Ada, The Afternoon Tea Lady at Wimbledon Community Centre

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Old Mrs Pedal-To-The-Metal

Ada was well into her 80s when I met her at a community centre of which I had become general secretary. She did the afternoon teas for the various groups who would meet there – music appreciation, bingo, bridge, art classes, Kung-Fu, etc. Her walk from home to the centre would be in two phases divided by an interlude of observation of what was going on in the town, the town being Wimbledon.

She would set off in good time from her house pushing her shopping trolley and trundle up to the bridge to her observation bench where she would rest. And Watch. It would be junior school tipping-out time and the kids would swarm hither and tither like ill-defined flocks of starlings – more a cacophonation than a murmuration – before melting away into the train/tube station or onto the buses. Ada, from her observation bench across the road, would take it all in and give us all the details when she got to the community centre.

One afternoon she was particularly excited over an event she had witnessed – a road traffic accident. This is what had happened. Another old Wimbledon lady from the other side of the tracks – the village with a capital ‘V’ – who was famous for buying a brand-new car every year and driving it virtually nowhere yet destroying it.

Once a week she would take it to the filling station (a little more than a mile away) to have the petrol topped up. Her occasional descent into the town always created a stir. Her driving style was unique. No. Not unique. But it was shared with F1 motor racers amongst few others. She would start the engine with both the clutch and accelerator pedals flat to the floor, put it into first gear, let off the handbrake and release the clutch. And she was off. At maximum revs which remained as such for the duration of the trip. Never changed gear. You could hear her coming a mile away.

One day, however, it all went badly wrong. She had parked in the High Street just past the station and gone into a shop, leaving her door wide open and totally blocking one lane of the one-way system. When she came out of the shop, she immediately realised what a snarl-up she had created. In her embarrassment and ill-advised haste, she launched the poor car once more into action. Same procedure. Ignition. Full clutch. Accelerator flat on the floor. Engage first gear. Release handbrake. Release clutch. Unfortunately…

Unfortunately, a 7.5t delivery truck had managed to squeeze past her open-door car and park right in front of her and whoosh! Into the tailgate drove she.

Well. You can imagine Ada’s excitement in telling us all this. Dr Robert Manning and his music appreciation audience could wait for their bloody tea and custard creams.

“It was terrible”, said Ada. “There were police, fire brigade and ambulances all over the place. Then along came two green paralytics on motor bikes. Oh, it was awful”, she wailed.

“Was the old lady badly hurt?”, we asked.

“Oh, ‘er?”, said Ada. “Not a bleedin’ scratch on ‘er.”

Story submitted by Fran O’ Toole, former General Secretary at Wimbledon Community Centre

Reflections

Do you remember Ada? Did she provide Afternoon Tea for any groups or activities that you attended at the Wimbledon Community Centre? What groups did you attend at the Wimbledon Community Centre?

This story is another reminder of how the Wimbledon Community Association has connected people, places, and passions over the past 75 years. If you remember Ada, or have another story to share, get in touch with us today.

Wimbledon Community Association (WCA) #ConnectingPeoplePlacesPassions for 75 years

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