Ronald Basil Girdler

1925 - 2017

Helene Girdler

1927 - 2020

My Children

In June 1954 I became pregnant. I suffered somewhat from early-morning sickness but continued to go to work, and could manage to eat only lettuce leaves for lunch as I had no appetite for anything solid. However I felt fine for most of the day, and had managed to get a bed at the Middlesex Hospital in London for the confinement. Both Het and Barbara had had their babies there and had recommended it, Het having had Stephen who was born in 1953 and Barbara had Peter in 1952. I continued to work at ICRF until just before Christmas when I left with some regret, although I looked forward with enthusiasm to my new status.

During the first week of February 1955, the weather became very wintry with heavy snowfalls and frost all day. The baby was due in the third week of February but I began to feel contractions at the end of the first week. Ron drove me to the Middlesex (we had bought a car - a second-hand Ford Popular I think, black, of course, since there were no other colours being made the previous year. I was kept in for a couple of days but nothing else happened and I felt a bit of a fool. But during the night of February 17th. there was no mistake about the contractions, and again Ron drove me to the Middlesex during a snow storm, which was quite hair-raising. Richard was born at 5.45 a.m. on the 19th. and weighed in at 8lbs.8ozs.

I was kept in bed for about 4 days, not even being allowed up to the toilet. After that I was allowed to get up for a few hours a day, and was shown how to bath the baby. I started breast-feeding but there was not enough milk coming through and I had to make supplementary bottle-feeds. Ron continued to battle through the elements every evening after work to visit, On March 1st, 10 days after the baby was born, I was allowed home as was the custom at that time. It was a beautiful early Spring day and the snow had almost disappeared as we arrived home, and the very first thing we did was to take some snapshots of our new baby in the back garden. The next thing was to ask ourselves what we were supposed to do next! Richard was sleeping peacefully but we felt we ought to be doing something to him or for him! Nobody had ever offered any advice on "How to bring up Baby" and we were rather bemused by it all. But it was all obvious once Richard woke up and howled. From then on there was no looking back.

The days were all carefully mapped out according to the baby's needs. Feeding every four hours, interminable nappy-changing (Terry-towel nappies with muslin liners which had to be boiled daily), bathing every morning before the ten o'clock feed, and for the first three months or so, feeding at least once during the night at about 2a.m. and again at six. And in between all this there were the everyday chores to do.

We had a big maroon-coloured coach-built Silver Cross pram in which I pushed Richard to the shops every day. We didn't have a fridge so everything had to be bought daily, and no washing machine so all had to be done by hand, although I did send the sheets and towels to the laundry. Shortly after he was born, however, we discussed long and hard as to whether we could afford a fridge and/or a washing machine and in the end bought both.

On fine days I used to take Richard to the local park by the Silkstream in Colindale, where I met another young Mum with her baby and we'd sit on the park bench for half an hour or so and chat. Every morning after his morning bath and feed, and in the afternoon, whatever the weather, I'd wrap him up well and put him in the pram in the garden where he'd sleep for an hour or so. Every Thursday afternoon I took him to the baby clinic to have him weighed, and as this was on the way to where Ron's mother lived I used to call in there and have a cup of tea with her. On Saturday afternoons we went to see my Mum and Dad, and usually found Het and Jack with Linda and Stephen there, also Shirley and John and sometimes Leslie and Barbara and their toddler Peter. Kit and Joe were never there, of course, as they never travelled anywhere on Saturdays. On Sunday evenings we went to Ron's Mum and Dad to play six-handed Canasta with them and Peg and Gordon, who were still living in Colindale and by this time had their own baby Jeffrey, who was a toddler in '55. It was at this time also that they taught me to play Bridge.

The couple who lived next door to us, Marie and Alf, had a twelve-year old daughter, Pauline, who was very fond of Richard, and she used to call in every day after school to play with him. How I looked forward to her arrival! And after a while she'd take him to the shops in the pram which was even better as it meant I had a whole half-hour to myself!

During 1955 Ron decided that he wanted to take a Ph.D. working on it in the evenings. He obtained a place at Brunel College in London and was fortunate in that the company for whom he now worked, a small Pharmaceutical manufacturers in Cricklewood, Kaylene Chemicals, allowed him to use their laboratories in the evening. Almost every evening he stayed after work and carried out his Friedel - Craft reactions for his Ph.D. Many's the time he phoned home at about 11 p.m. to say that he had got "emulsion formation", and would have to continue until he'd got rid of it, which sometimes meant he didn't get home till perhaps 2 a.m. From time to time he had to see his Tutor at Brunel, so one way and another he was not at home an awful lot. And this went on till 1963, until he was finally awarded his Doctorate.

As we had no garage or space for one, Ron and his father built one at his father's house, with the help of a bricklayer. The car was garaged there and Ron used to cycle round there to pick it up, and cycle home again in the evening. During Richard's first summer we drove down to Winchelsea on the Sussex coast and met Het, Jack, Linda and Stephen there to spend a week together in self-catering accommodation which consisted of a converted railway carriage standing on the shingle! Fortunately we had fine weather, for the carriage was rather strange and not too spacious!

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