A Kentish Maid

My mother was 28 and my father 47 when I was born 16 July 1929 in the Kidbrooke nursing home on what my mother always said was the hottest day of the year. We lived in Blackheath Park Rd which being West of the river Medway makes me a Kentish Maid. I was third in the family since I had a half sister, Isla Helen from my father’s first marriage and a half brother Dennis Henry who came with my mother, Florence Rose Birch. When they married in 1928, my father, Alfred Ridler, did his best to even up their ages by adding four years to my mother’s age and subtracting four years from his age on their marriage certificate. From the age of 18, my father had been a regular soldier in the Middlesex Regiment, serving in the Boer War and in Hongkong before receiving a severe leg injury in WWI in 1915 which finished his time in the army. For a while he worked in London in the National Bank of India but he hated working indoors and took on the post of groundsman at the bank’s sports ground at Blackheath. His first wife died after an accident which led to his second marriage and my birth as a Kentish Maid. In 1930, when I was 1, we moved to Beckenham where my father was the groundsman of the Japanese Sports Ground of the Yokohama Specie Bank.

Prince Chichibu, the brother of the Japanese Emperor Hirohito came to visit in 1937 at the time of the coronation of George VI. The Prince was English speaking having studied at Magdalen Oxford in 1925, a patron of sport and of good rapport with our Royal Family. He was an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army and had held the title Prince Chichibu since 1922. We had a wonderful display of tennis by Fred Perry who had turned professional after his 1936 Wimbledon win and of course we had to wait until 2013 for Andy to give us another British win.

Here we see Michael and David on their bike outside 163 Copers Cope Rd. When the Japanese entered the war after Pearl Harbour, 7.12.1941, we moved to Copers Cope for the next 24 years! Michael and I married at St Paul’s church on 1.9.1951 and three weeks later he went to sea for Ellerman Lines as an engineer. Philip, Peter and Gill were all born here at 163.

Boston, Massachusetts, to Vermont and back

It was 4.00pm on Saturday afternoon in April 2018 at Heathrow Terminal 5. Gill and Steve had to wait for me at security as my titanium steel femur sounded the alarm but it was not long before we were sampling the delights of the executive lounge since we were travelling Business Class! This was the start of eating too much for the next few hours ending when I finally refused ‘tea’ at what to me was 12.20 am but by Boston time was five hours earlier.

On landing we received the sad news from Becca that she had been unable to join the flight from Mexico to Boston to be with us. Then a second piece of bad news was that between us, Gill and I had managed to leave my iPad on the plane. Finally the third misfortune arose when we left the airport bus too soon on our way to pick up a hire car, but eventually leaving with a magnificent new white Mazda with fewer than 500 miles on the clock. By our 5.00pm but Boston’s midnight, we drove into Winthrop by the light of a brilliant full moon and stopped at Harrington House right beside the shore.

Maggie and Joe made us very welcome and immediately showed us how to work the coffee machine before taking us to our very comfortable rooms, mine pink, Gill and Steve’s blue, both overlooking the sea. The only trouble was that the easy chair in my room was too soft and I slipped out of it, needing to crawl to the stairs to get up on my feet. In the morning, we were introduced to the two dogs, 14 year old white poodle called Fiona and 6 year old Rosalita, a black and white rescue chihuahua that took an immediate liking for Steve. The house was full of desirables to take one’s eye, half a pig doorstop or a a life like pear.

After a magnificent breakfast at the hotel, we departed for Conway but dropped in at Walmart’s again for two peaked caps for me, one pink and one flowery and a blue table cloth before we were off through the White mountains to find the highest, Mount Washington at 6288 ft. No chance! The road for self drivers is closed until the middle of May and the snow coaches were not yet in operation. As we took the road to Conway, it was not only raining but covered in mist and where we could see Mount Washington it was still covered with snow. The Ellis river running beside the road was flowing fast and roughly through the rocks as it received the melting snow.

I watched TV with Steve’s tuition for Boston Red Sox just lose the game of baseball against Kansas City. Then there was the promise of watching a live game on Wednesday night, when the local team Sea Dogs were playing Trenton Thunder from New Jersey. I was given a large badge in memory of my first live baseball game in US and both Steve and I received a cuddle from the dog SLUGGER.

The Yellow, Red, Blue and Green Bus Routes of Washington DC

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TThe bus stopped just up 29th St and round the corner at stop 39, close to the ice-cream shop and one for secondhand books (visited later of course). We could have turned down the road from the hotel, the Washington Suites Harbour Hotel, to join the bus at stop 38 and to board a boat at the harbour (not yet running). This was in Georgetown established in 1757 as the furthest town upstream of the Potomac where ocean going boats could navigate. The oldest house in the district was The Old Stone House built in 1765 now in M St NW.

The yellow route turned through a right angle at the roundabout by the George Washington University Hospital which was where Ronald Reagan was taken to recover after his attempted assassination in April 1981 outside the Washington Hilton. After a long straight run down 23rd St, we turned left into Constitution Ave from where we could see the Lincoln monument, the WWII memorial and the Washington memorial in the parkland on the right side of the road.

Phan Than Kim Phuc was born 2.4.1963 and lived in the S. Vietnamese village of Trang Bang. The dreadful incident when she was burnt happened on 8.6.1972. She was not expected to survive the burns on her back and arm. She had 17 operations in the hospital at Saigon in the next 14 months. When she married, the couple took refuge in Canada where they now live in Ajax with their two children. Kim became a Canadian citizen in 1997. Her scars still cause her much pain until recently when she started a series of laser treatments to smooth them out.

Her Biography, ‘The Girl in the Picture’ was written by Denise Chong.