When I think back (though I didn’t realise it at the time) Carol’s experience of Gibraltar was a totally different one to mine (as naturally it would be); my days were all about serving in the armed forces (and whatever came with that) while hers was all about being a mum, a wife, a housekeeper, a cook and a million other things. To use her words ‘We were sometimes on the same bus journey but looking out of different windows’ and that probably explains why when we had family time we made the absolute most of it.
The role of the military wife abroad isn’t really something I’d ever thought too deeply about until recently when I was writing about childminders and pre-school playgroups (which ironically feature quite highly for me now in my present day profession); to a large extent (due partly to the sexist culture in the armed forces at the time) there was certain expectancy on wives be seen in a certain way, to do homely/wifely/motherly things and conduct themselves in a manner the service approved of. Just writing that looks so offensive to me now and reading it back speaks volumes on how dreadful the pressure must have been on Carol and other military wives – particularly since they hadn’t ‘signed on’ or ‘taken the oath’. I suppose if I was to comment now I would say that whatever freedoms and equalities women have achieved since those days they fully deserve.
(1976 Carol and the child’s enjoying a break in the shade)
One of the things I found most attractive about Carol when I first met her was her strength; life hadn’t been easy for her and she had long since stopped suffering fools gladly. Although mindful of being a military wife she was also very much her own independent person expecting (rightly so) to be treated respectfully. Life for her was very much about the children and me, and to that end much of her time was spent (one way or the other) on us all.
I think I’d mentioned previously Carol made all of the children’s clothes in really nice fabrics that she would take a lot of care in choosing, usually from her favourite shop #PrincessSilks on Main Street. That shop is still there today and even bigger than it was then as it now has a cellar (full of rolls of fabric and other haberdashery). But as well as the children’s clothes she also made her own clothes including evening dresses for the formal social functions at the Fleet Pavillion. Whenever we went out to those social functions I was immensely proud of how fabulous she looked and likewise whenever we were out with the children I totally loved the way they looked so gorgeous and were made such a big fuss of by everyone we met; #veryproudhubbyanddaddydotcom 🙂
To some degree sewing was very much a passion for Carol (since she trained as a tailoress) but having the children to manage meant she had to plan her sewing time and literally timetable it in. Much of her day was spent walking from Edinburgh House to Bakers Passage (dropping Tracey off at Mrs Dumoulin’s nursery), doing the shopping at Liptons, walking home, feeding and caring for the baby, making my lunch, eating lunch with me, doing housework and preparing an evening meal, walking back up to collect Tracey and perhaps finally calling in at the Emporium (now Mothercare) to buy little bits and let the children choose sweets. Some days for Carol squeezing in a pot of tea with cake in the English Tea Rooms was a serious treat and so I guess compared to her life mine was pretty cushy, I was just a sailor and thankfully not a military wife.