Margaret Turner's Letter
Brian Turner (Artist)
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A Model Widow
by Margaret Turner.
Written in 2011
I’ve been married for thirty-five years and for half of those years my husband, Brian, has spent most evenings, until 9.00 p.m. working on an intricate model of the warship HMS Superb.
Yes, that is many hours of knitting, alone, in front of the telly.
I actually clocked up a thousand jumpers for Oxfam. I, also, finished a creative writing course, and had a stab at portrait painting as well.
Phew! you might say – but being a ‘model widow’ you have to do something!
At first I found it difficult, and a little embarrassing. My friends would say ‘How do you stick your husband being in the shed most evenings?’ and I’d try to make light of it with a joke ‘At least I know where he is of a night!’
It could be construed that your husband was selfish, but I saw it differently. At least he was at home, not down the pub every night.
The way I handled it, was by learning different crafts myself.... and it worked.
When the model was finished I must admit to being somewhat relieved.
However, when Brian said the living room was the only place big enough to put it I was aghast! I just couldn’t imagine what our friends, and relatives would say. But I needn’t have worried, because my versatile husband fitted the ship, and glass case, into a long cabinet and it looked very impressive.
My niece, freelance journalist Karen Foy, did an article on the ship. We were contacted by nearby neighbour Alan Harmer, who had served on the Superb.
‘How frustrating’ Brian said to Alan when he called to look at it. ‘You could have given me advice when I needed it’.
He was a member of the H.M.S. Superb society and, after he had viewed the ship, let the organisation know, and, eventually, there was a steady stream of matelots who had served on the ship calling at the house to take a look.
I was beginning to enjoy watching the reactions of the different men, from all over the country, who visited us, and how awestruck they looked as they viewed my husband’s handy work. They would point, with tear in eye, to say they had stood, or worked, on the ship, and they were totally ‘blown away’ because this had been their home for a couple of years, and, in some case, many years.
When the Superb Association, based in Chatham, found out about the ship I was thrilled, because they made my husband an associate member, and every year we are invited to their reunion, which is held down there.
When he was sixteen my husband wanted to be a sailor, but was turned down because of weak eyesight. Now he feels that his ship has made him, in a way, a participant of the life he so yearned to be part of. For me the, sometimes, lonely existence was well worth it in the end, as it has opened up a whole new world for me. I get to meet up with my friend Joan, Alan’s wife, and all the other sailor’s wives too.
We love the reunion weekend at the King Charles Hotel Chatham. The great food, cabaret, dancing and sing-a-longs. Hearing all the tales of the men who have served on the ship, and laughing at their banter with their wives. The thing that struck me, they are proud of their husbands having served on H.M.S. Superb and, like me, understand the value of supporting husbands with their interests