A chance meeting in north London

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.

War memorial clocktower in Golders Green

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.

A chance meeting

BRIDIE WAS OUR DAUGHTER’S babysitter for several years. She also collected her from school and looked after her until one of us returned from work. Although she was well over 80 when we first employed her, Bridie was a very sprightly, energetic woman.

LondonUnderground_GoldersGreenStation

 

She had been brought up in the wilds of western Ireland. Every day, she used to walk several miles over the hills to go to school. She moved to England as a very young lady. On arrival in Britain, she was at first given shelter by the Salvation Army. She had to promise them she would become teetotal. She kept this promise.

One day, Bridie told us an interesting story. When she was young before WW2, she worked as a maid for a Jewish family in north London’s Golders Green.  She wore uniform. There was one uniform for daytime and a different one for the evenings.

When Bridie was not working for us or ironing for our friends, the Wilsons who had introduced her to us, she used to roam around London taking advantage of her free bus pass (given to Londoners over 60 years old).

One day, Bridie visited Golders Green. When she was waiting for a bus to take her home, an elderly gentleman in the queue said to her:

“Excuse me, but are you Bridie?”

“I am,” she replied.

“Well, you looked after me when I was a child sixty years ago”

Bridie realised that the man was from the family, for whom she had worked in Golders Green before WW2.

A bus approached. The man asked her:

“Are you getting on?”

Bridie nodded, thinking he had asked a different question. The man jumped on the bus, leaving Bridie standing by the bus stop. Had she heard his question correctly,  he would have waited behind to reminisce with her: an opportunity lost for ever.

Ever since hearing about Bridie’s chance encounter, I have always considered her story as being rather sad.

 

Picture of Golders Green bus staion (Wikipedia)

Eye and brain

MEMORIES TRIGGERED BY A PHOTOGRAPH RECENTLY TAKEN NEAR OUR HOME

I first met Catherine during the final year of my BSc in 1973. She was teaching mammalian reproductive physiology. After that, I met her again in 1977 when I began studying dentistry and also attended weekly etching and engraving classes taught by my mother’s cousin Dolf #Rieser. Catherine was another of Dolf’s pupils, and one of his best. I stopped attending these classes on 1982, when I moved to Kent.

Occasionally, I visited Catherine and her husband Brian in a street near where this picture was taken, a street close to our flat.

In about 1994, when Lopa and I had been married a few months, we ‘bumped’ into Catherine in a street quite by chance. We invited her and Brian to dinner. Thus began a close friendship between them and us.

Soon after our daughter was born, we had major building work done in our small flat. Catherine and Brian kindly let us stay at tjeir place for a few weeks.

Catherine employed an elderly lady called Bridie to do ironing several days a week. Bridie and our young daughter fell in love with each other. Catherine suggested that Bridie would probably be a good babysitter for our little one.

Although Bridie was well into her eighties, she was alert and very sprightly. When our daughter was old enough to attend school, Bridie would often collect her and look after her at home until we returned from work.

Bridie was (is??) a committed Roman Catholic. Our daughter, even when a toddler, took a great interest in matters theological. One day, Bridie told our daughter that if you are good in life, then you will go to heaven when you die. To which our daughter, who has an Indian mother, replied:
“Well, us Indians never die, Bridie. We just keep coming back again.”
This indicated an early appreciation of the concept of reincarnation.

Sadly, both Brian and Catherine are no more than memories now. However, whenever we walk in the streets near where they used to live, we remember them vividly. Dolf Rieser left this life long before ourvtwo friends. As for Bridie, we have no idea. If she is still around, she would have passed her hundredth birthday long ago.