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Falklands War 35th Anniversary 

I am 19 years younger than my husband Fred, who served in the Royal Navy during the Falklands War and went to sea on HMS ALACRITY. The ship was drafted to the south Atlantic, paving the way for the task force that followed, and set about sinking enemy vessels and rescuing sailors and airmen from the water when their ship went down. HMS ALACRITY miraculously returned home to Plymouth after the war, almost unscathed. She had taken evasive manoeuvres to narrowly miss being hit by an Exocet missile, and at one point was under attack from an Argentinian air strike, with two 500 pounds bombs landing in the water close by, one either side of the ship. She was lucky….her crew were exceptionally lucky, and all came home to Plymouth at the end of the conflict.

Despite me knowing all this, you would think that tagging along with Fred to HMS ALACRITY’s 35th Anniversary reunion of the Falklands War, I would feel a little out of touch….I was in my first year of primary school in 1982 and it wasn’t in the history books when I was at school. But, when you get together with the crew of a ship that’s been to war, the memories they made together (even 35 years later) are emblazoned in their minds as if they’ve been forged in steel. 

Some of them may look like a bunch of grandads and many of them proudly are…but of course they came home! Seeing them together, talking and laughing over buckets of beer, they become teens and twenties again. The tales they tell of their time in the south Atlantic don’t just tell the story of a chapter in the now updated history books, they weave a wonderful tapestry of the bonds that formed between them….their true personalities shine out through the stories of their antics, and stories of being fired upon are met with as much excitement and laughter as tales of their ‘runs ashore’. The fire of youth burns brightly in their eyes when they meet. One wonderful wife said that the first time she went to an ALACRITY reunion (15 years ago) she discovered a side of her husband’s personality she’d never seen before!

Fred is often the life and soul of a gathering but it’s a joy to see him with his old shipmates. I am also moved nearly to tears when Captain Chris Craig speaks a few words at these reunions….he opens my eyes to some of the events that ALACRITY was party to and reminds everyone how they pulled together as a crew, but also how very lucky they were to come homewhen others didn’t. He is so thankful and grateful to this unlikely bunch and there is so much mutual respect in the room that it’s impossible not to be drawn in….impossible not to realise that we make our own way in life but ultimately have no real control of our fate. It is also a powerful reminder that life can be fleeting and that, however strong and successful we have the potential to be as individuals, we are at our best when we are together. 

To the Ship’s companyof HMS ALACRITY, long may your brotherhood bond last and live on in the tales you tell.

#hmsalacrity

#falklandswar

#royalnavy

#simplythebest

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The doll with no soul

A beautiful young toddler had an extraordinary doll. The toddler was a happy little girl and the apple of her father’s eye. Without any siblings to while away her early childhood, she spent her days playing endlessly with her enchanting toy, playing games of make believe with the imaginary person within.

The doll was exquisitely dressed and looked very proud and proper. It had hauntingly dark eyes which stared out at nothing, and only the wryest of smiles. Never-the-less the little girl idolised her doll because it was her one and only doll. There was a tiny little clockwork key in the dolls back, and as the little girl grew she was able not only to cuddle the doll, but to turn the key.

When the little girl’s father was working long days and weeks away from home, the doll gave her comfort. When the key was turned the doll would simply, and calmly say, “There’s nothing like a sunny day”. As a toddler, and then a young child, the girl’s hopes and dreams were simple, uncomplicated. She loved the doll, no matter what it said.

As the little girl grew, and eventually became a young teen, the doll got relegated to a shelf in her bedroom. That said, she was still very sentimental about the doll she’d had all her life. If she ever got angry or upset, or had a bad day at school, she would pace about her room feeling frustrated and, when the doll caught her attention, out of the corner of her eye, she would snatch it off the shelf as though making a desperate attempt to finally have someone to air her grievances to. She would talk to the doll as if talking to herself out loud, as if to keep herself from bursting. Then, when drained by her emotions, and tears, she would look at the doll, slowly turn it over in her hand, wind the little key, and the familiar voice would say, “There’s nothing like a sunny day”. The phrase was utterly pointless and out of context, but the familiarity gave some comfort, although she knew that she had outgrown the doll.

As she flew through her teens and through the inevitable ups and downs of school and adolescence: parents, siblings, falling in and out with friends, and facing exams, she was fully embroiled in life and all its challenges. Faced with an intolerable day, friendship breakup, feud, or just thoroughly fed up, she would head for the sanctuary of her room, now almost unrecognisable with all the expected paraphernalia of teenage life. She would play her moodiest music to drown out her thoughts, or jump on her bed, slink under the duvet, and lose herself in a book. Occasionally she would feel so lost that she would sit back on her bed and gaze across the room as if in a trance, just lost in her thoughts. If her eyes fell upon the doll she would get up, take the doll slowly off the shelf and, collapsing back down on the bed she would sit with the doll in her lap. She’d stare at it and wonder why she still clung onto it, this toy she’d grown out of. By force of habit she’d turn the little key and, as faithfully as the first day she held her, the doll would softly say, “There’s nothing like a sunny day”. As ridiculous as the doll now seemed to her, it held many memories for the blossoming teenager, so slowly, as if reluctantly, she would place it back on the shelf.

Three years passed and the girl barely remembered her once treasured toy. It sat on the shelf, now partly obscured by trinkets, lipsticks, and snapshots of friends. The girl, now a beautiful young woman, was clattering about her room packing boxes and folding clothes. Three days of packing and folding and sitting on her suitcase and, finally, the job of mustering all her worldly possessions was complete. She paced back and forth in her stark looking room, keeping her eye on the window, knowing she’d soon be off.

The sound of an engine and a loud knock at the front door, and she knew her dad had arrived. She greeted him with hugs and smiles, filled with excitement (and a hint of mild terror) know she’d be moving into University in just a few short hours. They heaved the heavy boxes of books, bags of clothes, and crates of crockery and cooking utensils up and down the stairs to the car, until only one box remained. “It’s okay dad, I’ll get it”, the girl shouted across the pavement to her father as he loaded the car. she dashed upstairs, now exasperated by her excitement, and her emotions running high. She tripped as she rounded the landing into her room and smacked her elbow on the doorframe, skinning it immediately and leaving her wincing as the stinging sensation crept in. She stood there chastising herself for rushing, and walked slowly over to the box on her bed.

She sat on the bed, looked glumly at her elbow, then had a last minute rummage through the box. She didn’t expect to want anything from the box that she’d already filled with old trinkets and teddies for the charity shop. An old alarm clock with Winnie the Pooh on it, a poster of some, now completely cringe-worthy boy band! She lifted out a snoopy money box and saw the doll lying at the bottom. Glancing around the room, feeling nostalgic, and feeling the blood starting to trickle from her elbow, she turned the key one last time.

The voice was a little crackly but still recognisable: “There’s nothing like a sunny day.”

She sat in her jeans and trendy top, looking to a fly on the wall so beautiful, confident and ready to take on the world. She stared blankly at the doll and began to feel sad. How completely pointless! Why does it even say that?!….

As a child the doll had been a comfort, as a teen it had been familiar but distant and, as an adult, the doll held many memories but seemed now faded and old. She realised that the sentimentality had slipped away over the years as she’d needed her companion less and less. Faced with new challenges and a new life to look forward to, she placed the doll in the box, strode out of the room, and on to follow her dreams. She would always remember the doll, but she didn’t need it any more.

————–

Everyone has things they cling to in life, things that hold importance, things that they don’t want to let go.

Some of these stay with you, some will let you down, and some just fade away.

What matters is you and your journey……everything else is just trinkets and memories.