The dependants…

They call us dependants.  This official term for the spouses and children of a serving member is defined in the dictionary as someone who is reliant on someone else: this surely warrants exploring.  I guess to look at, I am small; perhaps even a little fragile-looking to some and then there’s Tina, not quite as short as me, but nonetheless we are officially dependants.

Back to Tina.  Here’s a woman who I hit it off with straight away.  What you see is what you get and then some more! Actually Tina is about the least-dependent, dependant I have ever had the privilege of meeting.  For a special birthday, she asked to be winched into the mediterranean; I am still not sure why…She recently drove a banger through parts of Europe for charity and because it would be a laugh.  And thinking about it, she probably sees more of her dog’s vet and certainly her children’s teachers, than she does her commuting husband.

I can’t boast quite the same adventurous-tales as Tina, but I was quite proud of moving countries by myself, heavily-pregnant and with a young child.  Of welcoming a lorry of possessions from Cyprus, a further lorry of long-forgotten possessions from three-years in storage and then unpacking the 60+ boxes I was surrounded by.  With a year-long weekend-only husband, I have had my share of coping with everything alone and also managed to keep a semblance of work going along the way.

“It’s like gaining an extra child,” another friend exclaimed when referring to her husband’s rare visits home.  Ever-stoical, she even appeared to take it all in her stride when a phone call from her husband was suddenly aborted with the sound of mortar.  He didn’t call back for several days….several days! When moving back to the UK, we were on the same flight, accompanied by her three boys (and no husband), and she then had a seven-hour-plus drive ahead of her to reach home.  Upon commenting on how amazing she was, she calmly told me that her husband had thanked her with a diamond necklace.  I expressed how lovely that was and still chuckle to this day when I recall her closing statement: “Oh, he doesn’t know yet!”

Living overseas, surrounded by dependants, all of whom had relocated countries, left their friends and families thousands of miles away and were totally ready for the next adventure – often with their husbands away for several months at a time – taught me one thing: we may be called dependants, but dependent, we are not!

We would love to hear your stories.

A trip down memory lane

As the rain seeped through my impractical ballerinas and soaked the bottom of my jeans on the school run this morning, I found myself wistfully thinking back to our dry, hot, humid and dusty three years in Cyprus.

My dry and dusty Cypriot garden!

My dry and dusty Cypriot garden!

After a trip down memory lane, I came up with today’s top ten things I miss:

  1. The amazing views of mountains and sea whilst cycling to the beach; particularly when the Red Arrows were on their annual practise overhead DSC_0202
    Tina and I must have been spotted cycling below...

    Tina and I must have been spotted cycling below 😉

    and Tina was alongside me!

  2. Wearing flip flops most of the year.
  3. Lizards scurrying under bushes and the sounds of the cicadas in the trees.
  4. The Cypriots love of children: not just tolerating children in restaurants, but actively welcoming them in, taking them off you to go and tour the kitchen and coming back laden with ice-cream or chocolate pudding freebies; sometimes for the whole family!
  5. Huge blocks of feta and halloumi cheese.
  6. Not having to open the curtains to work out what to wear each morning!
  7. Eating outside – all year round.
  8. The light in the house.
  9. The people and the community spirit on an overseas base.
  10. The huge and seasonal fruit and vegetables: aubergines, artichokes, watermelons and best of all; strawberries in January!

From civvy, to milly, to civvy

Seven years ago, Juliet and I met online desperately seeking answers!  Having just found out that we were moving to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, we were full of questions: what furniture should we take, what would the houses be like, did we need to ship winter coats, should we stock up on anything in case the local shops didn’t sell it…?

Aside from having a marvellous sense of humour, I soon discovered that Juliet is also the master of quotes.  My personal favourite was: ‘Stick a fork in me, I’m done”.  That pretty much summed up the hot and sweaty summers in Cyprus.  Tina came along a year later and I will also never forget my first proper meeting with her as I thought my daughter, who had been playing ball with Tina’s dog in the searing sunshine, had killed said dog from heat exhaustion….

We shared the same horrors of the welcome pack, which detailed such niceties as: what to do in the event of an earthquake and you might find snakes, scorpions, Cyprus widow spiders and processionary caterpillars in your garden, as well as cockroaches in your house!  And boy did we find cockroaches!  To this day, I still remember many stories about them; including one from Ali, who woke up to use the bathroom and found one of the offenders sat on her toothbrush!  Ali, if you are reading this, imagine, if you hadn’t needed a pee that night….or if this was not the first night said cockroach had befriended your toothbrush….!

We shared the same experiences of living on a military base overseas, which was not unlike a colonial lifestyle with plenty of socialising and heat, where pretty much everyone knows everyone and every need is catered for; a cinema, a bowling alley, a school, a doctors, a dentists, a gym, shops, hairdressers, florists etc.  We met teachers, midwifes, doctors and dentists on a professional basis in the morning and then found ourselves rubbing shoulders with them on the beach in the afternoon, or in the Mess in the evening;  dreading the day we needed a smear test or some other personal trial!  We saw and supported our amazing friends who were coping with the worries and physical pressures of being left on their own for months at a time; looking after children by themselves, thousands of miles away from the support of their families, whilst their husbands were serving overseas.

And now, the three of us are back to the rain and normality! Based in Kent, Cornwall and Cambridge we chose to live outside the wire and want to reminisce with and hear from you.  Whether it is about Cyprus, being a military wife at home or overseas, adjusting to life in civvy street, coping for months on your own, or something quite unrelated, we want your comments.   Whether it’s about the Med, the MoD or just plain mad, we want to hear from you!

Louise