Ronald Basil Girdler

1925 - 2017

Helene Girdler

1927 - 2020

My Marriage

By now we had decided to get married, but I can't remember whether Ron asked me or whether it just occurred to both of us. We both knew that there would be a good deal of opposition to the match from both families. Mum said that although she thought Ron was a very nice chap, he was nevertheless not Jewish, and that could cause a lot of trouble in the future. I felt I knew Ron better than she did and I was convinced that the difference in religions would not become an issue. Having experienced Roman Catholicism at school and Judaism at home I had by this time lost all faith in religion of any kind, so it seemed a non-issue to me. I can only guess what Ron's family felt about it but we went ahead anyway. Ron never made a formal request to Dad; in fact the first thing they knew of it was when I showed Mum and Dad my engagement ring. They accepted the situation and much to my surprise did not argue about it again. We fixed the date for September 1st 1951.

Ron got a job in the research labs of Roche Products Ltd. a pharmaceutical company in Welwyn Garden City. Much against my and his mother's wishes he bought a motor-bike to get to work. It was a 250cc. Hunter Red Ariel I remember, and he never succeeded in getting me onto it. I thought it was a horrible monster but it was essential for his journey to work. I think he enjoyed riding it in the summertime but he came off it several times in the winter when the roads were icy. There were no such things as crash helmets either.

We had very little money and we had some difficulty in saving enough for a deposit on a house. However we eventually found a two-bedroomed semi-detached house with a small garden in Colindale, at 2, Rookery Close, about a 10 minute walk from Ron's parents’ house. It was in a small cul-de-sac and had a factory at the bottom of the garden and a laundry opposite, but the road was lined with flowering cherry trees and was very quiet. The house had been built in the thirties and had a reasonably sized kitchen which had space for a table and chairs as well as a white stone sink, electric cooker and anthracite-burning Ideal boiler and a free-standing kitchen cabinet with drop-down flap with enamel top. There was a sitting-room with a fireplace and the main bedroom had a fitted electric fire. There was also a bathroom with toilet, The house was priced at £1850 and we could not have afforded the 10% deposit, or the cost of floor-covering and furniture, without the help of Ron's parents who took out a second mortgage of £400 on their own house which we undertook to repay in four years. Mum and Dad gave us the kitchen table and chairs and a sewing machine from the workroom; on the morning of the wedding Mum came into my bedroom with £50 in her hand and gave it to me as a wedding present. This was a lot of money in those days and it must have taken them ages to save it. It was sufficient to buy two Parker Knoll armchairs, which are still in use in 1992, albeit several times re-covered.

The wedding reception was to be at home and Mum had somehow managed to obtain some chickens - food was still very severely rationed - and only the two families were to be there as well as a close friend of Ron's Mum, and a friend of John's and his wife who had become family friends. There was some difficulty over who we were to ask, as it was a "mixed marriage" and we were to be married in a Registry Office. Mum felt that we could not ask relatives as they would not approve of such a marriage, but she insisted that I write to aunts and uncles explaining the situation. She probably thought that they would think it was a "shotgun wedding" if I had not written; she also hoped they would send us wedding presents but none were forthcoming. Apart from a wickerwork Lloyd Loom bedroom chair from Ron's parents, a jug and glasses set from Peggy and Gordon, a tea set from John's friends, a bread board and knife from Shirley, a set of stainless steel cutlery from Barbara and Leslie, a set of glass fruit dishes and a fruit bowl from two of Ron's cousins and one or two small items from friends, the rest of the family gave us money, which we certainly were in need of. Ron was earning £450 a year and I was getting £6 a week!

On Friday August the 31st 1951, the day before the wedding, as Ron was returning from work at Welwyn Garden City on his motor bike, a baker's van came out of a side turning without stopping and hit Ron broadside on. He was seen by witnesses to "fly through the air" and landed on the opposite side of the road with his head hitting the kerbstone. He was not wearing a helmet -nobody did in those days- and he was knocked unconscious. He was taken by ambulance to Barnet General Hospital. I received a telephone call from a doctor at the hospital informing me of what had happened. I remember I had just washed my hair and Mum was putting the finishing touches to the food preparations.

I was in something of a daze and John came with me to the hospital where on our arrival we were told that Ron had just been taken to Theatre to be stitched up. John went into Theatre to watch what needed to be done. It appeared that there were no bones broken but seven stitches were required to a deep wound above the left eyebrow. We waited to see him on his return to the ward when he was still drowsy and it became obvious that he would be unable to continue with the wedding as planned. There was a good deal of cancellation of bookings to be done including Registry Office appointment and honeymoon arrangements. We had booked accommodation at a

hotel in Port Isaac in Cornwall. What Mum did with all the food she had prepared I do not know. I had of course taken two weeks leave from the Path lab which I now did not require, so I rang the chief technician and asked if I could postpone my leave and return to work in the meantime, but he refused even though I had explained the circumstances of my request. At that time we had only two weeks leave per year so it would have meant I would not have been able to take any time off later. I was very upset and rang the Pathologist who had been very helpful to me in the past. She was most sympathetic, and having had a word with the chief, rang me back to say that all was well and I could return to work and take my leave whenever we were able to re-arrange the wedding.

Ron was discharged from hospital on the Monday following the accident and I found him to be still somewhat dazed and sleepy for several days. He had an enormous bruise around his eye and a large abrasion on his left cheek. I sat by his bedside whilst he drifted in and out of sleep until his mother told me I should leave. However by the end of the week he was feeling much better and we decided to make plans for the following Monday - 10 days after the original date. Everything then had to be arranged in a hurry; Ron couldn't even find carnations for the button-holes and had to make do with white chrysanthemums instead! I didn't think John would be able to get time off at short notice as he was working as a houseman at a hospital in Guildford and I regret now that I didn't give him the opportunity to try, but I thought at the time that he wasn't interested in such sentimental and conventional events as weddings. I could have been wrong. However the event did take place on Monday September 10th. 1951. It was a fine day and all went well. I wore a sage green suit or costume as it was known as then, which Dad had made for me, a white blouse which I had made myself and a hat borrowed from Kit. Brown court shoes and a brown handbag and gloves completed the ensemble. Ron wore his brown striped "de-mob" suit- a suit issued to members of the Forces on the day they were demobilised from the services. Leslie, Barbara's husband, took the wedding photographs. They showed, of course, Ron's black eye, now a little green, and the scab on his cheek. He did his best to turn his "best side" to camera but didn't always succeed. After the gathering at home we left by taxi to Golders Green station for the start of our honeymoon in Bournemouth. We wondered what the Hotel staff thought of Ron's battered appearance. Did they think I had bludgeoned him into submission?

We left Bournemouth after 10 days because Ron's sister Peggy was to be married on September 22nd, She had a white wedding and her reception took place at her home in Colindale. She and Gordon were to live with her parents after their marriage as they were unable to find a place of their own. Accommodation for newly-weds was as difficult to obtain then as now. So although Ron's Mum and Dad "lost" a son and daughter within two weeks of one another they had Peg and Gordon at home instead. I don't know how they felt about the exchange!

Food and clothing was still rationed in 1951 and we had to make do with what was available. I had never done very much cooking at Mum's and apart from having watched Mum I really had little idea of how to go about things. I had been given a cheque from my colleagues at work which was sufficient to buy a set of aluminium saucepans so I had something to cook in. I don't recall ever having had to throw anything away as inedible so it can't have been too bad. I made quite a passable curry with a tin of Spam! Ron however had no idea how to cook , but he's learnt a lot since his retirement. We managed on our rations except for butter. Fortunately, our grocer had some "under the counter" from time to time.

Shortly after our marriage Ron applied for and obtained a Job at Kaylene Chemicals, a small chemical company in Cricklewood about three or four miles from home. He had become disenchanted with the train journey to Welwyn Garden City and with his boss at Roche Products with whom he had never been on good terms. He had done some interesting research work on lysergic acid there, and felt it was now time for a change.

Ever since my sixth form days at school I had been aware of stomach Pains from time to time, but had never considered them bad enough to find out the cause. However the pains now seemed to be getting worse, and were relieved only by taking food, usually a glass of milk. So I paid a visit to my G.P. and went to Edgware General Hospital for a Barium meal X-Ray. I was told that "there could well be an ulcer there", but was given no treatment and I carried on as usual. For many years I had bouts of pain, especially in May and October, but within the last few years I have had no trouble so I assume whatever it was has healed itself.

At about the same time I had been seconded to St. Charles Hospital in Ladbroke Grove in London which was a largish hospital with a small Path lab and was part of the same Hospital Group as the Group Lab at Belsize Park. Whereas the latter was housed in a purpose-built relatively new building, although the hospital it served, Lawn Road hospital was old, St. Charles was an old building in a run-down part of London and the lab was cramped and consisted of just one room in which all the various tests were done. Only two other technicians worked there, both male and much older than I, and in a corner sat a masculine-looking middle-aged secretary at her desk. I took over the Haematology work and had to do all the ward work as well as Out-Patients, of whom I'd find perhaps half a dozen awaiting my return from the wards. I'd then have to deal with all the blood-counts and white-cell differentiation counts under the microscope, haemoglobin and other estimations, and blood cross-matching. It was a very busy place and often I was unable to finish everything before the end of the day. I had nothing in common with the others in the lab, and nothing to do at lunch time other than work. On top of all this it was further away from home and more expensive in fares. I decided that I could not continue there and handed in my notice. I was asked by the Pathologist who ran the place why I wanted to leave and I couldn't bring myself to say that I didn't like it there so I simply said it was too far for me to travel. My notice was accepted and I left with some regret, as I had enjoyed lab work.

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