at short notice and of course, to all the spouses and families that are missing their loved ones whilst they are serving in Nepal.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Marrying Someone in the Military - is it a Lifestyle Choice?

How many of us have heard this one before?: "Well, you knew what you were getting into when you married him!".


I've been really quite humbled to have recently receieved lots of lovely emails from other women that are with military men, asking for advice on how to handle things, or just to tell me that a piece I have written has helped them. Part of me is so pleased to have helped and the other part always worries that maybe what I've written is a pile of rubbish! But one thing's for sure, it's clear to me that few military spouses enter into relationships with their partners without a) expecting to ever be in this position and b) knowing exactly what to expect in the future.

But, who does!? The reality is that whether you're in a relationship with a soldier, a builder, a lawyer or a sales man, NO ONE has any idea what is round the corner. So why do military spouses receive so many callous responses when they face difficulties? In any other walk of life, if you're husband/wife was to suddenly get sent away on work for 6 months, made redundant or be told they have to move their family to the other side of the country, spouses are given sympathy. Yet, as soon as 'military' enters the equation, people assume you're 'used to it'. You never get 'used to it'.

Sadly, I'm speaking from experiences I have faced myself and I'm constantly surprised at how insensitive people can be. Marrying someone in the military was never a lifestyle choice for me and I'm sure that it wasn't for most military spouses (although I appreciate there are a rare few!). I am just an ordinary girl that grew up in an ordinary town and happened to fall in love with someone in the RAF. Ironically, I actually remember conciously thinking that I should really stop dating this guy (now my husband) before I got in too deep, as I knew he was due to go to Afghanistan and I didn't think I'd be able to cope! However, anyone that has fallen in love and met the person that they know they can't be without, knows that you really have no choice in the matter. You fall in love and you deal with whatever comes your way, as a couple. Just like everyone else does. 

Anyone that doesn't get that probably isn't with the right person.

Military relationships are tough and stressful, but I wouldn't change mine for the world. Not because I would 'choose' this lifestyle, but because I consider myself lucky to be with someone that completes me. I would have married him whatever he did, he just happens to be in the RAF. But that doesn't mean the hard times are easy and it certainly doesn't mean that I need some half-wit to tell me that 'I knew what I was getting myself in to'. Jeez.

Has anyone else experienced this? Do you think marrying someone in the military is a lifestyle choice? Let me know.

Thanks so much to everyone that has been in touch recently. It honestly makes my day. I started my blog thinking no one would be interested, so I love it when someone takes the time to contact me; it makes it all worthwhile xx

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Military Life – Living in Limbo

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you’ll already know that we are currently having lots of fun and games with our next posting/house move. The last couple of weeks have been particularly ‘interesting’ and once again, we’ve found ourselves ‘living in limbo’ – a term that is very familiar to lots of military spouses and families.

It started on a high a couple of weeks ago, when my husband rung to let me know that our official posting notice back to RAF Odiham had arrived. We’ve been urging it to come through for a while, so celebrated with way too much wine! We've moved around a lot recently (4 moves in as many years) and the last 3 years in particular have been turbulent to say the least (I’ll save the details for another post!). So, we're both ridiculously excited to be starting a new chapter and hopefully settling somewhere for more than a few months.

However, as with every military roller-coaster ride, the low hit us shortly afterwards when we were told that there were no houses available on base. In the past, we probably wouldn’t have minded, but having recently lived off-base in sub housing, we were keen to be back in the thick of it. Sub-housing can be great, but can also lead you to feel pretty isolated at times.

We were sent a list of other military housing that we were entitled to in our area and spent last Saturday looking around and seeing what our options were. It was actually quite fun looking around and we decided that even if we couldn’t get on base right now, we could always try again later. We found a couple of available houses in another military base down the road that we liked, so submitted them as our preference and waited for the offer to arrive.  Sadly, that idea quickly fell through when we were told that the preferences we submitted had been removed from the list over night due to an influx of families due to arrive to the area later this year. Arghhhhhh! Nothing is ever simple is it!?

So the situation rumbles on and we're once again left waiting for the unknown. I am starting to save boxes just in case we end up on the streets :)

I’m sure lots of people can relate to how tough it can be living in limbo. I feel like I’m floating around aimlessly at the moment. It just makes everything so difficult when you can’t begin to make plans or grow new roots; it must be even harder if you have  children. One part of me is excited because I can't wait to move, but the other part of me is trying to 'hold back' until we know for sure that it will definitely happen. 

On the plus side, we are now on a waiting list for a house in Odiham and looking forward to hopefully hearing something soon! I think we are 6th or 7th on a very slow-moving list, so we’re not expecting anything to happen fast, but you never know! Luckily, my parents are close by, so I’ve already warned them that they may be getting some lodgers! :)

Ahh, the joys of military life. What fun! x

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What’s So Great About The Military, Anyway?

You’ll have to forgive me if this is a little bit twee, but one of my ‘things’ for 2015 is to try and balance every negative with a positive... even if it means digging really, REALLY deep! So, as this is my first post of 2015, I thought I’d start as I mean to go on and share my top 10 things about the military that mean something to me:
  1. Put things in perspective – When you hear about the hostile environments our troops have worked in, you can’t help but give yourself a little shake and put your own working life in perspective. I work in an environment that can be stressful and busy, but when I come home after a hard day, I’m generally greeted by a large glass of wine and a long, hot bath. Lucky me J I’m never put in a life/death situation, never face any danger and never put under the significant stress that forces personnel face. There is really no comparison.

  2. A roof over your head – as you’ll already know if you read my Facebook updates, this is actually a bit of a bugbear for me at the moment as we’re in the middle of trying to sort housing for our next posting. However, despite this, and knowing quarters can be a little trying at times, the fact that we receive accommodation on every posting certainly takes some of the stresses of moving away. And also frees up money for other things.

  3. Travel the world – if you’re a bit of a travel geek, like me, then this is a massive perk. I’ve loved seeing different parts of the UK over the years and have lots of friends that have enjoyed postings much further afield.

  4. Be part of something – again, a bit twee, but sometimes it’s just nice to feel like you’re a part of something. The military is a massive community and I love being a part of that.

  5. Appreciate the small things – when you know you only have a few days/weeks/months until you’re loved ones are back on detachment, every little thing counts. I used to grimace when people said “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”, but now I totally get it. And try hard not to ever take anything for granted.

  6. There’s always support – whether you want it or not, if you need support, it’s there. Whether it’s just talking to another spouse, chatting to new people at the mess, or actually seeking help from HIVE, it’s good to know there’s always someone that can help.

  7. Security – I’ve never felt more secure than when I’ve lived behind the wire. And when they actually bother to take the time to check my ID, I feel even safer.

  8. Parties! – does this need explaining?! There’s always a party!! YAY!

  9. Experience new things – for example; sitting in the cockpit of a massive Chinook; flying in a Sea King; and jumping into a fully-armoured tank, to name a few. 
    What have you experienced? Feel free to share!

  10. Teaches you flexibility… TO THE EXTREME – if there’s one thing the military has taught me, it’s how to be flexible and embrace change. At first, I found it horrific. But now, I’m so used to dates moving, goals changing and things being cancelled/arranged at the last minute that I’ve learnt to adapt and go with the flow. It’s a trait that’s really helped me in other walks of life, too.

The points I have highlighted are all really personal to me and from a military wife’s perspective. I’m sure there are lots of other things I haven’t mentioned, so if I’ve missed anything, let me know or share below xx