I wrote recently about my real life adventures and it’s not going to be used so I am going to use it. I hate waste after all and so why waste it.
My take on being a military wife:
I don’t pretend it’s easy. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I don’t always enjoy it. It’s a rollercoaster. It’s not all bad. I liked the cheap booze and the drinking culture. Summer balls were awesome, but I was always getting myself into trouble. Classic quote by me, when mounting the bucking bronco, pissed as a fart, wearing a ball dress, at an Officer’s Mess Summer ball, “if you make me cum I’ll give you a tenner” I said to the bronco operator. Two lunges of said bronco and I hit the deck. My behaviour at summer balls became a thing of lore as tales of my real life adventures spread like wildfire. I got my tits out on the dodgems once, and got told off by a senior officer; but the irony of this tale is that he turned out to be the biggest philanderer on the planet having multiple affairs. He got caught with his pants down by his mistress, and then his wife found out about his dirty doings because his mistress called her to tell her he was being unfaithful to both of them! Getting your tits out is nothing compared that level of deceit. Oh yes, and he was a devout Christian who sported a fish symbol sticker on his car. Thankfully, the Lord is man of great forgiveness, or so I have heard anyway.
On the other hand the male officers know that I am good for a laugh. At one ball I was having a little dance, then all of a sudden a naked officer streaked in, picked me up, carried me in a fireman’s lift to the stage, climbed on the stage, spun me around, put me down and ran off again. The next day he rang me up to apologise but I hadn’t remembered it happening until he reminded me. I didn’t mind. I thought it was funny.
I didn’t particularly respect the rule of ‘wife observes shenanigans at dining in nights (Officer Mess dinners where everyone gets shitfaced – big alcohol culture in the military), tuts lovingly and shakes head ‘those boys’. I tended to get stuck in and raise the stakes. Such as, crawling out of dining room to go for a wee during speeches (rule is no weeing until after the speeches) and then heckling the station commander shouting ‘boring’ because he went on a bit. I just said what everyone was thinking! The apocryphal myth of the night has been replayed that I called him ‘a boring cunt’ but I am not sure if that is strictly true!
I also enjoyed the adventurous nature of the service as we had many real life adventures. Before children, we were wakeboarding regularly, sailing and skiing. It was all joie de vivre. I also liked the intensity of the debates within our peer groups. We were always having heated arguments around the dinner table. But this was because I was the lone girlfriend; it was Hagar and his bachelor mates and I was one of the lads. Then when they got girlfriends everything changed. The girls took over the social life and they didn’t like me because I wasn’t very fluffy or particularly interested in shoes, handbags or where they bought a particular garment. I was much more interested in whether we should be going to war with Iraq or not.
On the whole I am not self sacrificing. I express my opinion. I am not in the military. I don’t want to be in the military. I take the piss out of the military just like they take the piss out of people who aren’t in the military. I think I am normal.
The audio book:
I recorded the audio book with producer, Anthony Clark who lives in my village. He’s a musician who played with Haircut 100, T’Pau and Rick Astley and last year he did a tour of Canada with The Bay City Rollers. He did it for mate’s rates. I tried to publish it with Audible (the audio platform for Amazon) but they need a minimum of 5 properties. Self-publishing in the UK isn’t as well set up as it is in USA. In USA you only need one property. Sally Page at Audible was very understanding of my plight and she put me in touch with Nic Jones at Strathmore Publishing and he agreed to publish it for me. It should be ready to go live in the next two weeks.
The 1st edition:
I published it via Amazon KDP and Createspace – I did it in 72 hours from deciding ‘fuck it I am just going to do it’ to it being live on the bookshelf. I did all the graphic design, layout and cover myself in a crazy marathon of preparation so needless to say it’s not as good as it could be. There are a few typos but I have managed to shift 628 copies so I am happy and it has tested the water. I know it resonates with some military wives because they have thanked me and messaged me privately to say it was like a breath of fresh air. Some of the reviews reflect this. It makes it all worthwhile. I am not alone and neither are those wives who feel like they are going crazy because they don’t fit the mold.
For the 2nd edition, which I am currently working on, my friend Fiona, who is a professional graphic designer and previously worked at Carlton books, is going to redo it. I have had it professionally proof read so it will be better. Createspace isn’t set up to distribute print on demand into retail in the UK in the same way it is in USA so I am looking at how to overcome that hurdle. The Amazon self-publishing platforms are tailored towards the USA market so this has been limiting for me because I know there is a demand. People saw my interview with BBC Breakfast and are curious about the book because I have met people who have heard of the book but didn’t know how to get hold of it. Books need to be in shops to be more accessible.
The French Version
The French translation has been done. Hagar is working on this massive tank exercise in France next year because we are sharing our military assets with France now. I think it’s relevant to do this – so why not. Amazon makes it possible and maybe the French will get behind it. My French translator was uncertain at first but even she is batting for team Macnaughton now. I have had to remove the chapter ‘Bumholes’ out of the French version because the expression ‘blowing goats’ doesn’t translate very well other than ‘goat fellatio’ so the subtlety of the gag is lost. (The blowing goats chapter has already had one Amazon reviewer wanting to report me to child services)
The court case:
When Hagar was arrested it ceased to be about his infidelity and it became more of a survival situation as a family. There was a lot of soul searching and many hours of discussion. If anything it re-created our friendship that had been eroded after the pounding of intense military operations. For me, I could see that my children need a positive constructive relationship with their father, and to be honest, I think their needs are greater than mine, so I am willing to swallow how I feel in order to give them as stable an upbringing as possible. The dialogue continues between Hagar and I, and it is ongoing, but we are eternally separated. We are not going back. How we move forward is taken one step at a time. I want my independence; but by this I don’t want to asset strip our marriage so for now Hagar is supporting my choices. Finally, the military can’t influence what I do because we are separated.
How the military has treated me:
We talk about the military as a whole entity but the reality is that it is a sum of the people who deliver the rules, which are always open to interpretation. Individuals in the military have treated me appallingly in the name of the military, but these actions have not always been officially sanctioned. It’s often sabre rattling, and so then it’s for me to establish- what are my rights? What is the perceived threat? How do I respond? Hagar has been summoned into his boss’ office and told to stop me. They have threatened me with his career – if you do this, he will be court martialed, if you do that, he will lose his job; but it’s bullying and threats, which those who issue them forget about this minor detail called the legal system and statutory rights. Fortunately, I am lucky enough to have access to some friendly lawyers who let me know the lay of the land.
The marital problems:
The stress of combat cannot be understated. The pressure to be perfect is something unique to the particular squadron Hagar was working for. The workload they undertake is top secret and unprecedented. But it’s a volunteer squadron and some level it’s a drug. They need the best pilots, they do the best, grittiest jobs and so it’s addictive – the conveyor belt works hard and fast. It’s inevitable that they are going to come out of it fucked up. And yes, most of them are fucked up. But then the greater the danger, the greater the highs and undoubtedly, the greater the comedown. Somehow, I ended up raising two kids alone, but also running my business and the house. It’s very mechanical and exhausting. You think ‘shit how did I end up here – married, single, celibate, fucked up and in a prison, of sorts.’ Fortunately, I am not there anymore.
Clare Macnaughton is a modern military mother; a feminist British military spouse and lifestyle journalist writing about real life adventures.