*Guest post* Homecoming from the other side.

After a lot of nagging and emailing and threatening to withhold parcels, Popeye has written a blog post!

It’s a subject that I have always been very curious (nosey) about. What is homecoming like for the sailor actually on the gert big honking warship? 

Here at Oyl HQ, that is exactly the kind of burning question we like to answer, so without any further ado, here’s Popeye, giving it a sailors POV:

*pause for drumroll*


I have been asked by my lovely wife olive to write a guest blog post for all of you lovely readers describing homecoming from the other side of the dockside! 

Now my literary prowess is somewhat lacking when it comes to this sort of thing, however I shall endeavour to paint you a “word picture”, here we go…

So, the night before homecoming, affectionately known as channel night, in a bygone era, was an evening (and most part of the morning) celebrating and getting so drunk you can barely stand up.

Nowadays it’s a far more conservative affair, possibly with a few drinks and then early to bed to make the next day come quicker, a bit like Christmas when you were 5 years old. 

Don’t get me wrong there are still some sailors that drink until they shit themselves, but they are few and far between. 

The trouble with this is (and I have witnessed it first hand) the next day you are so hungover you are unable to actually enjoy your homecoming. You are in such a state that you would rather go back to bed than see your family. Or you would rather speak to God on the porcelain telephone than hug your mum.


When I was asked to write this, I got to thinking, these peoples families have travelled for god knows how long to come and see their sailor, who they have missed and worried about and sent parcels and letters to. They stand there all excited, and what they are greeted with is an absolute hungover mess. 

This is a bit of an anticlimax I expect.

That’s why I fall into the 5 year old at Christmas category!

So the morning of the homecoming is here. Normally, you are woken from your lovely sleep by a whistle over the ships broadcast. 

However on homecoming day they wake you up with Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ or Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Homeward Bound’ then it’s a fairly straightforward routine. Get up, shower, brush teeth put on number 1’s.

Realise that number 1’s do not fit, panic, realise you are trying to put on someone else’s, find your own, put them on and marvel at how much weight you have lost.

 Have breakfast, unless you are morning watch chef, in which case you will be cooking breakfast.

After all this it sort of sinks in that you will be seeing your loved ones again after however many moths and you start to get a bit excited.

Everyone is buzzing, people you have never spoken to in 6 to 9 months suddenly become ‘alright’ and you can talk to them, you have common ground. All anyone wants to do is just get home! 

Then there is a sort of time in purgatory. You aren’t going to work that morning but they have yet to muster you for procedure Alpha (that’s where we all stand on the upper deck) so you bimble about drinking tea and trying not to spill it down yourself. 

You pointlessly check your e mails. You think about phoning your family, and then think better of it because it might dilute the joy of homecoming! 

Then they finally muster you for procedure Alpha. Now you would have thought getting a bunch of people to stand along the side of a ship is a pretty easy thing to organise. You would be wrong. You have to be placed in order of height and then marched down the side of the ship and told where to stand. I know it doesn’t sound like much but this can take anywhere up to an hour to sort out! So you stand in your spot looking out at Portsmouth/ Plymouth or wherever you happen to be coming in to and it is cold. It is so fucking cold! Number 1’s are not renowned for their thermal retention properties. All you are thinking is hurry the fuck up because I am fucking freezing! 

So you start to enter your port of choice, lots of people waving from the beach and stuff, obviously you can’t wave back because it’s not very military! Oh and as soon as you start to enter your port of choice it for some reason becomes really windy, so with wind chill it’s about -50 degrees Celsius.

 You start to shiver and your lips turn blue. Your feet hurt because not only are they cold but you have squeezed them into a pair of pussers’ shoes that you have only worn twice and they are extremely uncomfortable!

 Then you see a huge throng of people with banners all shouting and cheering.

Then you allow yourself to be very excited, now in the normal running of things you are not allowed to move or wave back until the first rope has gone from the ship to the dockside. 

So you frantically scan the crowd looking for your family, it’s sort of a silent competition, spot them before they spot you. We do have an advantage in this game by being all dressed the same. Olive described it as the hardest game of ‘Where’s Wally’ ever. 

You finally spot them and for me, the first thing I think is “Thank god she’s turned up and not run away with some bloke she met in her yoga class called Fabian who pronounces Barcelona with a ‘th'”she is waving at me. I can’t wave back. She stops waving and gives me the look of “why aren’t you waving back?” (#sadface) then another look of “oh god have I just been waving at a complete stranger?!?!” You try to telepathically communicate that “you are waving at the right person but I cant wave back, look no one else is waving back!” 

Then the first rope goes across and you are allowed to wave but by that time you’re arms and legs do not want to move. Your muscles are all stiff and cold but you make the effort and give them a wave. 

I have always found this fairly awkward. You are waving and stuff but you can’t get off the ship until the gangway is down. So what is the waving etiquette? When do you stop?

Obviously I can’t stand there waving like an idiot for half an hour. 

So you stop waving and try to mouth things to your loved ones but because they are to far away to hear you. They have no idea what you are saying. You try to find someone to talk to so as not to look stupid but at the same time keep one eye on the family in case they move! It’s all very complicated! Then the gangway goes down and wait for the captain’s family to come on and then you have to wait for the bloke who won the ships raffle to be first off the gangway. 

You are finally allowed down the gangway. You move through the crowd like a ninja, not brushing against anyone and twisting this way and that, then you see them and suddenly everything is alright again. 

You forget your hypothermia and broken feet and have the best hug ever, then a kiss, and then you become a bit nervous and wonder what to say. 

I always say the same thing ‘alright?’ with that word I reassure them that I am the same person I was when I left. Then the answer I get is ‘Yeah, you?’ and with that I know they are the same person they were when I left and everything is going to be alright. 

Now imagine trying to

do all that with a raging hangover…
“Muchos  Love”

Popeye 


         

*Guest post* -Familygram

Here we have a guest blog post all about the Silent Service, her Popeye is a submariner and jeez Louise- we think we have it bad! Hats off to Beckie! She writes her own successful blog too- www.thesussexgirl.co.uk

Over to you Beckie!

Familygram:
140 characters in a tweet, 120 words in a Familygram. 

Or 60 words if you split it and send two a week instead of one.

 The only way you can communicate with your submariner. 60 words, twice a week. Read by about 5 different people before it reaches him (or her, nowadays!), stripped of its punctuation, put into capital letters and printed on a one long thin strip of paper.


 Usually it has words missing, or misspelt – literally lost in translation as it gets encoded, decoded and transmitted a gazillion times.

 No bad news can be sent, no updates that might be a drain on moral and definitely no comments about dates that they may (or may not!) return. Even mentioning a dead pet can get you a phone call to demand you explain who ‘Freddie’ is and how he is related to your submariner (Goldfish, for the record).

 60 words, one-way. No replies, no interaction…no arguments!

 No emails, no phone calls and no social media. No bedtime FaceTime, no Whatsapp, not even a satellite phone call.

 Writing one can take far longer than you’d expect as you agonise over each word, wondering whether you can delete a few conjunctions in order to cram a bit more information in. Squeezing in a joke and finishing on ‘Miss you, Love you’ every single time. Because that’s the only way you can tell him.

 It’s certainly a different experience to the usual expectations of modern life. Conversations with friends usually go something frustratingly like…

‘How is he doing?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Where is he?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘I know you said you can’t talk, but he MUST have emailed you’

‘No, no! Really, NO communication.’

‘Oh, that’s…SO old-fashioned…Gosh, that must be peaceful, I’d love to not have to hear from *insert name of other half here* for a few days.’

‘….’

 Everyone has their reality and in the Forces world, we all face separation together. For some, reality is getting a couple of phone calls a week and maybe even, sometimes, regular emails. Some might get to see their sailor during R and R, for others separation is more regularly planned duties. For each of us, we have our own reality to face. Our own communication trials and limitations. Despite occasionally, mid-patrol, gritting my teeth when a civvie friend whinges about her partner’s single night away from home, it’s important to remember that we each have our own routine, our own reality and differentiation from that can be hard to deal with.

 Even those friends who are Navy themselves, or in a relationship with someone who is, forget that the Silent Service really is, well, that. Silent. They forget that our very limited, one-way communication is all there is. They forget that you can’t just call to find out where the house insurance paperwork is. They forget that bad news has to be dealt with entirely in the absence of the submariner. They forget that babies get born…and, sadly, people get buried, without the submariner. Once they’re away, once they’re underwater. That’s it. They’ll be back, when they’re back, and not before.

 But you know? It’s not all that bad. At least I know my phone isn’t going to ring. I don’t need to be glued to my mobile ‘just in case’, I don’t endure broken conversation on a dodgy satellite phone link and I don’t suddenly get a bleak gap in communication when they go ‘silent ship’. You just get on with it, knowing that in a few months that magic letter will arrive that says they’ll be back soon.

 But it does end.

 Then the pre-end of patrol preps begin (you know what I mean ladies, speedy hair removal required!) and you know that soon, he’ll be back. You’ll get to hear his voice again and once more you’ll be able to say goodnight in person instead of just whispering it to a photo.

 60 words isn’t much. But this is our reality and knowing that receiving it becomes the most important part of his week means that sending it is the most important part of mine.

Little bit about me: I live in Southsea with my boyfriend who happens to be a Submariner (based in Faslane, he commutes down at weekends when he can so I suppose saying ‘we live together’ needs to be used in the loosest terms possible currently – we’re on the same electoral roll, how about that?!). I work full time for The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity as well as being a Royal Navy Reservist, keen netballer and over-enthusiastic illustrator.

www.thesussexgirl.co.uk

 

Things I do when my husband isn’t here

I just got home without Popeye and strangely instead of crying or shouting or collapsing into the floor I stood in the middle of the room and let rip the biggest fart ever, right there in the living room. 

After the shock and knee jerk reaction blushing, all I thought was “fuck yeah Olive! Now I can do whatever the fuck I want to!”

It was liberating, it was exhilarating, it was a little bit scary.

And as I stood there post fart, hands on hips, chin up in what will now and forever be known as the F U Deployment Fart Pose, I got to thinking. 

What else can I now do that I can’t when Popeye is home?!?! 

This is what I have come up with so far whilst the girls are being raised on Peppa Pig and I curl up on the sofa trying not to cry:

  1. Spend ages looking for spots in the mirror.
  2. Watch such high brow TV as Buffy, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and GBBO.
  3. Let the dog sleep on the bed (shhhh).
  4. Put all of Popeyes clothes in a big pile in the bottom of the wardrobe so I can use his drawers for my stuff.
  5. Buy and eat food he doesn’t like all the time. YES!
  6. Fart as I go. 
  7. Actually talk to and meet up with friends instead of being a super flakey crap friend when he’s home.
  8. Go on social media all evening if I want to. Without feeling guilty im not spending magical romantic time with him. 
  9. Secretly throw out any of his honking Pussers socks that I come across. 
  10. Order whatever bloody dominoes I want (as a side note- there’s nothing wrong with Texas BBQ chicken).
  11. And potentially the most exciting thing- NO MORE STAR TREK OR GODDAMN PLAYSTATION!

What have I missed?

Muchos love,

Olive X 

My denial dinghy.

Popeye leaves for his 9 month deployment very very soon. Obvs can’t mention dates etc but let’s just say we aren’t talking weeks here.

He’s said his goodbyes to the outlaws and is gearing up to say tatty bye to our daughters. And I guess me too but I can’t even go there right now.

Each deployment is different. Usually I’m a sobbing, snotty, puffy eyed wreck (attractive). This time however I’m like totally numb. I’ve zoned out and can’t even get words out of my mouth when we talk about it.

 I have no idea why my brain has done this but all I can guess is my minds gone “no, no. Nope. Can’t handle this. Too painful. Too much. It’s too much! I’m checking out. See you later  conscious brain. Catch you laters!”

So I am calm. I am dangerously calm. Like  the normal emotional reaction is a rip current but I’m happily bobbing about on top on my dinghy. Probably doing a sudoku.

 My little escapist, denial dinghy that I’m fairly sure has a puncture. 


It’s going to deflate at some point and then I must face the depths of this. 

For instance, certain questions I should be addressing such as- 

How do we explain this to our two year old? 

My brain: No idea. We’ve got nothing here captain (plays magic roundabout theme tune loudly on repeat whilst doing some thing Pinterest fail-esque). 

Have we got all the grown up pre deployment shit sorted out? Like making sure his Skype account and mine are good to go. The emergency numbers and his phone card numbers are taped to the fridge, and the Christmas decorations are down from the loft.

My brain: yes, really should do this. Got loads of time (we don’t). Will just do this first (gardening/drinking wine/ starting a quilt). 

Spending quality time together.

My brain: so, it looks like date nights been a bit of a fail. Hey I know why don’t I write a blog post all about it instead of putting my phone down and giving it another shot. Genius.

Capturing each precious memory of the last week on film.

My brain: hey let’s leave the phone at home so you can’t take any pictures. Nothing like a bit of self sabotage to really help your early deployment mental health. Don’t want to make this easy for myself after all do I?

these photos were brought to you by random iphone gatherings over the summer.

I didn’t really know how to end this blog post (I blame my obviously faulty brain at this time) so I read it to Popeye and he said it’s because this time it’s not just about me and him. 

This time I have two children to care for. Two small people’s brains who are looking to me to see how to cope with this. 

This time is longer. 9 months is such a massive chunk of time when I think about it it makes my head go fuzzy and I start laughing in a slightly unhinged way.

This time it’s not just a couple saying goodbye, but a family saying goodbye. 

My family. 

Shit.

Normal service will resume shortly

Pre deployment date night fail

So it’s getting close to the Big D.

We don’t have many nights when Popeye isn’t working the next day left, plus we have a mental two year old and a 7 month old baby who is teething and beginning to resemble Count Dracula or someone from the Volturi. 

We are exhausted but decided to push the boat out (-ha ha ha, punny) and have a date night. 


The plan was to do an early bedtime for the kids, settle down with a naice film and a takeaway, a bottle of fizz and then have some maximum effort, sexy underwear, lights dimmed but on “grown up time”. I had shaved my legs and everything.

What actually happened was a massive fail. Like colossal. 

The Early bedtime- both children decided they are junior insomniacs. One wanted to jump around singing “wind the (effing) bobbin up” at full blast. The other decided that tonight was the night she would develop super duper senses telling her the precise second I put her down she would wake up, eyes bright and alight with happiness, a small smile playing around her mouth. Over. And over. And over again. For three hours.  Three. THREE! I finally got downstairs at about 8.30pm.

The Naice film. Popeye was supposed to choose one and have it ready for when I got downstairs. He was watching Star Trek. Now I don’t have anything against Captain Kirk et al, but it’s not quite what I had in mind. I let him know.

We had a Chinese! Huzzah! As for the booze- I was too exhausted and full of Chinese to even think about having a drink. Plus I realised my super duper 50% off bottle I got from Lidl was probably that price because it was only 7.5%. Not gonna lie, I felt cheated. 

So, in summary, our Big Pre Deployment Date Night consisted of us sitting in opposite areas of the house for a few hours, me with vampire insomniac children, him with the crew of The USS Enterprise. We did have a Chinese, however this rendered us really full and fat.

In the end he put on Die Hard and I went on Mumsnet. 

Jammy fuckers

This.

Who said romance is dead?!?!

The amount of pressure we both felt under for last night to be “amazing” was ridiculous. We are first parents then a couple afterall and even though our date night idea looked pretty fab on paper in reality it’s just not going to work out like that. It just feels like I can almost hear the clock ticking down those final few days and it’s making my adrenaline run, I imagine it’s how John McClaine felt when he realised he had no shoes and had to fight Snape. 

P.s we are aiming for round two tonight, maybe if we spread the content of date night over the whole weekend we will get all the boxes ticked???

The way I miss you.

It hits me in waves.

No pun intended.

The Missing You Tsunami smashes into me out of nowhere, dragging me out to sea.

I am lost. Swimming along the shore desperately searching for a way back to normal.

I doggy paddle, then front crawl, keeping my head above water until

A rip current rips me. Swirls me around and pushes me back out again.

It draws me out then feeds me back to the shore.

Tumbling and spluttering like some confused octopus I crawl back up the beach

Find my feet and 

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Until I hear the distant rumble,

And the Missing You Tsunami threatens me again. 

One woman’s homecoming is another’s goodbye

With the return today of HMS Defender (and if many of you wonder why I bang on about this ship in particular ok I will just say it- it’s Popeyes old ship where I met most of my NWBFFs and felt part of the Royal Navy community for the first time and not just some kind of Lone Ranger navy wife freak) and im filled with such excitement on their behalf, I’m so crazily proud of the families who have waited 9 months for them to finally come home. 

(After doing basically a 7 month deployment about 2 mins before this one- mental).

I can see the wives and the girlfriends, the sisters and the brothers and the mummy’s and daddy’s in my minds eye in a few short hours, finally getting that hug and kiss they’ve waited and waited and waited some more for.

9 month in, 9 months out
But as well as all of this excitement for them, and soppiness and nostalgia it’s reminded me that it’s my turn to say goodbye next. For 9 months.

And I am seriously freaking out.

After I did my first deployment and met Popeye at the homecoming I was naive. I didn’t pause to think there will be another one. And another and another. 

The second he stepped off the ship a new countdown started to the next time he would deploy.

What happened? We had a minimum of a 6 month deployment with less than 12 months inbetween for four years. That’s a lot of deploying.

It was awful. It was hard. It was surreal. 

But it was doable. I look back at “deployment Olive” with no small degree of awe. She was hardcore.

“Did really do that?”

How did I do all those deployments?”

Can I really do it all again?

(in a very small voice, like a stroppy toddler) “But I don’t want to!”

Thinking about this upcoming deployment is filling me with dread. Not just because I know how hard it will be, but because this time I’m on my todd with our two gorgeous baby girls. No pressure then.

And that’s going to bring a whole new level of shit and heartache and stress and strain that I haven’t encountered before. 

And that is a type of deployment I know nothing about. 

So watch this space my lovelies. Hopefully my blog will stay the chirpy quirky space it’s always been. Not some kind of weird online written record of my unraveling. 

I need success stories please!

So as the WAGs of HMS Defender wave that mighty ship home, with the sodding brass band blasting, and the little tug boat getting zilch recognition; my thoughts are bitter sweet and let’s be honest, a bit “me me me.” 

This navy life is (as my good pal Ronan would say) a roller coaster. 

I’d rather be on the dodgems. 

Muchos love,

Olive X 


The truth about deployment.

What deployment is really like. And what it’s really not like.

It’s not all staring off into the horizon in a floaty white dress with a single tear rolling down a polished cheek.

floaty dress? check. staring into middle distance? check. must be a navy wife

It’s not about getting a long awaited dog eared letter in the post, hugging it to your chest in quiet bliss and rushing up to your room to flop down onto the bed to read it in matching pyjamas.

Seriously, who the fuck does this?!

It’s not beaming ear to ear with pride whilst waving a Union Jack (well homecoming is but that’s only a couple of hours out of the whole thing).

Standard navy wife Tuesday activity

It’s not romantic. It’s not magical.

It’s cereal for dinner.

It’s explaining again and again and again where they are and why they couldn’t make it.

It’s wine. Or gin.

It’s weddings and BBQs and Friday nights and Tuesday lunchtimes alone.

It’s having to take both kids with you to your smear test because there’s no one else to help.

It’s suffering the same questions at every family gathering.

“Where is he now then?”

“Heard from Popeye lately?”

“It can’t be much longer now surely?”

Gah.

It’s making coffee for one every morning.

It’s being ill and having to carry on.

It’s dutifully sending one email (at least) a day and hearing nothing back for days.

It’s learning to carry the ache of missing them around with you and realising that it won’t go away until you’re back together again.

It’s checking your email a zillion times a day just incase, and keeping your phone within arms reach for months without fail.

Deployments are not what people think they are. They are marathons not sprints and we are running in a race we’d rather not have to enter.

But we get to cross that finish line eventually and that part of the illusion is true. That moment is indescribably scrummy and romantic and fantastic.

So even if well meaning family and friends don’t have a clue of the reality of a deployment, or even if this is your first deployment and you’ve realised you didn’t have a clue, just trust me, even if the race is a steaming pile of groundhog poop, that finish line will be so worth it. 

Must dash, got me some sea starin’ to do.

*i doubt shes going through the lidl shopping list or what to cook for tea*

Muchos love,

Olive X

Goodbyes and doing “It”.

Let’s talk about sex baby.

More specifically “Goodbye Sex”.

Aka ta ta shagging, au revoir ménage, bon voyage bonking, see you later 69ing, or just farewell fucking. 

Whatever you call it, it sucks (no pun intended). There’s a sense of “shit, time is running out and we won’t be getting to DO IT for ages so we’d better make this round count.”

So there’s a fair amount of pressure to be a super awesome, bendy, fluttery eyelashes, up for anything minx. Even when all you want to do is the standard sideways cuddle position, check your phone for Brexit updates and then fall asleep. 


Then there’s the emotional side of it. Sometimes, just before they deploy you don’t want them near you like that at all. Because even if they don’t mean to, they are hurting you by leaving. It’s not rational. It’s not logical but you hurt at the thought of the impending aloneness and their role in it.

No amount of Barry White or wining and dining will shake that feeling.

But you want to be close to them.

You feel vulnerable and angry and sad and scared and downright unsettled. So the natural reaction, the normal reaction when feeling threatened is to seek reassurance from the one person you feel closest to. Sexy reassurance. 

But the emotions are running so high and you’re trying to get yours whilst making sure it’s a session they won’t forget in a hurry and at the same time you’re trying to make sure your mummy tummy isn’t showing and it’s too much pressure.

Goodbye sex is almost as exhausting emotionally as homecoming sex.

Except you don’t get to have another shot in the foreseeable future.

And no pun intended (again) but that’s hard. Really hard.

The Good Military Wife

I wish I could be a “good military wife”. 

You know, one of those military partners who joins the military wives choir or raises a squillion pounds doing a charity hike or a sexy pin up shoot or sends a gazillion parcels out to the ship at Christmas. Each one with a handwritten note. 


wish I could do those things. But I am SO insanely busy looking after the two girls if I get/were to ever have free time it would be a serious toss up between wine and sleep. (I know, I know it’s obvs- I’d drink wine then sleep).

Plus to be honest with you, it’s just not in my character. I’m just not that *good*.

I wish I could be one of those good wives. One who is happy with her lot in life. I wish I could just accept this is how it has to be. Or as a compromise, I wish I could just stop  constantly moaning about having to limit or give up my career/put it on hold because of his stupid job. 

I wish I could be one of those good wives that actually loses weight whilst they’re away. Or actually starts a project or hobby. Unfortunately I like wine, chocolate and TV too much to ever ever hit this target.

And now to the main (current) guilt trip I’m experiencing (again):

I wish I had the balls to go wave the ship off when they deploy. But I can’t. I haven’t. I won’t. Because I’m just not that good of a wife. I’d rather be in bed hiding from the world or at work acting like I’ve just dropped a tab of speed or bumming around doing motherhood shiz watching a never ending vacuum of Peppa sodding Pig than up at the round tower. 

Tits

look at them. they are blates going to heaven

I wish I could be all supportive of the other wives and girlfriends of the ship and all bestie friendy at the build up and beginning of a deployment. But (and this is another reason there will be no waving “daddies gay boat” bye bye this deployment) I go into some seriously freaky deep denial when they leave. 

I literally don’t think about deployment. I don’t want to talk about it, and I definitely don’t want to hear about it and I sure as hell don’t want to see it actually happening. For me it would be like some early-morning-slow-mo-horror-film with banners where I go shopping at Gunwharf afterwards and grab a “we can do it girlies” latte in a queasy state of shock and a cold sweat coating my newly abandoned body.

“we can do it lattes” are a registered trademark of Olive Oyl 😎

I wish I was more like those good wives but I’m barely holding it together at the best of times. Let alone on the day that marks the longest time I will be apart from the love of my life. 

To those I’m about to do this deployment with: I’m sorry. I will be completely and utterly rubbish and keep to myself for the first few weeks. When I’ve put enough of my heart back together I can come and be a good friend. I can come and be supportive. I can give being a “good military wife” another shot. 

Just bear with me for a few weeks. 

Please? 


Muchos love, Olive X