Sometimes I read blogs for awhile and realize I know nothing about the authors, have no idea how they got to where they are today, and what kind of life experiences they have had. I decided that every once in awhile I would pop in with some anecdotes about my personal life as a little window into what makes me tick.
I will start off with my life as a 19 year old military bride, living in Germany, England, and even back in my home country Canada for awhile. My introduction to life on a British military base in Germany began with cataloging all of the necessary equipment that came with the home. Fully furnished but with the added bonus of this weird pole with a mirror on the end of it. Rather like a giant-size version of a dental mirror. I stared at it in wonder. Why would this strange contraption be included in the March-In kit?
Well golly gee, small-town-Alberta-me got a crash course in How To Check Your Car For Car Bombs. This was in 1992, when the IRA was still having a hey-day around anything British. Each and every time we entered our car, we were to check beneath the carriage for anything that looked suspicious. I had fun learning to watch for a margarine tub or anything taped or secured strangely, or just anything that looked out of place, even a tiny dangling wire. It was rumored that certain military members in the housing estates were charged with watching their neighbours to make sure they checked their cars before entering them and were to report them if they didn't. My then-husband was never given that post so I am not sure if it was just a rumor or truth, but I can see how it would be an important narc-like position - since a good sized bomb put everyone in danger, not just the vehicle occupants. And so began my military life. I had to lay on the ground and familiarize myself with what the car looked like in every detail so I would be able to recognize something 'odd'.
That was at our first posting in a smaller town, and then in 1993 we were moved to a former RAF base while the RAF took over our old spot. Things were a bit more loose there and we lived further from the base in a regular German block of flats and thus, we did not get a mirror to check for bombs. I felt nervous still, wondering if we should crawl under there each time we got in, or after we had been out shopping. For one thing, most of the brits drove their own English cars rather than German so the license plates were pretty obvious. Then one day, news of a small car bomb exploding as the driver was entering the barracks ripped through everyone. The driver was not injured badly, but it still scared the crap out of me as my then-husband used to do a lot of guard duty at that very gate, walking up to vehicles to check their credentials. Yikes.So then everyone was back to bomb-checks. Fun stuff.
Another bonus start to military life was visiting London for the first time. That was in December 1992. I had moved temporarily to England that month and was visiting my new inlaws, and discovered that I was only an hour and a half from London. What crazy fools for not taking me there sooner!! So just after Christmas, I think the 30th, I got a tour of the city and fell in love. It was great! In my town, the oldest buildings are less than 100 years old lol, so seeing places that were there for hundreds of years was amazing. I did the whole Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Big Ben, Green Park, Hyde Park, Bucks Palace, etc etc tour. But we also stopped to gaze at the famed Herrod's Department store. We didn't go in because we were not 'posh' enough, but I took photos and stood on the corner gazing at the sights. Wonderful time!
But a very short time later in January 1993, within weeks if not days, a bomb went off in a garbage can right at the very corner we were standing at. How shocked was I? No one was killed, but a few people were injured and there was some damage to the building. I never wanted to go back there again! I was horrified that if I had chosen to go to London at a slightly later date, I could have been standing there when the bomb blew, just a Canadian tourist minding her own business. A few months later, another range of bombs went off in London and another city. That was a bit too much for my 19 yr old senses, but shortly afterward is when we moved into our flat in Germany and I was introduced to my friend the Car Bomb Mirror. My life changed in the blink of an eye,,, and a few thousand miles, 8 time zones.
I lived the military life for 5.5 years, having my then-husband be in Bosnia for the majority of my first pregnancy, making great friends with other military wives (whom I am still in contact with thanks to FB), and making friends at work in civilian jobs, helping my husband heal his shredded feet after 40km forced marches, having guns facing me as I entered and left the base each day, seeing the Queen Mum when she visited the second barracks (what a lovely cute little woman she was), having a Herc almost knock me off my balcony as it flew too low one day when leaving the base (talk about scaring the pants off someone almost literally. I jumped out of my skin before I went deaf!), learning how utterly bored one can get when their spouse is away for 6 months straight and the only contact is receiving a Bluey (special letter for forces) in the post,checking under cars for possible bombs, watching the news and then not wanting to watch the news, etc. During my time with the British Army, there were at least 5 IRA-related bombings in England that I can think of right now, as well as other instances at British bases in Germany. Even today I look back and it feels like a different lifetime, happening to someone else other than myself.
Oh and did I mention that when my son was a month old, I was up early feeding him when news of Princess Diana's death hit the airwaves? My brother was still in England with me visiting his new nephew and he went to London to pay his respects but I decided not to go because my son was so little and I knew the crowds would be enormous. My brother said he could smell the flowers long before he reached the gates of the palace, and he also went over to Kensington Palace to look around. He flew home the day before the funeral. It was an interesting time - the tv stations were pretty much blacked out for at least one whole day, each one showing either a still photo of the princess or videos and slideshows. I called my mom because it was 7 hours behind and I knew she would still be awake, and told her the news so then she was glued to the tv back home. It was a surreal time. Perhaps no one really cares now, but to actually live there, only 45 mins away from London, right in the midst of it all, was quite a different experience. A different perspective was thrown at me from being right there, just outside Oxford, right when it happened.
But in May 1998, I moved back home to Canada with my little boy and embarked on a different life journey, free of the military and happy to be home.