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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

How many more days for Jason to endure?

Jason had had enough of waking up each morning in the cold and damp caravan that he lived in with his mother. He wondered how many more days would start this way. It had been fifteen months already.

They lived there not through choice but through necessity. They had no where else to live now. Things had been so very different when Andy, his older brother, was alive.

He was tired of their 18 feet by 10 feet home that consisted of a lounge-diner, kitchen area and his mother's bedroom. He slept in the lounge on a bed made up of the dining table top wedged between the bench seats on either side of it. Unlike his mother he didn't have sheets and blankets for his bedding but had to make do with a sleeping bag. This had to be stored in the bench seat when his bed space became the lounge again. If the weather was good he would put the bag outside to air, if not it was hidden straight away.

After using the chemical toilet in the shed, that was behind the caravan, the next important morning task was to collect water, for washing and breakfast, from the single stand pipe at the edge of the field. In the winter 'Jack Frost' would often block the pipework with ice.

Although they didn't have running water in the van there was a meagre electricity supply that allowed them to use two heaters, one for each end of the space, but only on a medium setting if both were in use. They had to be careful as the supply was via a 30-feet long 13 amp extension lead that started in the garage of the cottage; the owner of the cottage also owned the field; travelled through the air via two poles, over the toilet shed roof, entering the van through the sky light. If the heaters weren't switched on then the electric kettle could be used for hot water for washing, otherwise the kettle on the two ring bottled-gas stove sufficed. That is unless the temperature was too low outside and the gas couldn't flow fast enough.

Jason thought that it was wrong that he should have to live like this. It wasn't his fault, or his dead brother's, that he and his mother had no other home to live in. It wasn't his or Andy's choice to move to the isolated village, four and a half years previous, so their mother could live with the current man in her life. It wasn't their fault that that episode was short lived.

Although the view of the countryside from the caravan, perched in the top corner of the south-west facing field on the side of the valley, and the walks through the valley and the nearby woods were fantastic, he did not believe they outweighed the poverty of his living conditions. He didn't think that an 18-year-old, who had gained reasonable grades in his secondary education qualifications, started work in his first job, should accept his life as it was. It was the swinging 60s for the world apparently, but not for him.

He had often asked himself why he had stayed there with his mother for so long after Andy left. There was no life in the village for a teenager and one of his only two local friends was moving on soon. He had reached the conclusion it stemmed from family loyalty. But, it seemed to him that this had been a one-way commitment from him over the last few years.

That was the deciding factor which lead to his decision to take the change in his life into his own hands to give himself a better future: Better living conditions: better career prospects: better social life: better chance of finding a partner for a future happy family life. Not too much to ask.

When Jason awoke that fateful morning he knew that it would start in the usual way, but as the day progressed it would become the life-changing turning point he had been looking forward to. It was a decision he had taken on his own. A move of his choice that his mother would have to accept.

He kept to his normal workday routine, although a little slower because of the cold weather, as if he was going to his job for the usual start time. But he wasn't. He had a very important appointment at 10:00 am. He arrived ten minutes early: he couldn't afford to be late. The previous interviews he had attended, and the education tests taken, had gone well. Nevertheless he was nervous about what would happen as he didn't want to say the wrong thing and embarrass himself.

Thirty minutes later his life had changed. The attestation ceremony had been completed. Her Majesty's Forces now had a new member. Jason was now Private Jason Freeman.

He went to his civilian job for the rest of the day, and the last three days of the week to finish his notice period that he gave the week before.

When he returned to the caravan that night he told his mother he had joined the Army and would be reporting for duty at the training camp at 11:00 hrs. the following Monday. There was no need for discussion: his decision had been made. There was no altruism of allegiance to Queen or Country in his decision, but self preservation. There was no need for justification on his part.

Only six more nights and five more days living in the cold and damp caravan. He was moving into barracks with a bed space of his own, hot and cold running water, and flush toilets. A new career lay ahead, new friends and new opportunities. His life moved on for the better in many ways.

He never returned to a life in the caravan.

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