If this were the last episode of Friends, there would be a funny and touching retrospective now of all the best bits. We could laugh at how young they all looked at the beginning, different hair styles, dubious fashions, friendships and love affairs made and lost. Jobs and promotions won; others, like love affairs, lost too. Children born and grown; festivities planned and celebrated.
We got to love them, Joey, Rachel and Ross, Monica and Chandler. Like anything that runs for a long time, they become part of our lives and when the series ended, we all felt bereft for a while. What would we watch now? What would we talk about? Would Chandler and Monica live happily ever after?
So, you'll forgive me for being a little misty-eyed and allow me please, a smidgen of self indulgence when I try, similarly, in this the last episode of Alice Band, to recall the highlights of the last 11 years and say a few thank-yous.
Not one, but two surprise pregnancies; dirty weekends; balls, cocktail parties and fancy dinners; parades and passing outs; deployments and tours of duty; weekending it and living at home. It has been action packed and there have been significant people who have played a starring role and who must be acknowledged.
My beloved mother of course, who was so excited when I got this 'gig' and who religiously, every week, cut out my column from the WMN and stuck it in a scrap book and who passed the baton to my dear old dad, who has continued her efforts. The same beloved mother who travelled alone to America to help me when our fourth baby was due and who cooked and cleaned and looked after Hubby and the other three. The same beloved mother, who unbeknownst to us all only had weeks to live, and to my eternal regret for whom I was not there when she needed me most.
To Hubby, of course, without whom this way of life and therefore this diary, would not exist. A Navy wife or indeed a military wife is not the same as being a bog standard spouse. Our men go away for long periods and as soon as they do our children get bugs, our houses get leaks, white goods break down, cars blow up, we get ill, our loved ones die, pets become pests, money runs short. Sometimes simultaneously. Christmas must be planned though and nativities must be attended, ditto sports days, swimming galas and concerts. In short it is a never-ending catalogue of disasters and delight. A pendulum swing of ups and downs, which we must, generally speaking, face alone with fortitude and grit and failing that, the very best of friends and a monthly prescription of the best anti-depressants the NHS can buy. From the responses I received, I have not been alone in feeling like I have and I am very proud to have been given the voice for many other enduring women.
To my four fabulous children who have given me thousands of column inches and who, especially the first two, have borne with great resilience and good humour an unflinching exposé of their adolescence. Their education, friendships, welfare and well being have been my raison d'etre and yet, when I started this column back in 2000, I had only two young children. We lived in a modest bungalow and Hubby had got his first real promotion as a Naval Officer at the grand old age of 39. I wanted to mark the occasion. I thought it would mean first class travel and a lifestyle of perks. How innocent we all were then and how cut back and redundant we all are now.
To Mags who has been my staff and stay all these years and, when Hubby hasn't been here, she has. We have drunk inappropriate amounts of tea, coffee and wine together; eaten out when our bank accounts suggested we really shouldn't, laughed until we were dribbling and cried until we were ugly. She has advised, listened, harassed and banged on. She has child-minded when my marriage was in need of a life support system, has agreed with Hubby when I wouldn't but has always, always been unwavering in fighting my corner.
To my other friends too who have all played their part in supporting the family Band, feeding us, entertaining us, caring for us and rooting for us and who, at various times were privy to the heinously embarrassing scrapes that I've got into over the years and who are still happy to call themselves our friends.
To the Royal Navy for providing us with an excellent standard of living, adventures abroad and at home; for providing Hubby with a career that he was immensely proud to be part of and me, with an endless supply of stories and characters who I plundered, mercilessly.
We'll get over not being with each other every Saturday. Like 'Friends', something else will take its place. You may wonder did the Rock Star ever get into the Navy? Did the brainy one get into Oxford? Did the ten year old pass her 11+? Did the Red-Head ever toe the party line? And more pressingly, did Commander Band find another career that he loved as much as he did his beloved Royal Navy?
The adventure is far from over, but for now, in the words of Porky Pig – which is a rather unflattering final portrait of me – 'That's all Folks'.