Ronald Basil Girdler

1925 - 2017

Helene Girdler

1927 - 2020


On July 4th. 1959, Andrew was born at Windlesham Maternity Hospital. On that day the temperature was in the nineties and it was not comfortable lying on a rubber sheet! As he was being born the midwife said "This baby is too big for you!" and I remember replying "Now she tells me!" He weighed 8 lbs.12 ozs,. four pounds heavier than Richard, Ron was playing tennis in a match at B.P. that afternoon and so was not at home when the hospital phoned him to tell him. He arrived at the hospital later in the day. Fathers were still not allowed to be present at the birth. Ron's Mum and Dad were staying with us to look after Richard and Ron whilst I was away. Again I was kept in for 10 days.

The nappy-washing and broken nights began again. In fact Andrew woke during the night till he was about 6 months old, and I found it very wearing. Ron took over the middle-of-the-night feeds at the week-ends which was a great relief to me, but when Andrew was about 3 months old and just beginning to sleep till about 4a.m. Ron went to a B.F. section outing or stag night or some such event on the Friday evening and arrived home about 2 a. m. next morning. Fearful of being woken up by Andrew 2 hours later he decided to wake him and feed him before going to bed. This seemed to disturb Andrew's routine and from then on for perhaps 3 months, he woke at 2a.m. again. What bliss when he began to sleep the whole night through! Except that I then became anxious because he didn't wake up! Richard became very upset when Andrew cried during the day and said "Stop the baby crying!" I sat on the stairs with him and explained that this was what babies did, it didn't mean that there was anything wrong with him and he was just exercising his lungs. He was quite happy with the explanation and accepted the situation.

Very soon we all worked ourselves into a new routine. In September 1959 Richard began to go to a small nursery class in New Haw, Two of his friends from F.B.D., Calvin and Margaret, started at the same time, and Calvin's father Roy drove them all to class in the mornings on his way to work. This provided me with a bit of a break, because Andrew would sleep after his 10 a.m. feed till lunch time so I was able to get on with the chores undisturbed. We mothers took it in turns to fetch the children at mid-day. We had all got younger children by then, so we pushed the prams with the babies to New Haw, about a mile and a half away. The boys wore red blazers with white trimming, red caps, grey shorts and white shirts; in our eyes they looked gorgeous. We all felt a bit tearful as they went off on their first adventure without us.

After Easter 1960, when Richard was 5 years old, he started attending West Byfleet Primary school, and again Roy took them in the mornings. The only time I had any difficulty getting him to school was on the second day, when for some reason Roy could not take them, and Joan, who was the only one of us who could drive at that time, took them instead. Richard simply refused to get in the car and screamed and screamed. In the end I had to go with them and after that there was never any trouble. Their uniform now consisted of navy blazers and caps, with trousers and shirts as before. So now I had to collect him at 12 p.m. to take him home to lunch and take him back again in time for 1.30 p.m. session, and collect him again at 3.30. As it took about 20 minutes each way with the pram, and having to get Andrew ready each time as well as Richard, I found there was hardly any time to do anything else, so I arranged for him to stay for school dinners. This relieved me of the lunch time hassle and it gave me more time to spend with Andrew.

Andrew was a beautiful baby, quite chubby with very blond hair, and once he had got over the awful broken nights, a very good baby. He too had several children in the road to play with. The couple next door had by now got a child, Gavin, who was a few months older than Andrew, as was Paul, Calvin's brother, Also there was a new couple at no.9 who had a son, Mark, of the same age, and another family at no.8, which included two girls, Caroline, who was Richard's age, and Julie, a bit older than Andrew. So there was quite a crowd of small children in the vicinity, and all got on very well together.

When Andrew was not quite three, at Easter time, he was playing with a group of kids just outside the front gate whilst I was attempting to paint a water-colour of the white-blossomed flowering cherry across the road. I was sitting at the dining room table and had a good view of the kids through the window. I could see them all bending over to look at their toy cars, when suddenly Andrew came running in screaming at the top of his voice. I rushed in to the kitchen as he came in screaming something about his toe, and when I took his wellington boot off I saw his sock was full of blood. I sat him on the draining board, removed his sock and held his foot under the running cold tap. As I did so I saw his big-toe nail lift off in the water. It appeared that the kids were playing with their cars and one of the cars rolled into the gutter and fell through the drain cover. Two of the older kids had tried to lift the cover to retrieve the car, found it too heavy and dropped it- onto Andrew's foot. Ron and I rushed him to Casualty at Woking Victoria hospital with a towel wrapped round his foot. It seemed to take ages to get there and even longer for the nurse to take his name and address etc., until finally he was seen by the doctor who put a few stitches in the toe whilst Andrew was still screaming and I was trying unsuccessfully to distract his attention with some pictures of butterflies. Goodness knows where I got those from! He lost the nail, of course, and after the doctor had finished I felt faint and had to lie down on the couch alongside Andrew whilst the nurse took my pulse! We eventually got home; Andrew was still crying and could not be comforted. His foot was bandaged, but the blood was still seeping through. When bed-time came he was still whimpering. I thought I could take his mind off it by reading him a bed-time story, so I opened the current library book and found that the page opened at "The Pobble who had no Toes"!. So I turned over to the next story. He still would not settle, so I rang the doctor hoping he would offer some sedative to enable him to sleep, but he said there was nothing he could do, and eventually Andrew fell into an exhausted sleep.

The next day was fine and sunny, but of course Andrew was unable to walk, so I sat him on a rug in the garden in the sunshine surrounded by toys, where he stayed quite contentedly all day. I watched him sitting there with his blond hair glistening in the sunshine and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. This had been a very traumatic experience, and even now when the cherry blossom is out I feel the same anguish as I had then. His toe nail did not grow properly until he was in his twenties.

Most of his playmates were a few months older than he so they all started at play school a term before he was 4 years old, when he was too young to go. I can remember feeling so sad for him as he wandered up and down the road picking the buttercups and daisies from the grass verge, all alone. One of the older ladies from no. l took pity on him one day and gave him some violets from her garden! When he was four, however, he joined the other kids at play school, and from then on I had the whole morning to myself!


Ron had finished the practical work for his Ph.D. in about 1961, and then followed the lengthy business of writing it all up in long-hand ready for typing and binding. When he had finished I began to type it on a very ancient typewriter, which he had got from his father's firm when they were ,replacing them with new ones. I had never done any typing before so it was a two fingered job (as it still is!), and took ages. All the mistakes had erased or crossed out and it was anything but a professional looking document. Finally when it was all done in this rough manner, he got it properly typed by a colleague's wife, and bound, so it really looked very good when it was finished. He offered it to the examining authority and was declared R.B.Girdler Ph.D. in about 1962, some eight years after he started.

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