The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


23. The last 25 years

I was now home again to start a very different life in my “granny pad”, Tony and Jane had got it ready to be occupied so now I had the job of turning out things for which there was no room. I had never been a hoarder so that wasn't too painful and quickly I settled down but had no wish to move again. We used the caravan for holidays which were usually spent on a small patch of land by the Sussex coast, and it now became our holiday home for many years. We all loved it, nothing near us but cows and sheep, dykes which drained the land, mushrooms grew in profusion if the weather was right, the beach just over the sea wall. It was heaven.

Kerry was born soon after I returned from America so now we were a family of seven. We had an acre of land around the house which was a fine playground for the children and to which we added a Tennis Court, grass in those days, and a small swimming pool in due course. The summers were spent in the garden, we walked in the nearby forests with the dogs and in winter tobogganed on Catherington Down. It was a wonderful family life. Only once did we go to Spain on the Costa Brava. We took a train drive journey to Toulouse and drove the rest of the way to the villa high up overlooking the Med. Unfortunately the car developed gear trouble and Jane and I had to keep popping out to give a push when in trouble. We did not repeat this again and remained faithful to our Sussex Retreat.

For me it was the most peaceful time of my life, everything now was “shipshape” and family participation came first.

Eventually Tony left the Navy and went to work in London which he continued to do for over 25 years. Jane started a Nursery School in Denmead after the children were all at school in which I helped on just one morning a week! We had many visitors in both summer and winter and parties for every conceivable occasion. There was always plenty to do in the garden summer and winter, and Tony had his work cut out with the many alterations to the house to make room for his growing family, who earned plus points for work and good behaviour and minus points for the reverse. These had a money earning power which affected their pocket money. One might call it bribery but it worked pretty well. I remember once giving Mark 3 minus points while looking after them during their parents absence, I think that was the last I ever gave!

When Tony and Jane settled here they looked around for a church and decided on St George’s and now I joined them when possible for regular Sunday worship. There was always coffee or tea in the Hall dispensed by Joan Shepherd, in those early days, even when it fell on Christmas Day . The old kitchen was very small, but kept neat and tidy, and it was to be many years before Doug Shepherd’s dream of our modern kitchen came true. I liked the regularity of church worship, one made friends easily. It was nice to be asked to help in many ways and over the years it has continued to be a great pleasure and in some cases an honour to serve. So with a lively son, daughter-in-law plus family the years passed all too quickly.

All through the seventies there were many troubles throughout the world, making headlines in the newspapers and on television which now had become a “must”. Ireland of course was still a problem, it seemed whatever governments did it provoked trouble between the Roman Catholics and the English church, this time it came to the boil when British troops fired on the protest marchers in Londonderry, which was returned by the burning down of the British Embassy in Dublin, now known as “Bloody Sunday”. Outrage begets outrage, and there has been trouble ever since. Then in another part of the world there was the assassination of Israelis at the Olympics and the taking of hostages, that escalated into a free for all when a grenade was lobbed into a helicopter killing nine Israeli Athletes.

Egypt and Syria chose October 1972 to launch an attack on Israel which became known as the “Yom Kippur” War. In 1974 Nixon was forced to quit owing to the findings of Watergate, Gerald Ford the Vice-President took his place. I was rather sad about this as I had seen and listened to Nixon while in the States and had been captivated by his speeches and natural charm. Then came the ceasefire in the Vietnam War but fighting still continued as the Americans drew out, 50,000 Americans had been killed with nothing gained and fighting continued in Cambodia.

In November 1975 General Franco who had ruled Spain for 36 years died, he had named his successor previously, and now Prince Juan Carlos, grandson of the last King of Spain, became king with the monarchy restored. There was now exciting news from Africa. Idi Amin had had his ruthless way in Uganda for some years after the country had its independence. He gave himself the British VC & DSO and the title of “Conqueror of the British Empire”, but the last straw was when he held as hostages a plane load of passengers at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda, but the Israelis landed a group of commandos dressed as Ugandan soldiers, and rescued the passengers off the hijacked aircraft. It was a complete “coup” and the answer to “Mission Impossible”. The television was really worth looking at in those days. After this, the scoundrel was run out of the country, but the Ugandans suffered from being a rich country before his rule to the poorest, and to this day it has not recovered. I suppose it has found as did many other states independence has the price to pay of learning how to rule. The good news about this time was that Israel had been accepted as a nation by Egypt, Sadat visited Mr Begin, Prime Minister of Israel in Jerusalem, who returned the visit by going to Cairo, then the two leaders met once again in America at Camp David where they agreed on the terms of the peace treaty. It did nothing to solve the Palestinian question but relieved the tension between the two countries, as Winston had stated in his day, “Jaw Jaw” is better than “War War”, each of them was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

For me the seventies were a quiet time, I enjoyed the company of a busy household without the responsibilities, I suppose one could say I had the best of both worlds. I still worked at the pub and enjoyed doing so until the family there sold up and went to live in Spain where they had a villa on the Costa del Sol. Here I spent some very good holidays and actually I was staying with them when Franco died. My brother and his wife in Birmingham both died about this time and as they had no children there was very little interest to go back there. The friend I had in Tonbridge in the Red Cross retired and came to the Isle of Wight to live with her son and family and I made many trips there to see her until she died in East Cowes Hospital, so my visits to the Island were now sadly reduced. By now the eighties were here and in 1981 The Prince of Wales was married to Diana Spencer in a fairy tale wedding that was another triumph for television and once again the country stopped in its tracks to watch. In March 1982 the Falklands War broke out, which I expect most of us remember and we were very thankful when it was over and the Islands were restored to us in June.

Our vicar at St George’s, Mr Gibson, had retired now and we had an “Inter-regnum”, but not before he had introduced us to the new A.S.B. It seemed strange no longer to have the early communion and then Matins at but we soon got used to the new times of and with the Eucharist at each service, only the latter one being sung. We said goodbye to him on the night before his departure with a dinner in the Church Hall which was packed. It was an evening of laughter and tears as he was well loved. I have often wondered how this excellent meal was produced from such a small kitchen.

However the world moves on and we go along with it, but it was with pleasure that we welcomed Fr Malcolm as our new Vicar and to have someone at the helm again. He brought a lot of new ideas with him and introduced them slowly so we got used to them little by little. The rather bare look of the spacious white walls were given warmth by the Stations of the Cross, the Votive Candles, a picture painted by a member of the Congregation of the precinct, an icon and the Statue of the Virgin Mary, but the large crucifix behind the altar still stands out above it all. Now we have congregational participation with Servers, Sidespersons to help the Church Wardens, Readers, Chalice Servers to say nothing of the Holy Dusters, a team of gardeners to keep the grounds tidy and many other helpers who put in a lot of work behind the scenes. He has also introduced us over the years to the Pilgrimage to Walsingham where we go annually for the weekend after Easter in which I feel is a deeper experience than the pilgrimage to Glastonbury for a day’s outing, equally moving but not so much time for contemplation. We also had a wonderful trip to the Holy Land in 1986. It was a holiday that I shall never forget and still like to look at the photos and go down memory lane.

St George’s has gone a long way to encompass the more modern outlook of religion without losing the reverence in which the church should be held. Children are welcomed, The Sunday School, Youth Club and Link Group provides for children of all ages to be brought into the church. This with everything else should help us all to feel we do belong to one family. I know I do.

Ruby Bullock

This final instalment was written in 1997 on Ruby’s 90th birthday. Ruby is 104 in October.

Summer Edition 2011

Ruby’s Memoirs

The photo is of a rather younger me!