Early Exits – before children

He closed the door behind him as he left. I heard the latch click and his feet stomp away. The gate opened, and he neglected to shut it properly, and I knew it would tap gently in the wind, like Chinese water torture, forcing me to rouse out of my bed and skip barefooted down the path to close it. The coldness of the concrete would burn my feet and turn them into blocks of ice.

I lay snug in the duvet, tasting the shadows of his kisses on my lips, delaying the moment of execution. I heard the car door slam. I could visualise him settling into his seat, pulling the seat belt across his broad shoulders, placing his key in the ignition, his strong fingers turning it to start the engine. The engine fired and I heard the gentle throb of the motor as his car pulled away taking Mr Rabbit to war, or to whatever. Taking him away again – for four weeks, it’s not that long.

It was different this time no contact, no phone calls, no emails, he was going undercover, underground, into isolation or something else, something military, a language I didn’t talk. A language I didn’t want to talk. It wasn’t my name on the commission.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, the gate constantly reminded me of his absence, echoing around the garden, round the bedroom. The house felt like a cold, dank empty cave and I felt warm and safe under the covers. Protected from the grim reality of being alone. Married, single and celibate.

I couldn’t hide forever and eventually the tapping of the gate drove me to distraction. I got up and felt the chill of the day envelope me, covered in goosepimples, I grabbed my dressing gown and wrapped it around my shoulders. With a lightening pace I whipped through the house, and down the path, to secure the gate. Once it was shut I turned on my heel and sprinted back inside, up the stairs, throwing myself back into bed, where I could still feel the warmth of the imprint of my body on the sheets. Pulling the duvet up to my nose, I lay there waiting to melt back into the luxury of sleep. But it was no good, my cold feet took over, and no matter how much I tried to ignore it I knew that the moment of comfort had gone, and that I was now wide awake and up. I looked at the clock 8.00am. I was going to have to get up and face the day.

The fairytales I had heard as a child never covered what happened in “Happy Ever After” once you had landed the prince. I had married my prince charming. A stunningly handsome, RAF helicopter pilot, who had rescued me when I had a broken leg and nothing to smile about. He had picked me up in his arms and we had rode off into the sunset on his dashing steed. We set up home in a average, military three up, two down semi, in a wood lined cul-de-sac on the edge of Surrey where I baked home made bread and got really fat. This was before children, aging and time. The is a tale of our early departures, some scene setting. I am more used to it now but I still feel like a half of a whole when he’s away. We are starting to write him off in our planning, counting him as not here. The work up to war is beginning and Hagar is preparing. I am preparing too, getting organised, working what I need to cope, to keep me sane, and to be kind to myself so I can raise the kids well, with managed stress.

A solider died yesterday, not a friend, not someone we knew but someone a couple of handshakes away. The tempo of operations in Afghanistan is increasing and he needs to be ready, to be the best he can be. He wants to go. I want him to go. It’s not what you think. It’s his job and, I believe, he is the best of the best. Our country needs him and he’s ready and willing to step up to the plate – right now it’s where he belongs. Don’t feel sorry for us. We don’t need pity, we need support. I am writing this blog to help you understand our journey. Support the families and support the troops by believing in us and not looking the other way. They want to win. It’s all about victory for the serving and I want them to win. The British military may not be the best funded, we might not have the best kit, but we have the best serviceman because as a nation we have a stubborn tenacity, guile, resilience and fight. We adapt, we are flexible and we push boundaries. Please support us, don’t pity us. Don’t let those lives be sacrificed in vain.


  1. This is a stunning piece of writing. You are SO talented you know.
    It is good to read more about the whole picture & begin to understand how it is ‘just a job’. It is also good to be reminded that as a nation we are good at something, 7 what a thing it is!

  2. Thank you so much. I wrote some of it a few years ago. It is a job, at the end of the day – it’s just one that is life, death and fighting. I just want people to get behind us a bit more and to stop calling for withdrawal just because they can’t handle the concept.

    1. The support is entirely appreciated. But the fact is that they are there and so we need to give them the best chance to achieve the end game – and part of that is believe in them and getting behind the campaign. It is too late now – we can’ turn back the clock, we have to move forward and the troops want success so we must want that for them to give them a fighting chance. This is not the world cup – there is much at stake.

      1. Please don’t think that I want anything other than a win, because I don’t. I want us to come away victorious. And to support our troops is the very least I can do.

        As you say, they should have the very best that we can give them…from equipment to medical aid when they are badly wounded.

        I could never see the logic in closing military hospitals. They were centres of excellence and to have closed them was short sighted to say the least.

  3. Thank you for writing that moving piece, I think more people should read, it , Like me, they probably had never even thought what life is rally like for servicemen and women, and those left behind. It certainly opened my eyes.

  4. I have no pity….only pride and gratitude. One son has come home from Iraq. His best friend did not. Another son leaves in a few days for six months. I understand.

    You are in our prayers.

    1. Thanks Marla and for all your prolific comments below and for subscribing!!Thinking of you for your boy out there in the dust bowl – six months is a while away yet, have some fun in the meantime. Glad your other is home safe. xx

  5. Beautiful piece Clare, honest and open, thank you for sharing.
    Thoughts as always for our boys and girls out there, but this is a well positioned reminder of all those holding the fort here so that they can go and be the best they can for all of us.

  6. Hagar is a very lucky man (nearly as lucky as me), and GB should count its blessings that there are ladies like you supporting the lads out “there”. The politicians take you for granted, the public barely recognise your existence and the media – when they do mention you at all – do so for their own agenda. Stand fast dear lady, you have more support than you know.

    1. Thanks Caratacus – maybe I am not sure we think of it like that but more importantly its nice to have an outlet to use my voice and perhaps show how it is behind the scenes perhaps to give greater understanding.

    1. Thanks lovely – muchos gracios – it’s a bit lonely in the blogosphere with everyone schlepping their little heels off at Cybermummsie. I can’t wait to hear about all the scratching and hair pulling! Hope you are ok in the Land of Laps! xx

  7. *wipes tear* that’s beautiful. I can’t help but fell for you a little though after that incredibly description of how you feel when he leaves, bit I am certainly supporting our troops!

    1. Sweet, so would I:
      Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
      Good night, good night! parting is such
      sweet sorrow,
      That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

      Love and separation are always tough. It’s good to write it down though. It helps. It keeps it romantic.

  8. I don’t know any military mums/dads/wives/husbands, but I’ve always admired you. Sometimes I find it stressful wondering where my husband is when he hasn’t rung home to tell me he’ll be late, so I can’t imagine how you cope with your loved one being away for 6 months!!

    Found your blog thanks to Heather’s pimping – I know I’ll be back! 🙂

    1. Welcome Helga. Heather is ace – I love her blatant pluggary! She is the best pimp a gal could want. Mine has never been away for 6 months – the max is around 3 months. Come and find out because it’s different everytime so who knows what the universe has in store over the next 2.5 years. It is stressful because I have no control over so much of it. I tend to drink through it! I guess I just dig deep and hang tough – what else is there to do. Rocking under the table doesn’t get the kids to school. Although, I have been known to be found having the odd rock when the sh*t hits the fan! Thanks for stopping by.

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