Our daughter Samantha Catherine was born on 31st March; she very nearly ended up as a Melanie on account of me quite taking to that name; I saw it on a hairdressers shop from the bus window as I was on my way to the hospital. Probably a good job I didn’t call her Melanie though because when I told Carol later she said she would have gone berserk. Sam’s second name, Catherine, was after my foster mother.
One blessing about Sam’s birth date (since we were so broke) was that she was born on the very last day of the financial year which (back then) meant we were in line for a tax rebate. Meanwhile as a gift for Carol I did a serious ‘man’ thing – that I’ve never heard the last of (and probably never will and probably quite right too – not just from Carol but also my daughters); I bought her a present for having Samantha – a Marguerite Patten Cook Book. In mitigation I told Carol she made fabulous puddings but that didn’t wash; fortunately it wouldn’t be long before my tax rebate would arrive and I was able to redeem myself. (Have to say though I did get many a dandy pudding) 🙂
It was a few days before Carol and Sam were allowed home which gave me a little time with Tracey on her own; although I think she was thrilled to have a little sister we didn’t want her feeling left out in anyway. Big changes were afoot and we needed her to feel secure through the process. During little outings to the park and other places I was able to have the kind of conversations that Carol and I felt she needed – ‘When Mummy brings Sam home she will need you to help her sometimes because you’re a big girl now’. Looking back parenting for us was really hard since we had no role models or extended family support, we literally had to make it up as we went along and hope for the best. It’s almost surreal that forty odd years later part of my current social care role is to support parents with their parenting.
When Carol and Sam finally arrived home it was lovely that we were all together for the first time, I loved having my own family. Underneath the idyllic surface though was this feeling of a sort of impending doom before paradise could come. We had very little money and lived quite isolated in a (non-married quarter) private let in Gosport which meant we had to take the ferry anytime we wanted to go to Portsmouth. We couldn’t get a married quarter because we were going abroad. Having said that whatever concerns we had were very much diluted by the fact we had each other (and our beautiful children) and had bonded very strongly.
One of the lovely things we did do that brightened our days was to sit down and anticipate our new life in Gibraltar and talk about what it would be like; Carol loved the idea of a sunny climate because she liked a tan and Tracey couldn’t wait to see the apes, it was so nice for us all to have that hope and a future to look forward to even though there were still challenges ahead to overcome.
Gibraltar is a very small nation and (in 1976) with quite a large military presence accommodation was of a premium, there were waiting lists for married quarters. As a result the serviceman (me) had to travel to Gibraltar in advance and either wait for a married quarter before the family could follow or acquire a private let. If going for a private let the property had to be inspected and passed by the Navy. Regardless, we didn’t want any unnecessary separation and so agreed that I would look for a private let.
It wasn’t long before my flight tickets arrived; I’d be flying DanAir on 11 April when Sam was ten days old.