During the late 1990s, our then young daughter had a baby-sitter called Bridie. Although Bridie was already well into her eighties when we first met her, she was a remarkably sprightly lady. Born in a rural part of the west of Ireland, she came to England in her late teens. On arrival in England, she and her husband were cared for by the Salvation Army in exchange for taking a pledge never to drink alcohol again. Bridie never reneged on this promise. To earn a living in London, where she settled, she became a domestic servant. Hearing that I had been brought up in northwest London’s Golders Green, she told me the following story.
Sometime before WW2, Bridie was employed as a maid in a Jewish household in Golders Green. She looked after the family’s children and carried out many household duties. Even though it was not a particularly wealthy family, Bridie recalled that she wore uniforms when on duty. There was one outfit that she wore in daytime and in the evening, she changed into another. As she did with our daughter, Bridie became fond of the family’s two young sons.
Many years later, when Bridie had become a grandmother and our daughter’s baby-sitter, she used to spend her spare time travelling around London by bus (making use of her old age free bus pass). One day, she was waiting for a bus at the stop closest to Golders Green’s Sainsbury’s (on the site of the Ionic cinema), when a well-dressed late middle-aged man in the queue said to her:
“Goodness! Is it you, Bridie? We have not seen each other for so many years.”
After a moment, Bridie realised that she was being addressed by one of the two boys, whom she had looked after in the house in Golders Green before the War. Just then, a bus arrived, and as her former charge was about to embark, he shouted:
“This is my bus. Are you taking it, Bridie?”
Bridie misheard what he had said, and by the time she realised, the bus had pulled away, leaving her at the bus stop. She told me that if she had known he was taking that bus, she would have joined him. As far as I know, she has never seen him again.