A few weeks ago I interviewed a Wiltshire blogger and author Clare Macnaughton. She’d just self-published a book of some of her blog posts from www.modernmilitarymother.com – Tales from the Domestic Frontline.
If you want a good laugh, an easy read and you’re not easily offended – get this book!
I’m pleased to say that Clare and I kept in touch following that interview and this week we met up for the first time. The story I’d written about Clare was very personal and touched on aspects of her life that most of us would not want to share with the world. In Clare’s case she had little choice in the matter.
Having said all of this – it’s one thing to write about a Wiltshire woman and author and quite another to read the book. I’m a person who attracts a lot of writers who ask me to read and review their stuff, frankly I simply don’t have the time. However, after meeting Clare I stopped for quick coffee before my next appointment and started reading.
An hour or so later, I’d finished and thought ‘is that it?’ – there must be more to come. It was mesmerising and somehow the fact that it was made up of blog posts made it so easy to digest.
Here’s what I discovered:
* Clare talks about her grandparents and that resonated with me – a loving grandfather who worked hard and drank lots. A grandfather who was known as Ginge. How funny, my grandfather was a coal miner for 50 years in Somerset. His name was Ernest, his weekend pastime was drinking. Everyone knew him by his nickname Ginge.
*Clare grew up without her mum who died when she was two. My niece and nephews are growing up without their dad who died when they were small. I watch and hope that they are able to be as balanced as adults as Clare. Losing a parent very young sends a deep pain into the fabric of family.
*Many of Clare’s challenges in dealing with her own family are the same as every other family, military or not. I particularly loved the ‘operation bangers & mash’ post – boy, do I recognise that one.
*Dealing with a partner who goes away regularly for weeks at a time means continual readjustment within the family – now you see him, now you don’t. Change is the norm when children need stability. So the parent at home has to absorb the change to protect them.
*When a partner who’s in the military is used to being obeyed – he or she can find it difficult to shake off that behaviour at home. This reminded me of an incident when I was a teenager and babysat for a local GP and her husband, an officer in the Royal Navy. They were well off and had a cleaner. I recall the husband barking at the cleaner that she’d not cleaned the hairs out of bath plughole. The response included the word ‘off’ and she quit on the spot.
*Clare really loved Dawn French’s book Dear Fatty and wrote to her about it. I did the same thing – the one and only time I’ve ever written any kind of fan letter. I didn’t get a response, I didn’t expect one, I just had to say I loved the book.
*Being part of a military family can have benefits – you get an opportunity to go up in a Chinook helicopter for example. The downside is that you can be judged on your prowess in making mince pies. Even worse, playground politics apply among certain military wives and however hard you try to ignore it, it still touches you.
*Children come out with the most marvellous, unexpected things at the most unexpected times. Clare’s daughter asks her for ‘ass cream’ in one story – meaning of course, ‘please spend money on an ice-cream for me which I will attempt to eat, will almost certainly wear and will then hand the soggy end bit to you’. I will often write down wonderful things my kids say like ‘mummy my clothes are outside in’ and ‘daddy what’s pamchayne?’.
* The eternal struggle for a work life balance which feeds the mind, pays the bills and nurtures the children – a struggle which is especially difficult if you are a single parent.
*Clare’s writing style is simple, insightful, honest, sometimes rude, sometimes very rude, gritty with a little poetry included.
My final question – when’s the next instalment coming out!