Today my Dad describes life aboard HMS Ocean Royal Navy including cooking duties, lack of privacy and leisure activities.


The highest rank in a ratings mess was Leading SeamanPetty Officers and Officers were berthed in a different part of the ship.  A Leading Seaman was in charge of each mess and it was his responsibility to maintain discipline and see that the mess ran smoothly.  The Leading Seaman of our mess was a dour Scot with about 12 years service called Tom Baird.

There was a large cook house further to the rear of the ship and a deck down.  The Leading Seaman of the mess would allocate two men each day to be responsible for fetching the meal.  The mess had two galvanised buckets and these were taken to the cookhouse and the men were allocated the correct amount of food for the number of men in each mess.  The food would be carried up one deck through several compartments to the starving men at the table.  Each man has his own knife and fork, plate and cup ad the two men on duty that day would apportion the food.  Woe betide them if any man got less than his neighbour, therefore the cooks of the day would be very careful to avoid any favouritism as another two men would have that duty the next dy.  The job was done on rotation.

Breakfast, for example, was a bucket of porridge and the other bacon contained eggs, bacon, sausage and whatever else.  Bread was drawn from a storeroom beneath our mess deck, distribution supervised by a Stores Officer.  Tea was provided loose and could be mashed at a tap in the bulkhead with provided boiling water.

When breakfast was finished the two cooks of the mess for the day would wash up, plates, cup, utensils and buckets with boiling water from the tap.  Then they would scrub down the table and benches and then the floor using the same buckets until they sparkled (and so did the buckets) until it passed the Leading Seaman’s scrutiny.

The next thing the cooks would do was collect a bucket full of potatoes from a potato store sufficient for one meal for 12 men.  They would scrape and wash the potatoes and have them at the ship’s galley in time for them to be boiled or roasted/mashed along with potatoes from every mess in the ship ready for dinner to be served in the same way as breakfast.

At 4pm the store on the deck below would be opened and each mess could draw a loaf of bread and a soup plate full of either treacle, jam or honey for tea but this could only be eaten as far as one’s duties would allow.  Either one slipped down to the mess for a quick bit or you waited until such time as your work schedule was completed.

On squadron duties a man’s work time was governed by the flying schedule and sometimes this went on long into the evening or even involved night flying.  During all flying times either Sam or I had to be available at take-off and landing so we had to take it in turns to go below to our mess for a meal.  The same applied to all squadron ratings.

Supper was another hot meal dealt with on the same basis as lunch and was had at 6.30pm.

Thereafter subject to flying times and subject to other duties, was devoted to leisure.  There was no activity beyond the mess deck apart from walking along the exposed boat deck or on to the flight deck if there was no flying.

Clothes could be washed in the shower room just beyond the after bulk head.  There were no drying facilities as such clothes could be hung on the boat deck when at sea.

Toilets known as Heads were located in the 816 Squadron area.  A row of urinals and some wash basins formed one side and a row of about 10 toilet cubicles opposite.  Cubicles is a misnomer in that the dividing partitions and doors were only 3 feet high thus when you wanted to use the toilet you could see which ones were occupied by the row of heads along the line.  In ship board life privacy did not exist.

Cards was a popular pastime but it was illegal to play for money or to gamble in any way.  We tended to play for matches as cigarettes the recognised trading currency were looked upon as money.  The result was that you played for matches so that if anyone in authority came through the mess it would appear innocuous. As the end of a card sessions, matches would be exchanged for cigarettes.

Crown and Anchor was a Navy game and was strictly forbidden.  One or two men had a Crown and Anchor sheet (rather than a board) and there was always a lookout to give warning of approaching authority when the sheet and dice and money could be swiftly swept up and hidden until danger passed.  Crown and Anchor was not a game that interested me or for that matter any of the members of our particular mess.

PrintGrin and bare it.  That is what I am doing today as I share my reasons to be cheerful.

1.  We have introduced earlier bedtimes which means we are getting slightly more time together as a couple so we remember who we are.

2. I managed to put something approaching an Egyptian costume together for my son for school at very short notice.  You may think it involved a big girl’s blouse and a scarf from the Eighties but I couldn’t possibly comment.  The genuine pendant and chain from my brother’s holiday in Egypt set it all of nicely.

3. I had Eggs Benedict in town the other day at a lovely café in the square ideal for people-watching.  Also spent some time sitting on a bench and reading the wonderful Judas Scar and you can read my book review.

4.  I attended an appointment about volunteering and think I can be of use to the organisation concerned.  I think I may have babbled on too much, one of the inevitable consequences of spending way too much time on my own.

5. I reached out to someone I thought might have fallen out with me.  It was just my imagination so all is resolved now.

6. Did I mention I am going to France next Friday?  I am looking forward to some proper relaxation with fine food and wine and sunshine.

7. I have written about feminism and hairy legs on the blog this week.  Too often, I don’t end up sharing opinion pieces on the blog and I want to do more of this type of stuff.

8. I am really enjoying Instagram and also looking through old photographs full of magical memories.  I also bared all leg wise on Instagram because I can.

9. A naval historian has kindly offered to check over my Dad’s memoirs in case I am mis-reading the handwriting and getting place names and technical stuff wrong.  Also the association for people involved in Safety and Survival have said they will promote the memoirs.  This is so important to me.  I want to see Dad’s stories getting to the people who will find them of interest.

10. We had a brief meeting in school and are having another to move matters forward about my daughter who has not settled in and is being very verbal about her views of the other staff and pupils.  I am worried but at least we are communicating and trying to move things forward.

11. The children have gone to after-school club this week because I just don’t cope very well in this heat.  I am pleased that my husband understands that and puts in place the things I need.

12. We have finally had my teen son’s options confirmed again after taking action and chasing it up.  He is not getting all the ones he wants but there is still a good balance and I am looking forward to supporting him in the next school year.

13. I have picked up some Ebay bargains just in time for pay day.  These include a folding table and chairs for our tiny kitchen, two leather look chairs and footstools for the lounge and a storage thing for homework and school letters.

14. I have enjoyed more time on Twitter and connecting with bloggers in various ways.

Au revoir and all that!




Do you shave your legs? Have you heard of the Hairy Legs Club?

There is a new social media thing going on where women are posting pictures of their unshaven legs.  Other women are saying they would never do such a disgusting thing.

I am confused.

And then the fun began...

I have shaved my legs probably less than 10 times in my entire life.  From the way people are going on, you would think that I would need to plait my leg hairs or put them in bobbles.  It is a wonder I am not tripping up my long leg hairs as I walk down the street.

On the occasions I have shaved my legs, the motivation has come from trying to please a bloke or trying to avoid judgement from other women.  Since I have never felt the need to ask a bloke to shave his legs, why should I shave mine?  If women judge me harshly merely based on hairs on my legs, I think that is really sad.

If you do shave your legs and get something for you out of doing so great.  If you don’t that is equally fine by me.  It is your body after all.

Part of what bothers me is the language used when this topic is discussed.

The female presenter used the word “brave” about people who leave their legs unshaven.

Brave means ready to face and endure danger or pain.  Shaving can cause pain.  What real pain or danger applies if we don’t shave our legs?  So no I don’t think being hairy is brave.

Brave people for me are those who take on real challenges or keep on keeping on when life throws curveballs their way.

Only 18 per cent of the people joining in the ITV This Morning survey said they would “dare” to not shave.  The word dare is linked to the word courage which involves facing fear.

So what frightens some women into shaving their legs?  Anything? If you know, can you leave a comment so that I can understand.

So now you know if you did not do so before that I am “disgusting” but that must also mean that I am so very brave and daring that I am due some Pride of Britain type award right?


1. Men won’t fancy you if you have hair on your legs

2. You will never get on in a job or in blogging if you don’t shave

3.  You will never have friends if you don’t shave your legs.

4. People will constantly verbally or physically abuse you for not shaving your legs

5. When we meet, I always look at your legs

Not that brave then after all!









hmsoceanmpl806Today Dad finally joins HMS Ocean aircraft carrier fulfilling his wish to serve at sea.

I joined ship in Marsaclok via a Jacob’s ladder from the ship’s boat.  Like everyone else my gear was hoisted aboard in a wire net by the ship’s crew.  First of all I had to find out where I was meant to live whilst aboard.  I followed the others along the decks and down ladders until we reached the 805 Squadron mess deck.  This located, I had to go back to the flight deck to collect my gear which consisted of my large kitbag, hammock, tool box and quite unofficially a suitcase containing all that I had bought to eventually take home with me.  This mainly consisted of tinned food which could be bought in Malta at that time whilst people in England were that on wartime rations.

Sam Turner was already aboard and I joined him on the mess deck for a pot of tea, a fag and a natter.  The mess deck was right in the fore part of the ship, two decks below the flight deck.  It occupied the full width of the ship about 40 feet wide at that point and was roughly square except that it occupied three sides of a structure that housed the ammunition conveyor mechanism to the deck above where the ship’s anti-aircraft guns were located.

A rough drawing shows the layout.

It must be borne in mind that wherever there was access through compartments or between decks via ladders there was a sealable hatch which meant that the door or hatch cover when closed was capable of being fastened by a series of handles around the edge which could be operated from either side.  Ship safety meant that some hatches were closed all the time so that to pass from one compartment to another one had to unfasten the door handles and refasten them after you.

A warship consists of a number of watertight compartments so that when at sea all hatches between decks and between one compartment and the next were left closed in this manner.  A bulkhead is an integral metal wall across the ship’s hull extending from floor to ceiling (deck to deck head in naval parlance) and the watertight doors provide the only way to pass from compartment to compartment.

Within our Squadron’s compartment (mess deck) were two rows of tables and benches, three on each side i.e. one port and one starboard.  Each table with a bench on either side was about 12 feet long and 3 feet wide.  Each table had a mess number and accommodated 10-12 men.  Here one lived; mealtimes you sat 5 or 6 on each side of the table.  Here you wrote letters, kept your clothes clean and pressed, smoked, talked or read.  When it came time to sleep hammocks had to be strung from rails across the deck head above.  A bank of small lockers was where you kept your belongings such as they were.

The F word as in Feminism seems to cause some women so much angst and I struggle to work out why.   I became aware of the word in the mid-to-late Eighties.  It seemed to involve women getting or fighting for a positive deal and as a big fan of fair play, I was ready to sign myself up to the cause.

I did not burn my bra but I hated it then and now.  I was apparently seen by some as sexually confident when hanging loose but the truth was I have sloping shoulders and just got bored of keep pulling up the straps.  I did join a women’s group at college and eventually became Women’s Officer to ensure that women’s views were heard by the college authorities (women were very much in the minority at my college).

There was a session on women’s voices in media at BritMums Live.  Helen from Actually Mummy, one of the speakers wrote a blog post about it.  She explained how the following tweet gave her confidence to share her vision.


Women can be intelligent even when wearing tiaras.

— Claire Evans (@claireyfairey) June 20, 2014

Absolutely.  Women can be intelligent whatever they are wearing or not wearing for that matter.  Equally, some women may not be intelligent and/or may struggle to express their wants and needs particularly with those in power – employers, landlords, benefit agencies, the police and other organisations.  In the domestic arena, some will find it tough to get a fair deal in the home.  And some will die.

As an advice worker, I saw so many vulnerable women up against the authorities and who had made rash decisions “because I love/d him”   Any yes, I have seen the bruises and the emotional damage to female victims of physical and sexual abuse.

Feminism should never be merely a dinner party conversation or a specialism in a career.  That is a further abuse to those who are suffering. There are vital changes to be made if we are truly to feel proud of the society in which we live.

I do feel we should challenge men who act badly as women, men and as a society at a whole.  If I quote statistics on matters such as crime that make some men (and women) feel uncomfortable, if I think it is for the greater good I will keep on doing so.

I do think that if women are to be understood and heard, it would be helpful to see more of them in politics, business and the media.  I also feel think those women who have made that journey could do a lot for themselves and others by offering mentoring to others.

Blogging and social media give women the opportunity to have their say on topics that matter to them.  We can learn from each other too and it strikes me that sharing not only our story but those of others can be such a powerful force for change.  Which certainly makes me want to press those share buttons more often now that I have thought it through. Let’s share our truths and then those who do have power can make the right choices for a fairer world from an informed position.

Working together and supportively for a better world knowing that women are a valuable part of that world – now that’s what I call feminism.

Agree or disagree? – leave a comment and then I can start to understand your voice too.











Mum Muddling Through