Seasonal Work

Hagar called me from his office the other day, because he was looking at the det plot (detachment plan to send folk into Afghanistan) and he was doing some logistical planning.

“Basically, I have got two options. I can either go for the whole summer, or Christmas and New Year” he said.

The summer is the fighting season. The insurgents (which fall loosely under the term Taliban are not all necessarily students of the cause. It’s just an easy grouping to create the commonality of the enemy) are actually guns for hire that work seasonally. In the summer they fight the ISAF forces, and in the winter they work in the poppy fields, harvesting the crop. I used to work seasonally. I worked on the beaches of Med in the summer, and the slopes of the Alps in the winter. I worked for tour operators and would have to field banal guest questions such as;

“If I have porridge for breakfast, will I still be hungry at lunch time?”
“Will I be warm enough if I wear this jumper on top of the mountain?”

But the most regularly asked question was in the summer season;

“If you do this is in the summer, what do you do in the winter?”

In the end we used to make up answers to mix it up a bit.

“Oh, I am an Arctic seal clubber.” I would reply.

Obviously, this is a very different type of seasonal work to your average Taliban insurgent. Now, today, this summer is the fighting season, so while we enjoy our summer holidays; somewhere, in what feels likes another galaxy, the ISAF forces are battling to create stabilisation in a wholly unstable environment. ISAF forces are out in theatre, warring against the insurgents, as they fight hard for another big push in Hell-manned. The philosophy is clear, hold, build. Clear the ground of enemy, hold the ground, build a school, or hospital, maybe mend a big f*ck off dam (Kajaki). To governments and military leaders attrition is expected. The news of more death will trickle through daily. They know in advance the loss of life is inevitable this summer. Maybe the people slurping their ice creams don’t realise this as they shake their head and mourn with sadness as another casualty falls. It’s the game of Risk (I am a demon Risk player by the way. I rarely lose. My blog so therefore I am happy to brag about my Risk skills and reveal my board game geek-ness. I love games!!!!) but instead the stakes are higher and it’s someone’s son, or daughter, father or husband, wife or mother not an inanimate plastic figurine.

Decisions, decisions. For me, war aside for a minute. Summer holidays means road trip for the whole summer and Christmas is such a family affair that I would rather he was with me, so I would choose the summer. But then, if you factor the war in then I would choose the winter because I would rather he was in the Afghanistan in the off season. Decisions, decisions.

In the end I said, “hun, I don’t mind. We’ll work around you.”


  1. God – I promised myself I would never say this on your blog but – I don’t know how you do it! At least now I know he’s still here. I’m listening for the names – something I’ve never done before. I’m still getting my head round the phrase – it’s his job!

    1. Ha ha – you made me chuckle. Yeah, me neither. I guess we just take one day at a time, and keep putting one foot in the other. It’s been worse than this before – he’s done 8 weeks on and 8 weeks off for a whole year in the past. This is a luxury really – in a strange way!

  2. I moaned elsewhere a little while ago about something that bugs me and MMM suggested I do the ‘leave a reply’ thing and explain why.

    What annoys me (irrational and probably very unreasonable, I know) is when people say to me “I really don’t know how you do it/cope/put up with it”. I’ve had all variations of the phrase over the years so you can pick whichever you like!

    I’m a forces wife and the husband-thing buggers off on tour every now and again. He’s away right now and has been since November. I rarely answer those sorts of statements, but if I did I’d say that the main thing that keeps me going is not thinking too hard about too much and concentrating on being mother and father to two children. If I sat here and really thought about ‘stuff’ then I’d be diving head first into a vat of Pinot Grigio not to be seen until the end of tour when darling husband will discover both kids are languishing in care and the dog is chewing off her leg.

    I don’t know how many forces wives read this blog but for those that don’t . . . we just do cope – as would everybody else who was in the same situation. Personally, I’m a little bit spoilt. When husband-thing is here he treats me like royalty, when he’s not, I pick up the Black and Decker and sort out those shelves. At least I know he’s coming back eventually (and truly believing that is the first principle of being a ‘wife of’).

    1. Thanks Bodger for coming over and sharing. To be honest us Millys all feel the same. I think this has to be our universal bug bear. There is no point in not coping – it helps no-one. We do have the occasional wobble though but we prop each other up. x

  3. Maybe the people slurping their ice creams don’t realise this as they tut and shake their head as another casualty falls.

    As an inhabitant of Civvy Street I have to tell you that I much admire your eloquent blog and the great insight into the military machine that I may not otherwise have, other than what I hear from ex-army (them, not me) pals and the media. However, I have to say that everytime a Union Jack draped coffin emerges from the back of the carrier plane, my heart sinks for the poor souls (most of whom are of similar ages with my own two boys) and their families. I think you may find that the majority of folk in this country feel the same way.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. What I mean when I say this – is not that civvies don’t care, and I mean the tut and the headshake in a sad, mournful way (in fact I’ll add that in) but that in the military they know the death is coming every summer, and they expect it. I am saying this so that civvies, like your lovely self, can know the death is going to come more often because it’s summer and it’s fighting season. I only recently learnt that they had fighting season myself. This is what I want to share. Thanks for reading and commenting by the way. I really appreciate it.

  4. AMMM, I laughed when I read that you were a seal clubber, not because clubbing seal is funny, it’s not. But telling people you club seals is very funny.

    In my former career before I became a stay at home dad I mixed with lots of ex-servicemen and women. One guy, ex RMP Sgt, kept asking our boss, “If I wash my socks tonight, will the be dry by the morning?”

    Cracked me up every time. I miss that humour.

    I would love to offer you a place on the Mona Lisa Million Project. I’ll send you an email after the bathtime routine.

    Dave 🙂

    1. Thanks Dave. Just for the record I have never even been to the Arctic, let alone clubbed a seal. I love the service sense of humour too – it’s fearless and edgy. I have never been in the military either just by the way. Am loving your altruism, it’s beyond enigmatic but very marvellous.

  5. Good writing. You canny bird ….. How’m I do’n? Naww. I recently used the word “awesome”, too. That really sounded dumb coming out of my mouth.

    Artic Seal Clubber …. ha…actually my godchild, Sara was a salmon swinger in Alaska in the summer. (My name for it). That is Marilyn’s child. Marilyn is my friend of 50 years that I write about.

    War is hell at any time but especially when you got little kids waiting for their Daddy.

    Hope it all works out well for you.

    1. ‘You canny bird’ is an English mix of a Scottish expression ‘ya canny wee lassie’ (clever little lady). Salmon swinging sounds a bit fishy to me – does that involve inter-marital sex amongst the pink skinned community? The son thinks daddy is a warrior, the daughter is too young to understand, the mummy yo-yo’s through a whole orchestra of emotions. I keep plugging your blog to folk by the way. I love it!! 🙂

      1. To the canny wee lassie …… I am now friends with your “canny hunky lad” on FB. I’ll send him grandmotherly advice when he’s away. (That’ll get him home in a hurry) ha

        I shouldn’t read your blog when I’m taking a sip of carrot juice. Went right up my nose on the inter-marital sex among the pink skinned community. Well, in truth, yes. Gives a deeper pink hue….. but mind you, only allowed on Saturdays between hours of 8 and 10. Salmon community has rules too, same as seal clubber’s, I’m sure.

        Thanks for plugging my blog. Often I feel too archaic or dinosaurish for most people. This is an example of my humor (speaking of dinosaurs). I saw this on someone’s blog……. Two dinosaurs were standing at the edge of the water as an ark was leaving. “Oh crap, was that today?”

        That and your “up the nose” salmon humor.

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