Meet Monica Ditmas
Posted on October 6, 2016 by Milkwood Admin
Monic Ditmas is a much loved resident at Milkwood House, here’s her story –
For the first twelve years of my life, I had a tranquil existence in rectories in beautiful countryside with my three sisters, but this changed abruptly with the death of my father while still in office. This meant we lost our home and much of our income and moved to a small house just a few miles south of the RAF airfield at Biggin Hill. So I had a grandstand view of the Battle of Britain with some two hundred German bombers overhead and our spitfires moving in to separate and destroy them. A few months later, we saw with dismay, the entire Northern Horizon ablaze with the first bombing raid on the London Docks, and it looked as if we had lost the entire city.
At age eighteen I went to Bristol University, exempt from call-up to the women’s forces because I promised that I would teach. Here we also had some heavy raids. I finally graduated with 1st Class Honours in History and shortly afterwards, met and married my husband, who had returned from fighting as an RAF pilot in the Far East war. He was accepted as a civil airline pilot and we spent our first year based in Cairo, where I had my first introduction to the desert and the Muslim world through our wonderful and loyal servant Mohammed. Back in England, we were gifted with a daughter and then a son. Sadly a few years later my marriage broke up, but for me that was not the end of this painful story, his second marriage also failed, and when I was seventy five I got a letter from his third wife saying they would be delighted if I would go and stay with them in their home in Vancouver for a couple of weeks, which I did, and it was a wonderful reconciliation.
Meanwhile, with essential support from my mother while children were still small, I had to honour my pledge to teach. After six years at Cheltenham Ladies College, I wanted to give the same quality of education to children whose parents could not afford fees, and this led to twelve very fulfilling years as headmistress of a state grammar school in Sherborne, Dorset.
As time went by, I became more and more aware of the anxieties and problems faced by my pupils and their parents, and to the surprise of many people – including me! – Some inner nudge prompted me to resign and do a full year training in counselling. This, in turn, brought me to be warden of the Portsmouth Diocesan Retreat house in Catherington, a place to which many individuals and groups visited, just for one day or to reside with us for a while, coming to seek relief from inner fears or distress. I also found myself being asked to talk to groups and chair discussions. When the time came for me to retire it seemed that a profile had been laid down for the future.
And thus it proved. Both aspects of my life continued and became almost a full time occupation. I spent much time talking to many folk who needed counselling and spoke at or lead courses on different aspects of faith, in many parts of southern England.
But I also had the chance to visit my beloved children, both living overseas, Sheila happily married in Australia and also retired after a high powered career in nursing, and Hugh whose degree in Russian and German had taken him to teach English in St Petersburg and then to Germany where he still lives in Bremen.
There were also the joys of gardening, hillwalking, holidays with a friend in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales and visits with my many nieces. Finally, when old age and poor health caught up with me, I could not cope alone at home. It was then I arrived here at the best care home in the world!