The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


20. Travelling with Bob

In 1966 our first grandchild was born in St Mary's Hospital Portsmouth, some weeks early so had to be kept there for a few extra weeks. Tony was ashore at the time and when the baby was strong enough he and Jane brought her to Kent, and were able to show Ted his grand-daughter. He died that night.

All the unanswerable questions came up, what to do, where to live, I didn’t feel I wanted to keep the shop on and be tied to it seven days a week, I had had too many happy years in Tonbridge and life would never be the same without Ted. However I stayed on as the family were here also my sister with her children, and the outside interests of which I seemed to have plenty, kept me ticking over. Tony went to sea again, so Jane then came back to Hildenborough where she was looking after her father's house while he was in South Africa. She was a great help and often looked after the shop for me. She said “fancy having to look after a sweetie shop, I always wanted to do that,” so during that time she and Julianne were often around.

For me time stood still, busy as I was it was always rather mechanical and leading nowhere. The world was full of trouble. People were becoming greedy and selfish, things that had no place in wartorn England where people had cared, were gradually creeping in, and horror of horrors children were stealing from my shop. The big manufacturers were insisting that their wares were displayed more openly, but of course this led to little fingers putting goodies in their pockets and other small objects as well. I caught one little rascal in the act while his friend was being served. I was able to grab him as he left the shop with his mate and found quite a collection in both pockets. I said if he ever came in again I would hand him over to the police, he was terrified and I never saw him again. Now of course it is accepted and the cost of pinching is borne by the consumer. “For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For the want of a shoe the horse was lost, etc.” I feel that in the future it will end “that the world was lost”.

However to turn to happier memories, a friend of ours from America on a visit to his mother and his brother who was a master at Tonbridge School came to see me as he had always stayed at the Guest House. He was shocked to hear that Ted had died, he himself was retiring from The Federal Reserve Bank of U.S.A. and was getting ready to tour the world. He took me out and about as he was on his own. Like all Americans he loved to travel and always thought they could “do” England in a day or two, so would fly up to Scotland for a couple of days, come back only to be going off to the Curragh in Ireland to look over some horses for his brother in America who was a breeder, and then off somewhere else. So as you can imagine he was a very interesting companion and I got used to dropping him and picking him up at Gatwick or Heathrow. It was all a new kind of life for me. He said I was wasting my life in “that little candy store” and should see a bit of the “new world” before I got too old. It had never occurred to me that I was getting old. I was now a grandmother, I don’t think I had realized that until then. At a later date we were in London to see the show Oliver and during dinner he said “why shouldn’t we get married and then you could travel with me”. After that bombshell I didn’t remember what the show was about so had to go some time later to see the film to refresh my memory. Next day I told Jane about it and she said, why don’t you!

After this he departed to Spain to look up some more friends which gave me a breathing space but was back within a week. He didn’t like Spain much, it was stinking hot and they were short of water so he couldn't even “Take a Tub” which meant “Bath”, and had to do with a little trickle of water for a shower. How he made us all laugh.

By this time Tony had come back to England and bought a house in Denmead, in which they still live. Things happened so quickly, we married, sold the shop, moved down to live in Tony’s flat at Shrover which they had vacated and with my cat and dog settled down to village life in Hampshire. There was no stopping to the speed at which we lived. There seemed to be shopping expeditions each day, Bob bought a new car, a Ford Cortina and with this we explored Hampshire and the surrounding countryside. Eventually we went to Switzerland for a holiday. I chose Interlaken this time, I felt I could not go to Davos, it was a bit too soon, but found Interlaken a wonderful centre for visiting France, Germany and Italy. We were not home long before we had news from another brother in Kenya saying his wife had died and would we go out to him. Bob didn’t need asking again and after collecting a visa for Africa I found us once again in the air for Cairo and thence to Nairobi the next day. Funnily enough I didn’t like Kenya very much. It was early days of their independence, but Kenyetta was a good President and knew how to handle his new country. Things were very different after his death.

In our travelling we went to waterholes at night with the large animals drinking, saw birds of every size and colour, great farms that the British had left now returning to jungle, Mt Kenya rising up out of the flat land like a Pyramid, vultures waiting for their share of an antelope which a lion had just killed to feed his family, every journey you made was of something you probably would never see again. After some weeks of this Bob wanted to come back to England which he said was the best country in the world. So back we came.

Ruby Bullock

Winter Edition 2011

Ruby’s Memoirs