Today Dad talks about rats and other unwelcome residents at sea.  He also describes how food was disposed of from HMS Ocean.


Apart from the sailors there were other less welcome residents in our living space.  I mentioned earlier that we made coffee from our own supply.  The silk stocking was necessary to prevent coffee grounds going through.  There were weevils in the coffee and the filter prevented them going through too.

Each man had a small locker about 15 inches x 10 inches in a bank of such metal lockers on the bulkhead in which could be kept personal items.  These were homes to cockroaches.  Early in my work with rubber dinghies I had made for myself a folding pouch of rubber-ringed fabric in which compartments I kept toilet items such as soap, razor, toothbrush etc.  It was normal to find when I opened it several cockroaches would fall out.  They could not be eradicated and so you had to put up with their presence.  Of all insects, I disliked cockroaches the was

Another regular resident was the rat.  The air conditioning in the mess deck was pretty useless but nevertheless it was there in the form of overhead trunking about 18 inches wide and about 6 inches deep extending along the deckhead.

My particular hammock space was alongside this trunking so that when lying in my hammock my head was about level with and six inches from the top of the trunk.  It was not unusual to open your eyes and see a rat sat on the trunking looking you in the eye with its mates trotting along the top of the trunking.  The only thing to do was to shoo it along past someone else’s hammock space.  Food was never left about on the mess deck but as far as I know the ship just ignored the presence of rats.

Talking of food, when at sea at the end of each meal any excess food was put in a common container and the contents dumped overboard.  The only change in that routine was when we anchored in Malta.  Then at mealtimes Maltese people would be allowed to come on board carrying containers.  These they placed strategically about the mess decks and any excess food we had was placed in their containers which they took ashore.  The majority of the Maltese population were extremely poor and the food in the “gash bins” as we called them was taken to be eaten.

Food could never be dumped in harbour anywhere and could only be dumped at sea.



My daughter feels unsafe at school.

Regular readers will know that I share my thoughts and feelings on here.  Today I want to just present some facts to see what you think about a situation we are facing as a family.

We moved areas towards the end of April to a county about 200 miles from home so that my husband could take up a new job following redundancy.

We enrolled my daughter in the local school.  At first I thought she liked it as she skipped out with a smile on her face in the afternoon.

There was an incident where she said something truly awful to another girl.  She was disciplined both at school and at home.

She now reports that she does not want to go to school at all because she feels unsafe.

When I question her, she says she feels unsafe with some children and some adults.  She says the other girls tease her about her accent and her hair.

She feels she was forced to lie and say she had done something that she had not done because she was told that the girls who reported her were “trustworthy” by the teacher.  She tells me she knows that the teachers will always believe others over her.

We went in last week  when it became clear just how unhappy my daughter is at school.

We reported our concerns to reception and a teaching assistant came down and suggested she take our daughter to class.  We insisted on a discussion then and there.  She tried to have that conversation in the corridor so I asked to go somewhere private and we were taken to a room. We were told our daughter’s teacher was not available to see us as she was on playground duty. We were told our daughter is about the 5th new person to join the class and it is so close to the end of the school year.  We were told that the other pupils in the class were “trustworthy” and that my daughter had lashed out verbally at some of them.

I reported seeing an incident of teasing of my daughter myself as we arrived at the school and I was not asked for any details.

I emailed after this meeting asking for an appointment with my daughter’s teacher.   I again mentioned the teasing incident I had seen.  The appointment took place last night.  The teacher asked my daughter to describe her experience to date at the school.  My daughter shook and played with her hands saying little apart from some system changes that are different from at her other school.  The teacher said my daughter’s work is good and she has no problems with it.  The teacher said my daughter needs to improve her handwriting.

The teacher raised the incident of her saying something awful.  She told her she will just have to braver and make a friend or two.  She said my daughter had not raised an issue with her about teasing and added that the other girls in my daughter’s class were “nice”  I again said I had seen an incident of teasing of my daughter and again I was asked no questions about this.  In fact, very quickly she closed the conversation down saying she had another appointment.

I have asked the school for any suggested tools for moving the situation forward.  So far they have come up with that my daughter should have a good Summer break and then should come back and make some friends.

My daughter feels unsafe at school.

I would really welcome your thoughts on this one.

UnSafe At School




Today my Dad continues to describe life at sea including the drinks on offer, the sleeping arrangements and the operation of the anchor.

There was no fresh water on board.  All water aboard a ship as large as ours was extracted from sea water by a salination point on board.  There was a constant exhortation from the ship’s engineer to cut down the use of water as demand could otherwise exceed the capacity of the plant.

The water did not have a palatable taste.  Tea was the normal ship’s beverage but each mess tended to have a little stock of coffee grounds (instant coffee was unheard of) and coffee disguised the taste of the water.  We had no percolater and boiling water was poured on to the coffee and the grounds and the resultant coffee filtered through a silk (or nylon) stocking.

The only other source of drinks was when a small kiosk was manned by a supply rating open only in the early evening for about an hour when for a few pence you could buy a jug full of lime juice or orange juice.  Lime juice especially was recommended to combat the sweat you suffered from below decks in the heat and humidity of an enclosed mess desk.  Hence the US nickname for the English as Limies.

During the day you were required to wear normal Navy uniform or working dress at all times.  After 6pm unless you were on duty you could relax from this rule as a result o f which almost all lower deck men stripped to just a pair of shorts with maybe a cloth or a towel round the neck to soak up the sweat.

At 10pm over the Tannoy would come the order to “pipe down” which would be followed by “lights out” at 10.30pm.  This meant that you could not sling your hammock until 10pm and theoretically at least you had to be in it by 10.30pm.


Hammocks were slung between metal rails.  Each man’s hammock was only about a foot from the next.  The hammock had a wood lathe at the head and foot the width of a man’s shoulders; in the hammock was placed a mattress and there was a blanket to cover you (all part of your kit) There was no pillow and no sheets (those were for the softies in the RAF).

To get in the hammock required an agile leap by holding onto the rail and swinging your body up and sideways into the hammock.  Once in the hammock, it was quite comfortable.  There you stayed until reveille the next morning.

It was a regulation again that mean must sleep wearing vest and underpants in case of fire but this was mainly ignored.

Lights out at 10.30pm meant that the main lights went out but there were pilot lights dotted around as of course men would be passing through the ship as part of their night duties and in harbour would be returning from evening leave.

The hammock provided a counter against the rolling motion of the ship when at sea in that the hammock retained its centre of gravity whilst the ship was leaning first to the left and then to the right.  The hammock was no counter to the pitch and toss of the ship i.e. when it first buried its bows into a wave and then lifted up to the next wave.  Being quartered up in the bows on the ship this movement was felt at its greatest.  The ship’s bow would rise to whatever the height of the approaching wave (sometimes as much as 15-20 feet) but then would descend on the other side as if the ship’s bow was coming down giant staircases with a huge shudder down every step.  All loose items would rattle in unison.

Another of the ship’s functions were apparent to us members of the 805 squadron mess deck were the raising and lowering of the anchor.  The ship’s anchor chains (there were two anchors in the bows) consisted of links maybe 18 inches x 12 inches and as thick as a man’s arm.  When the anchor was raised into its normal located position, the anchor chain was retained in the bowels of the ship.  Bear in mind that the anchor chain or cable to give it its proper title was several hundred feet in length.  When the ship dropped anchor the anchor cable paid out from below at a fast speed.  As it passed through our mess deck it was encased in a chamber on the bulkhead only a few feet from where we slept.  The noise was thunderous as the chain rocketed upwards.  Entry to this chamber was forbidden as the chain plunged from side to side as it paid out.

The reverse process was only marginally quieter.  When this took place three seamen entered the chamber with long leather straps.  They stood round the aperture through which the descending chain links would go albeit that the capstan above raised the heavy weight of the paid out chain and anchor at a slower pace, and alternately by use of the straps guided the chain through the hole in the chamber.  This was a dangerous process as each link (shackle) weighed over a hundredweight.  At the same time the mean were being sprayed with water as the cable paid in.  Up on the cable deck other men would be washing the paying in chain to remove seaweed and other debris.

I watched Grant Feller on Lorraine today talking about what he has lost since becoming a stay at home dad about 12 months ago.

He is missing that essence of himself and I am missing me.



I empathise so much but I am not sure that is allowed when you are a mum.  For some reason, there seems to be an expectation that you knew what you were getting into and should put up and shut up when you are a female parent.

Yesterday, I asked for help with the housework again.  Once again, my husband claimed that he “does his bit” and “mucks in”.  The children all proved most reluctant and my daughter has a tantrum about me asking her to put away the clothes she had tipped all over her bedroom floor.  So I shouted at her because sometimes it all gets too much.  And then I hated myself.

In no way am I a strict disciplinarian.  We have a handful of rules probably but all too often even basic requests go ignored or forgotten.

What is really wrong?  Why does it sometimes get to me quite so much?

Who knew that a bloke would sum it up nicely?  I do find the whole stay at home mum thing cripplingly boring a lot of the time.  Self-loathing is around a fair bit too as I see how very much I have let myself go.  I am fat.  I should get a grip.  I don’t look after myself how some other women do.  Where are my lovely jazzy jackets and long skirts of yesteryear?  I dress dowdily most of the time and I hate it.  But as I am largely a nothing in the world, what is the point in dressing up?  Who am I trying to kid?

I played out last week as I had an appointment about voluntary work.  I put on a Monsoon dress.  I felt I looked good.  I took time out to eat, people-watch and read.  It made me feel so much better in myself.

So why did I decide to become a stay at home mum?  I was made redundant in 2005 and realised that childcare juggling with 3 children and two careers was becoming too stressful so thought I might give the stay at home mum thing a go. I have worked since that in a short-term job and now do freelancing.   I like the work but I miss seeing people.

What was I like when I went out to work?  I loved working to targets and if they were not tight setting my own ones to meet.  I enjoyed helping people particularly those in real need.  I liked giving them hope.  I was resourceful reaching out to organisations across three sectors to see how mutually beneficial relationships could be forged.  I loved working with volunteers too encouraging them to see the very real potential they had even though they often lacked confidence.  I enjoyed having banter and giggles with other staff.

What did I do?  Advice work, media relations, partnership working, volunteer and staff management, fundraising, promotion of goods, services and concepts, designing and delivering training and project management.  There was always something going on and it felt like I was making a difference.

I know you are not supposed to say it but the putting out of the uniforms, the nagging about homework, the endless housework and so on really does not satisfy me any where near as much.  Then I feel so guilty about feeling that way and think I was wrong to become a mother.  These fabulous children so bright, caring and comical have come to me and got the short straw.

I thank goodness for blogging and social media because without those routes into a real world even if mainly online, I think I would give up the ghost.

I think of my late Mum.  I can’t ever really remember noticing how nice the house looked as a child.  I was expected to help with cleaning most days and I did it because I would not have dared to question my Mum in the way my children do me.  I used to leave loads of stuff under my bed and she used to go mad about it.  I understand that now.

Mum was I think deeply frustrated about what she could not access.  She said she thought she might have made a good politician and anyone who knew her would agree.  She had such a strong sense of social justice and was a doer who got on with things.  She was good with words too.

When I was little and especially in teenage years, I used to get mad with her because she would not look for positive and interesting opportunities for herself.  I used to beg her to join the University of the Third Age for example.  But by then she had written herself off as just a housewife. Maybe you get into the habit of being just the person who mops us everyone else’s mess?!

I am supposedly intelligent.  I have some vaguely useful work experience.  So why do I find it so hard to work out how to make my life that bit or preferably a lot more fulfilling.

Things did change for my mum.  I think it all started when her sister asked her to go to bingo with her at the Nash.  I remember Mum asking Dad’s permission.  I do that all the time with my husband as if it is up to him to allow me to do things.  That is a big one for leading me to loath myself.  Answering to a man – whatever happened to Kate?  Anyway, Mum went one night and liked it.  Then she went every week and learned that people liked her.  She want on a few girlie weekends to London.  She got involved in older people’s clubs and being Mum ended up leading most of them.  She started going on holidays with groups dragging Dad along with her.  He never had her need for friends.  She was his friend and he was happy with that.

The trouble is I don’t have a sister to ask me along to the bingo or anything else.  I find it difficult pushing myself forward unless I already have something to hide behind like a job title.

I ask my husband to help me but he says there is nothing to stop me getting out and going for what I want.  He is right of course but he does not understand.  I would like him to get behind my relaunch on the world in the same way as I have got behind him when he has faced redundancy and in other ways.  I think I would be a much more attractive person if I was doing and seeing more even if only to myself.

I feel I need a friend like Auntie Margaret was to Mum saying “Hey, it’s time you got a bit of a break” and checking in to see how I am doing and making sure that I am moving forwards positively.

I remain annoyed with myself.  I know what is wrong but I am not doing enough to fix it and I can’t even explain why.




Today Dad shares memories of the Navy and rum.


Every morning at 11am came the long awaited pipe over the tannoy of “Up Spirits” when as far as possible every member of the mess contrived to be present when one man was detailed to take over the ubiquitous galvanised bucket and dash along the part of the ship where an officer was supervising the rum issue.

The exact number of tots to equate with the number of men in the mess who were entitled i.e. over 20 years of age was measured into the bucket and the collector “the rum bosun) hurried back.

Back at the mess the rum tots were carefully measured out under the supervision of the Leading Hand of the mess to each man entitled.  The process was watched with a keen eye by every recipient to make sure that it was measured meticulously.

It was illegal to store your rum and it was supposed to be drunk on receipt which mostly it was but it was sometimes stored for a special occasion.  Woe betide a sailor who was caught storing his rum supply.  Neither could it be traded although if a man had a birthday his tot would be augmented by a small drop out of each of his mates’ rum.  (known as “slippers”)

During that year there was an incident on HMS Ajax where twin sailors had a 21st birthday and consumed so much rum that both died.  This resulted in a signal from the Admiral reinforcing the rule of no sharing and not storage of rum which was obeyed for a short while.

There was no other form of alcohol available to the lower deck as all crew who were not officers were known.  Navy ships were dry ships but as ever there was an exception to this rule.  Alcohol was available to officers.  There was no limit to how much alcohol an officer consumed.  This disparity between officers and men on the lower deck was accepted as part of life  I did not come across any resentment about this.

Inevitably after a run ashore, some members of the lower deck tried to bring alcohol back on board.  It was not easy to get away with because for the most part returning on board involved a motor boat journey to the ship to the only boarding point which was by way of a Jacob’s ladder thus any bottle of booze stood in danger of falling out of a jumper into the sea.

On reaching the boarding deck, one had to stand and salute in the presence of an Officer of the Watch, a Duty Petty Officer, a Master-at-Arms and sundry others who recorded each man’s name and handed him his Watch Card which was in effect his identity card.  This system ensured that the ship knew when everyone was aboard and would also identify who, if any, were missing.

With all this scrutiny (and there was a light to search) it would be near impossible to smuggle any booze on board.  If caught the culprit was put straight in cells and subsequently punished.   So much for alcohol or the absence thereof.  The same applied to tobacco.

Incidentally there is a sequel to the returning aboard system.  Sometimes you bought things maybe a souvenir but if you could not carry it up the Jacob’s ladder you lost it to the motor boat’s crew.

Drastically, if you were too drunk to climb the Jacob’s ladder (there were always two or three) you remained in the motor boat until all others had climbed and then the ship’s crew would be called into play and would lower a wire net into which the incapable seaman would be bundled, raised to the flight deck and conveyed straight to cells.

Officers came aboard by the much more genteel fashion of climbing a gangway to the quarterdeck (at the rear of the ship).  There was a strict separation between officers and men.  Officers were quartered at the rear of the ship.  The lower deck was forward.  There was no access by a lower deck man to the quarterdeck.