By Debbie Jinks
On Friday 31st March 2017, we celebrated my mum and dad’s 50th Wedding Anniversary. They are now in their 70’s and it made me think back to my life as an Army child.
We were on the move a lot, a couple of years in one country then a couple of years in another. I have two sisters and it made us very close as the only long-term friendships we had were with each other. We never lived in one place for long enough to make the kind of friends you stay in touch with forever.
We were mainly posted in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Germany and of course the UK, where we were born. We lived in Germany on four separate occasions in various different areas.
I was a shy child, and going to twelve different schools in total didn’t help, but that’s what happens when you are a forces kid. Some of the postings were as short as one year so it made it almost impossible to make true bonds with the other children. My school work was affected too, as I could be halfway through learning a subject and then we were on the move again, not the best circumstances for studying on a regular basis.
But here I am sounding so negative when in fact I had a lot of exciting times, going to different countries, experiencing new cultures and getting to see some beautiful places. So let me tell you about some of them:
My dad was posted there four times so I got to know it well. It is a beautiful country with two main rivers, the River Rhine and the River Moselle. I remember having some wonderful camping holidays at both places. Sitting on the banks of the river with a great big ice cream dribbling down my hand as it melted. Or paddling in the water, even swimming when it was warm enough.
I have always been a dreamer and I would spend a long time just looking out at the water thinking about….well, anything really. Just enjoying the tranquillity and peace.
In fact, the last posting we had abroad was in Germany. I was a lot older then; I had a little job checking tickets at the cinema, ripping one half off as the people went in. I only earned pennies, but it felt good having a Saturday job and it helped with overcoming my shyness, too.
Another thing that helped even more were boyfriends! I was fourteen and a bit of a flirt; but a good girl too. My romantic encounters usually involved a quick snog and giggle.
Ahh, the innocence of youth! Well, mine anyway. I had my first serious crush on a German boy when I was there, and I was heartbroken when he went off with a local girl. I thought my heart might tear in two like the tickets at the theatre; it didn’t of course. I soon enough recovered and found another boy who was even cuter!
If I’m totally honest I don’t recall a lot about this country. I was very young, but I do remember we had a couple of cats, one of which was a big black and white thing with a curled up ear due to a fight he had undoubtedly started. He was a real bruiser, and any animal with a sense of self-preservation stayed well away!
We had a wild rose bush opposite our house which I loved the smell of and I used to sit by it in the warmth of the sunshine just inhaling the perfume it emanated.
Ireland was a very pretty place, and being a nature lover I enjoyed it most when we drove out into the countryside.
I had some great times in this country; it was when I first experienced horseback riding and I was hooked! I would go to the stables as often as I could, and when I first learnt to ride I didn’t care how many times I fell off, I just jumped back on and kept at it. I acquired a fair few bruises but eventually became a really competent rider, even entering and winning small riding and jumping competitions.
I remember I would spend most of my weekends helping to look after the horses. Grooming them, feeding them, and even mucking out their stables. I didn’t care it, was a labour of love! But also I got to ride a lot more too, as I was always “in the right place at the right time”.
I didn’t like the school I attended in Cyprus however, so at first it was almost like the horses were my friends. I did end up sharing some good bonds with the other kids who helped out and rode at the stables like me.
We lived in many different areas of England: in fact, I lived in an army house just down the road from where I live now.
One of the postings we had was to Reading, near Wiltshire. It was a nice place to live in and we often went to Bath, a beautiful spa town situated in Wiltshire. We also had a really big house (called a quarter) that felt like a palace to me. It had a huge garden and I would spend ages playing in it with my sisters. I also remember having my first ‘serious proper’ boyfriend whilst living there. He ended up being an idiot; but oh, well. You live and you learn.
Not only did I get my first ‘proper’ boyfriend in Reading, I also got my first ‘proper’ job. I worked in a vet’s practice. It felt like heaven to me, animals galore. The doctor treated both domestic and farm animals, so it made it a really interesting place to work.
I remember the vet himself being a bit of a hippie; he kept a goat who was a right character and I used to get to feed him and sometimes look after him. He was a bit grumpy and smelly but I didn’t care. The vet and his wife were a lovely couple; some of my fondest memories are of working for them.
We ended up with a kitten due to that job. A stray cat and her tiny brood were brought in by a passer-by. The mother didn’t have enough milk to feed all of them, as she wasn’t well. There was one very weak runt who probably wasn’t going to survive if he couldn’t get a regular supply of milk. That was when I became a kitten mummy, taking him home to bottle feed and rear until he was old enough to eat solids. We called the kitten “Sprout” as that was what his breathe smelt like due to the type of special powered milk we used to feed him. The things we do!
This was the last posting we had, as my dad left the army not long after, but it was a perfect way to end my life as an army kid. Even though it wasn’t always a bed of roses, I remember those times now with fondness. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to visit such a variety of countries at such a young age, and experience so much if my dad had worked in an everyday job, so I count myself lucky.
I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
Debbie is a UK girl who has been writing for approximately two years. She loves to sing and did that as a profession for 15 years. Although she still enjoys singing, her real passion in life now is writing. After suffering a head injury, which caused Debbie to lose her sense of smell and taste, (Anosmia), writing became a way of venting her frustration and anger from this life changing condition. She started to love writing especially when discovering how much satisfaction she got from it. She has now almost finished writing a short children’s storybook of prose, still at the illustration stage, and has also started on her first novel. She has two blogs, one covering different categories such as wildlife, music and nature. Her short stories are on there also. The other blog tells of her experiences with Anosmia.
In her spare time Debbie enjoys horse riding and growing chili peppers, the hotter the better! She also tries to practice mindfulness, as it clears her head and helps her to relax at the end of the day.