When SwanCare Bentley Park resident, Audrey Ridout, met her husband-to-be, Terry, on a boat sailing from the UK to Africa, she knew she was signing up for a life of adventure as a wife of a Royal Air Force (RAF) Navigator. And that’s exactly what she got!
Her parents had recently divorced and Audrey, not quite 12 years of age, said she was excited by the idea of going somewhere new.
“I came from the generation that didn’t question anything, we just went with the flow and did as our parents wished,” Audrey said. “I was an only child, so at the time I was excited to be in a new place and go on the boat, then meet the children at my new boarding school.”
Audrey and her mother loved living in South Africa, moving from Durban to Johannesburg during their time there. Audrey said that she enjoyed the country and the people but found learning Afrikaans as a second language quite difficult.
When she turned 21 her father offered to pay her fare to go back to the UK for a visit, her mother cleverly agreed to pay the fare back to Africa for her. It was on that fateful journey that she met her husband Terry, a navigation instructor in the Royal Air Force.
“Turning 21 was much more important in those days than it seems to be today,” Audrey said. “This was not long after WWII, so there wasn’t a lot of air traffic and there were two Air Force officers being sent to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) on the boat,” she said.
“They were in First Class of course, but they came down to tourist class to “check out the talent” as they called it… by the time we docked, Terry had my address and we’d promised to keep in touch. He wrote to me, and that year came to spend Christmas with my mother and I in Johannesburg. We then dated, got married, and I moved to Southern Rhodesia to be with him.”
Being married to an RAF navigator meant that they moved around a lot, so Audrey’s first two sons were born in Yorkshire and Bath in the UK. They also moved to the Isle of Man for a short stint while they were in the UK.
Sometime after this her husband, who suffered badly from stomach ulcers, was deemed unfit to fly and left the Air Force. Unbelievably, some 30 years later, the ulcer problem by the Barry Marshall team at UWA.
After living in the UK, they moved back to Southern Rhodesia, buying acreage with a pig farm, where Terry also taught at the local school. Whilst they were living here, their third son was born.
When there was unrest in Rhodesia, they moved back to the UK again, before making the decision to come to Australia. They originally moved to Tasmania for a year, before joining family in Perth.
“I’d always had a fancy to go to Australia, to Tasmania in particular, maybe because it was called the Apple Isle,” said Audrey.
In 1995, on the 50th anniversary since WWII ended, a historian tracked Terry down and they were both invited back to France. Whilst there they met the people who rescued Terry when his plane was shot down during the war.
“We were treated like royalty, with good will and warmth. I will never forget it,” said Audrey.
Upon returning to Perth, they did a lot of touring around WA - or as Audrey called it “Grey Nomad stuff”. They first started by camping in a tent, but soon learned touring in a campervan was the way to do it.
After Terry passed, Audrey made the move to SwanCare. As a resident of SwanCare’s village for the past three years, Audrey said she wished she’d made the move earlier.
“I have everything I need here, and everyone is very friendly, it’s a lovely place to live,” said Audrey.
Audrey is an avid reader and enjoys that the library is just down the road at Admin.
“Penny at the library always looks after me, I love a good book. I’m also addicted to crosswords,” laughed Audrey.
When Audrey isn’t reading these days, she loves painting, and has been an avid painter since 2006 when her husband sadly passed away quite suddenly.
“I joined the Trinity School for Seniors painting group when he died and I would spend two days a week there, I loved it,” she said. “I painted mostly landscapes, in oils and acrylics, I was happy to paint anything that inspired me. It gave me company and solace.”
When asked if she has any life advice for future generations Audrey says it’s pretty simple.
“Make the most of every day, tell your loved ones how much you love them, and do it frequently,” she said. “I loved my life with Terry, and I wish I’d had more time with him. We all went where he went as a family in the RAF years. I got very good at packing, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Thank you so much for chatting with us, Audrey! What an interesting life you have had moving around the world with loved ones.