Ronald Basil Girdler

1925 - 2017

Helene Girdler

1927 - 2020

Move to West Byfleet

In 1956 Ron began to get itchy feet again, and decided to look for another job. His employers were reluctant to let him go and offered him a seat on the Board. This would have meant he would have had no time to continue with his Ph.D. work, and after some thought he felt that he really had no choice. He applied for, and was offered a job as Research Chemist at the B.P. Research Centre in Sunbury, and after being assured that they would allow him to continue with his Ph.D work, he accepted the post and he began working there in July 1956. His salary was £950 p.a., more than he had been getting, (having started at Roche Products at £450) but the lab was a 40 minute drive away along a rather tortuous route. It wasn't long before we both realised that we would have to move house, We studied the map, and drew a 10 mile radius circle around Sunbury and started looking for houses within that area. The local estate agents sent us several properties which we looked at and finally found a brand-new house in what was then known as West Byfleet. It had three bedrooms and a quarter-acre garden and garage space and we knew that this was the one we wanted. It was priced at £3,500 to include a garage and altered windows to the front. It was the Show-House for the 26-houses in the road. It had a lovely approach down a tree-lined lane, and the whole area was very rural.

Ron knew the area around Byfleet because he had a cousin Kath, and her husband Mick and two boys, living there. When he contacted the Agent to agree to buy, he was told that he would not be able to get a mortgage on his salary as building societies would lend only 2½  times the salary. However B.P. had a very generous scheme for their employees which consisted of a 20 year Insurance Policy at 4½ %, and so we were able to by-pass the building society altogether. Our weekly payments were to be 27/6d (£1.35½ p.) We sold the Colindale house for £1200, and on November 30th. 1956, we moved to 6, Faris Barn Drive, West Byfleet, Surrey, on a very cold and foggy day.

We had no carpets anywhere in the house, but we did have a brand new Ideal boiler which we stoked up well and soon had a warm kitchen. The dining room and two bedrooms had electric fires fixed to the wall. The enormous garden was completely wild, having had nothing done to it since it was pasture land. The front garden was a mess of builder's rubble. The house immediately opposite was still in the process of being built and had no roof. All the other houses in the road were completed, but not all were occupied, like the house next door. We discovered that most of the other residents were young couples and some had young children. We very soon became acquainted with our neighbours and quickly felt at home.

The day after our arrival we walked to the local shops to see what was available, and discovered that we were within a 10-minute walk of the main-line station and a 15-minute walk of the shops. At the shopping parade we waited to cross the road as we used to at the Edgware road, which of course had been very busy and noisy, and found no traffic to wait for. We were delighted with the rural atmosphere. There was a Sainsbury's similar to the one in Colindale, consisting of a long fairly narrow shop with mahogony counters along both sides. The walls were lined with large cream and pale green decorative tiles and the floor was mosaic tiled. Only groceries were sold and each counter was divided into sections for the various goods,- bacon, butter, cheese, tinned and packeted items - and separate queues formed at each. The bill was paid at a huge mahogany counter at the end of the shop where the cashier sat behind a closed-in till. There were a few other shops- butcher, baker and greengrocer, fishmonger; shoe shop, newsagent, dry-cleaner, Lloyd's bank and not much else besides. And trees everywhere. Money was very short, and I had £5/week housekeeping money. I kept an account of how I spent it and it makes very interesting reading. On November 30th 1957, my grocer's bill was £1-12-9½ . 8 ozs, mince was 1s-6d, and bread for the week cost 3s-4d. That week also I bought a pair of boots for Richard at £1-10-11d, and I see that I bought some glass balls and a fairy doll for the Christmas tree at 4 shillings for the lot. The milk bill came to 12s-2½ d. I exceeded my housekeeping by £1-14-6d that week. Richard's Christmas present, which I bought the following week, cost 5s-6d. I remember that I had to "save up" enough to buy myself a pair of tights or pants! The weekly housekeeping stayed between £5 and £6 except when I had extra expenses like shorts (5-6d) and "sandshoes" (5-11p) for Richard, until I stopped keeping accounts in August 1959. After that date I continued to keep my weekly grocery order from a small "corner shop" in a small book, and I see that even in January 1961 the total bill came to £2-3-3 by which time Andrew was 2 years old. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Little by little we managed to save enough money to furnish the house. We had no television set till Richard was about 3 years old. This was passed on to us from Kit and Joe when they bought themselves a new one. It was on this piece of furniture that Richard bumped his head whilst playing with Ron. He was acting out part of Robin Hood after watching this programme on the television, and they were using rolled-up newspapers in a sword fight during which Richard slipped and fell against the edge of the cabinet. He sustained a very deep cut which bled profusely, so we rushed him to Casualty at Woking Victoria Hospital where several stitches were required. This was the first of several minor injuries which he obtained which required similar treatment over the years.

This period was rather a lonely one for me. Fortunately there were several other mothers in the same situation in Faris Barn Drive whose children were companions for Richard. Geoffrey and Margaret lived at 24, Calvin at 14, Jacqueline at 15, Caroline at number 8. They used to play together either in one another's gardens or in the street on their tricycles and later their bikes. Being a cul-de-sac F.B.D. had little or no traffic and it was quite safe, We mothers, Joan, Brenda, Jean and Audrey would sometimes have coffee or tea together whilst the children played around us. We had a baby-sitting rosta so that we were always able to call on someone known to the children if we wanted to go out in the evenings.

Joan from no. 24 was a regular daily, and not always welcome, visitor. I considered her children to be rather rowdy and destructive of Richard's toys, and they always seemed to have runny noses. I would occasionally go to some lengths to avoid being in when she called. I remember one day it was pouring with rain but I nevertheless decided to go for a walk, with Richard in the pram. I walked all the way to Brox near Ottershaw and back, a round trip along muddy lanes which took perhaps 1½   hours. The rain puddled in the pram apron and Richard spent most of the time swishing it about with his fingers. I was drenched when we arrived home.

The garden presented us with something of a problem. It was much larger than the one we had in Colindale and consisted entirely of untouched pasture. In addition the front garden had been used to dump unused building waste such as cement, sand and ballast and broken bricks. First we set about clearing the front garden, which involved a lot of digging and shovelling and pushing of wheelbarrows. (We are still using, in 1993, the wooden wheelbarrow which we bought in 1957, and it is still in excellent condition.) We began by digging deeply to remove the heaps of stones which had been buried, but the deeper we dug, the more stones and sand we found. We realised then that the whole area is made up of a very sandy stony soil, and at about 18ins. deep there is a hard pan of pure sand. So we stopped deep digging and removed only the surface rubbish. This soil was very new to us, as the Colindale soil was London clay, and very hard to work, whereas here we are on the Bagshot sands, and although it is always workable it does need a lot of humus to make it fertile, and lots of watering in dry weather. Having cleared the rubbish we levelled and flattened the area and laid turf with the help proffered by Joan, our neighbour from no. 24, and we were extremely grateful for that.

By the time Spring came around the back garden was knee high in grass so we set about cutting it down with a small scythe and carrying the bundles of loose grass down to the end of the garden for burning. I remember that the man whose garden backed onto ours, Mr Jones, leaned over the fence and called out to me, "Ruth amid the alien corn!". (Richard was later to be a pupil of Mr Jones at West Byfleet Primary School), When we had finished cutting, Ron set light to the huge pile of grass, and the fire began to get out of control and started to creep over the surrounding area. It was some time before he managed to put it out, whilst neighbours from surrounding gardens stood by their fences to watch, but fortunately not too much damage had been done.

The flower borders and a vegetable area at the bottom of the garden had to be dug over, and because we eventually wanted to lay a terrace near the house we decided to dig that area and clear it of weeds by growing potatoes on it. This proved very successful but it all required an awful lot of very hard work, all of which had to be confined to the week-ends and evenings when Ron was available.


Ron always insisted that we should have a summer holiday even though at first we could ill afford it. When Richard was about 18 months old we spent a week in a small hotel in Torquay. He was not yet able to talk but made lots of unintelligible noises. At tea-time one day he spent almost the entire time sitting in his high chair with his spoon in his hand, shouting "b'gar b'gar b'gar" at the top of his voice and resisted all attempts to shut him up. Another year we went to Guernsey where we hired a couple of bikes and Richard rode on the back of Ron's bike. One time we took Mum and Dad to Westcliff-on-Sea for the day and another we went with Ron's Mum and Dad to Frinton and met our old friends Doris and Alex and their toddler Michael on the beach. All these events are chronicled in our photograph albums.

Richard has always shown an interest in "do-it-yourself" jobs around the house, and Ron used to show him how to do all manner of things. I remember when he was about three, Ron was fitting an electric plug to the kettle and Richard was "helping". When the job was done and Ron switched the kettle on, nothing happened. He scratched his head in a puzzled way, and then Richard found the fuse lying on the table. "You forgot to put this In, Daddy!". We thought he was brilliant! Over the years he became very proficient in decorating, tiling, plumbing and all sorts of odd Jobs, and especially car maintenance which he loved.

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