Grounded

So Scotland voted No, and now Alex Salmond is to resign and the nationalists say Westminster cannot deliver on the promised timeframe. Which is probably true, but not completely helpful as it doesn’t provide any support or solution to the issue. I might go as far as to say it has the air of a sulk!
   I watched the referendum at home, both me and Mum saying ‘Oh we’ll go to bed soon’. It didn’t happen. Actually, we spent an hour after midnight putting a tarpaulin on the trailer dryer as the weather forecast predicted heavy rain. And the dryer was stuck outside full of dried grain. And everyone had gone home. It was almost fun, a bit surreal and very dirty. And the burned chaff does not smell good! Then we went back inside and had long showers, then had a cup of tea. Then the first result was announced and we cheered and had another cup of tea. Repeat throughout the night, which was spent in the company of homemade gingerbread and lots of tea, cheering or shouting at the TV. Shouting mainly at the only person who didn’t put a shirt and tie on to appear on the show, and also seemed incapable of letting anyone from the No side finish speaking. And couldn’t be adult about it, referring to the No vote as “a win for Project Fear”, among other comments. And shouting at the BBC for predicting a No vote when it could still go either way. They were right, but it could have gone the other way. Shh, I know they know more than I do!
  And now we pack up the songs, slogans and flags, and most people from both sides take the advice of Her Majesty the Queen and treat each other’s opinions and ideas with respect. And me? I go to Southport to see the only two surviving flying Lancaster bombers. And other cool aircraft. And it’s going to be AMAZING!! …I’m not overexcited. Not at all…

Yes? No? Fair? Unfair?

   Today, Scotland voted. They voted ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to whether Scotland would be an independent country. This decision will not just affect the Scots. It will affect everyone else in the current United Kingdom as well. Were Scotland to leave, there is no doubt, in any side, that it would be bad for the UK, especially internationally. For my job, the Army, it would be disastrous. The international community and the stock market have made their opinions very clear; they wish the UK to stay united. In the world that we have at the moment, especially to be part of the West, you cannot go it alone, especially at the moment. Scotland is not a large country, peoplewise. It has no international credit. How can they? They have no arms contracts, no history of any form of united fighting force, and no ministries and offices. There is no command and control of how to run a country. There is no intelligence service, no contracts or connections, no support of treaties. It’s not as simple as ‘I want it so I get it’. The international community who voted with their voices and banks are needed to make a country secure. A war today is not just fought with troops and bombs. It is a war of intelligence, of communications, of quiet accords and agreements, unmentioned soldiers in unpleasant places. How will any of this be possible  with no international cooperation?
    They speak on the news of lower income bands and lesser educated voters voting for independence, and whether that is true or not, it infers worryingly that it is not a thought out conclusion. It will not make you ‘more Scottish’. A country lasts forever, and one thing that everyone knows is that the oil will run out. So, what will the Scots fund their country with when that happens? It is not something that will ‘beat Westminster’. The north of England is fed up of Westminster, but it cannot be hoped that an independent North would be sensible.
    My other rub about this referendum is that it seems completely unfair. Whether yes or no, it is not fair that a very small part of the country should decide something that could cripple the whole of it. The UK armed forces would not be left a viable fighting force on its own, and that’s not the only change. The entire of the country and politics would change. We would carry less international weight as well, and may well face a less severe shadow of the financial fallout. The name, constitution and flag of the country would all have to change. It just isn’t fair for something of this magnitude to be decided by so few. It also feels unfair that Scottish soldiers currently deployed will not be able to vote. How can that be? They are fighting for their country and cannot decide which country they will die for?!
Throughout the whole campaign, the Yes campaign has been presented as much more interactive and positive, and the No campaign as much more negative, by both approach and word. But once the vote is in, there will nothing for the SNP to fight for. And though their campaign is positive, will their great-grandchildren feel that Yes was a positive decision?

I am sailing, I am sailing!

    I first sailed at the age of six or seven in a dinghy called ‘Respectable Street’ with many sharp things for a child to kneel on. I hated it, and with blood running from my knee to the bottom of the boat, I cried until Dad took us in. So, thirteen years, several regattas, one whisky tumbler prize, lots of kit and four boats later, I’m at another race series!
    I started yacht racing (wow, that sounds expensive…it is…) last year, as part of a crew for a friend of my parents. She’s a J105, his boat, a 10.5 metre long boat and she’s wonderful. I didn’t think sailing could get better, but it did. I did inshore racing for last year and most of this year, and earlier in the year I did my first offshore race. It was amazing! Working as a watch system, 6 hours on, 4 hours off constantly until the end point of the race, it was great! I tend to always expect something to break on a boat and have to recover from it in the race, which means I’m not disappointed if it does. In this case, she seemed out to prove me wrong, flying along and taking chunks of time out of the rest of the fleet. And then it got to midnight. And there was a ‘thunng’ noise. Quite loud. And skipper did go “What was that?!” And the three of us on watch looked wildly around the boat to try and find the source of the expensive noise. And noticed the spinnaker pole was kinked off to the left. And that this meant it must have broken. And commented this to Skip. And he did swear loudly. And then it came off completely. And the lad coming on watch was woken by “Get on deck! The kite pole’s gone!”. So a nice morning wake up then! We managed to retrieve the pole and recover the sail at midnight next to Guernsey without anyone getting hurt or too wet, which was brilliant. The moon that caused the tidal race that broke the pole meant this was possible without torches. I helmed a bit overnight and saw the sunset and sunrise at sea, and it’s the most breathtaking site on the earth.
    I’ve also done Cowes week this year, the biggest yacht regatta of its type, and this time Bobbi and Dad were there too! They sailed an interesting boat called a Victory, described as Bobbi as “a horrible, slow tub. That’s constantly slowly sinking”. We didn’t win, and neither did they, but it was fun.
    Now I’m waiting for fog to lift to go sailing again, and with a crew that gets on really well. I love yacht racing. Racing as a crew, working together, socialising and succeeding (or not!) together. The dimensions and dynamics are bigger, and while I’ll never stop dinghy sailing, yacht racing has a special place in my heart.

D-Day Anniversary

   As you may know, today is the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion, also known as the Normandy Landings. Operation Neptune, the landings, were part of Operation Overload, a meticulously planned invasion of France by the Allied forces.  The invasion involved 132000 troops from the UK, USA, Canada , New Zealand and Australia, and troops from Belgium, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands and Norway.
Following an aerial and naval bombardment, and airborne assault (24,000 troops landing just after midnight), the landings began at 0630 over a 50 miles stretch of coastline, divided into five areas: Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha.
The action resulted in 12000 casualties; 4414 confirmed deaths.
I think it’s also fitting to remember the German soldiers that died during those battles. Of course we have no thanks for their actions, but many were good and brave men, who happened to have been born German and were forced to fight a war they did not believe, did not understand or had no choice in. Their sacrifice, while the ‘wrong’ side, was no less great.

   We live today in freedom because of the brave actions of those Allied soldiers, and the many people that made this come about. We cannot comprehend what landing on that beach at 18 years old must have felt like, or to be one of a number, lost in the fight and known only to God and the grieving.

   Thank you. Thank you. May we learn from the price you paid how dear our freedom is. May we never waste it.

   When you go home, tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrow, we gave our today.

They shall grown not old, as we that are left grow old,
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.

 

Strange But True

Strange fact not even my friends and family are probably aware of: I always wanted to have a go at being a cheerleader. When I went to uni, I actually was going to go to their ‘Have a Go’ session. But the pisstaking stopped me. Strange how machoism can apply to girls too. I guess I liked it because I saw the American videos of high-level cheering as a young teenager and, like anything at competition level, the fitness levels and workouts looked hard work. And therefore I wanted a go. And also I loved gymnastics as a child; I am more flexible than most people, and I loved the strength and balance and…is grace the right word?…involved in the stunts.

Not so hung up on the uniforms though. And hair ribbons. As a uniform. Really?!

EDIT: having looked back at this in the light of day, I’ll amend that the idea of tumbling and human pyramids and stunts that involve lifting and throwing people looked fun to do. The uniforms are vile, the idea of waving pompoms around and singing on a sideline is stupid and any club that requires make up has a few massive flaws. And the idea of ‘cheerleading’ is a bit…icky. So, what I actually meant was: I wanted to do gymnastics. That’s a bit of a different conclusion. Hmm, I shouldn’t post in the middle of the night!

Entrenched

 

I know it’s long, and I know that some of you are aware there’s a problem here, but please, watch it. They deserve at least that much.

This video, as you may know if you’ve watched it, or you’re a good guesser, is about rape in the US military. And about how that rape is constantly brushed under the carpet and covered up. About how the women are often charged with adultery when their rapist is married. How injuries caused from violent rape caused their discharge and loss of income. How the military ‘loses’ their medical documents. How it is a culture there, entrenched.

Terrible, we say. It couldn’t happen here, we say. Yeah. Right. I know nothing about the legal aspect in this country, but I don’t think it’s too far of a leap. There is a culture here too. A culture of drinking and sex, the ultimate ‘lad’ culture. A culture that makes it acceptable for a training officer to wake up on the floor of a student’s room with several other students after a night out, none of them able to remember the events of the night before, and that to be OK. For attendance of various social events to be compulsory, and going to the mess after every training night to be compulsory, or you are ‘not dedicated’, ‘weird’, ‘a failure to your platoon’, and that to be OK. To be told, a recruit, 2 months in, ‘you haven’t slept with someone in the unit yet, you’re the only one. Come on, take one for the team’, and that to be OK. For me to not do this, and have rumours of beastiality spread about me, and that to be OK. I never asked, but, of course, it’s just a joke.
For someone who is genuinely scared of social situations, this is horrible. And it’s not just my unit. On training with another unit, in a very hot summer, to feel dizzy on a long tab (march) and ordered to get a lift in the van, against protest, and to then be told when they failed me the course ‘the men need a commander who won’t flake out in 30°C of heat’. To be told part of the reason for my failure was the fact that I cried after they told me I’d failed (not even in their sight, I don’t know how they knew). To have one of the assessing officers scream at me to run up and down a hill three times carrying about a quarter of my body weight in kit, while he stood at the bottom yelling , and have his assessment stand. He ranked me extremely lowly on all points, at odds with all the other assessing reports I was given prior to that. The lad who was with me, and my section, all expressed the opinion he was bullying me. I don’t like being bullied, so I went to the commanding officer and raised the fact that I thought the report was unfair. He agreed. The report was a pass. I was failed. I was in the top 5 for all of the graded tests. Three people on that course were failed. They were all girls. The boys who failed command tasks completely, who were condescending and demeaning to their unit while in command (a big deal on a command course!), who were elected by the rest of the course as incompetent and unpleasant, all passed. They could give me no solid reason for the fail. Nearly a year later, the promised course report never materialised.
On a national selection event, I fell and fractured a vertebra in my back (this is why there has been radio silence for a while. I’m not going to go into detail about that, but no-one needs to read my opiate-fuelled rambling!). I was failed that selection too. I completed two assault courses and 3 command tasks, along with many classroom based tests, with a fractured vertebra. And no pain relief. I would take the weight of my upper body on my arms instead of sitting in a chair and lie on a sofa or anywhere flat when not being directly assessed because it hurt less. I was failed for being ‘too withdrawn’. There was no medical care offered, apart from ‘you don’t want to go to A&E do you?’. On a selection event? Voluntarily miss testing? No thanks. Oh, of course there was always the option of going into a room alone while a male first aider took my clothes off to look at it. Again, no thanks. I was failed for being too withdrawn and not engaged enough. With a fractured vertebra and no pain relief. There was no mention of my accident on the report, my unit had no idea.

What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not just about rape. There is a culture of objectification, prejudice and a lack of translucency that is entrenched, being encouraged from recruitment onwards. Much of this, such as odd failures, is not just women, but it occurs much more to females. I am aware the above may sound bitter, and it hurts. I was always a good soldier, and now I am failing for reasons I’m not even aware of. I asked my section and they were stunned at the failures, having been with me all of the summer course and seeing no reason for failure. I have, however, spoken to other girls about this and received very similar comments. You have to ‘play the game’ to get anywhere. You are automatically treated as a weaker member of the section because you are female, incompetent, only good for looking at, and sleeping with. I have known people leave, sick of being a disposable ‘lay’. Of being passed around to try and get the notice and respect they are entitled to by acting in the only way that gets them attention.

Can we please stop treating our soldiers as objects to be taken in, used and broken and then thrown away?