Love is a battlefield

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. But, like most things in life, it just has. It’s a Sunday morning. I’m sitting at my desk with a steaming cup of coffee, wearing my favourite sloppy Sunday outfit and listening to back-to-back albums of the highly inoffensive Enya. Meanwhile, the Significant Other is fighting a war in Afghanistan.

As a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, he has been tasked to build the world’s deadliest road, Route Trident in Helmand Province. His days consist of commanding his troop of at least thirty soldiers, negotiating with local Afghani tradesmen and ensuring that morale is at a constant high, no matter what the situation. Am I scared? Yes. Am I hopeful? Yes. Am I proud? Absolutely.

I first met The Lieutenant about two years ago in a modest little bar in Guildford while he was training to become an Officer at Sandhurst (no, unfortunately his name does not consist of Prince or Harry). It was one of those vodka-fuelled nights and the thought of having to play the role of The Lieutenant’s supportive girlfriend while he was away at war was the very last thing on my mind. But as the weeks went by and the lavish meals and bouquets of flowers became more abundant, he managed to pass the vetting procedure with flying colours and my life in the military world began.

It was clear from the start that there were three of us in the relationship: myself, The Lieutenant and the Army, and although, as a somewhat independent woman, this did not really bother me, it was evident that a certain degree of military education was needed. Coming from a a family of accountants and housewives, I had very little knowledge of the army: in fact, Lieutenant Dan, Captain Von Trapp and Colonel Fitzwilliam were the full extent of my military knowledge. And so, in my own Eliza Doolittle moment, I embarked on a journey that has not only taught me the basics of army lingo, such as ‘civvies’ (civilian clothing), ‘snow job’ (misleading or grossly exaggerated report) and ‘airborne’ (essentially categorises you as the manliest of men), but has made me realise my utter appreciation for the British Army.

Of course, there are perks that come with the job of voluntarily putting your life on the line, and I feel blessed to be in a position where I can join him and enjoy them too. There are countless extravagant dinners and dances, for which I can (for once) dress up as though I’ve just walked off the set of Mad Men, and even on occasions receive compliments for the vintage pillbox hat that didn’t quite fit in with campus life. Like Miss Doolittle, I have learnt the importance of creating good impressions – there have been occasions when The Lieutenant has had to pinch me when I drink my vodka, lime and soda at the speed of a student. I have also learnt to value the luxuries in life, such as blackcurrant sorbet to cleanse my pallet between courses and post-dinner port that has been waiting to be uncorked for forty-two years. However, the most memorable moment of our lavish adventure so far has to have been driving through the gates of Edinburgh Castle in The Lieutenant’s Jaguar (naturally), to the sound of Puccini’s ‘O mio bambino caro’, whereupon we were escorted to our bedroom in the castle itself. Student life at Warwick was certainly a distant memory that night.

My life is divided between nights of port and patriotism and nights of purple and ‘I have never…’. I won’t lie: it is incredibly bizarre going from singing the National Anthem next to a Colonel one evening, to wearing five jumpers because we’re too impoverished to turn the heating on the next evening. But I can safely say that The Lieutenant and his baggage have been the best thing that has ever happened to me. His deployment to Afghanistan has been difficult but I am coping shamefully well. I have learnt to appreciate the everyday things: thoughtful letters, kind words and supportive friends and family. Am I excited? Yes. Am I counting down the days? Yes. Am I in this for the long haul? We’ll see.


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