The London bombings of July 7, 2005 sent shock waves through the Ricketts’ household at Tedman Street, Zillmere in Brisbane, given our two eldest children, Melanie and Damien lived and worked in the English capital.
After the bombings, which killed 52 people and injured hundreds more, Melanie phoned from her office, and Damien emailed from the school where he was teaching. Naturally, we were inundated with calls from concerned relatives and friends.
While both children were fine, it could have been so much different, as Damien caught the Tube that morning, and three of the four bombs were detonated on the London Underground. In fact, Damien had slept in, and missed his usual train, which was one of those targeted.
My wife, Marie was fretting big time for the kids, as was I, and it was with my blessing that she booked a trip to the UK to catch up with them.
As chief rugby league writer for ‘The Courier-Mail’, August-September was my busiest time, and I had caught up with Melanie in London in October, 2004 when I covered Australia’s Tri-Nations campaign.
Marie flew Royal Brunei to London, via Dubai, on August 29, and was met at the airport by Melanie and Damien, before being taken back to their residence at Delorme Street, Hammersmith. Lunch at Slug and Lettuce, Richmond and dinner at an Indian establishment in Brick Lane.
The following day, it was Pimms at the Oxo Tower – 22 pounds for three – followed by a walk over Waterloo Bridge to Covent Garden for dinner at Maxwell’s Bar and Grill, ahead of ‘The Producers’ musical, at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Marie had deep fried camembert, followed by Atlantic Salmon.
London was in the grip of a heatwave, and free bottles of water were handed out to theatre patrons, as the likes of Nathan Lane and Conleth Hill went through their paces on stage.
The intrepid family trio finished the night with drinks at the Nags Head.
Damien took his mother to Hampton Court Palace the following day, and they found their way in and out of the maze.
Day three saw ‘the kids’ take their mum to Borough Markets, where they sampled delights such as cranberry rolls; hot ham and salad rolls; lemon meringue pie and carrot cake, followed by drinks at the Market Porter pub.
Melanie and her mum walked to the top of Wellington Arch, for the great views over Hyde Park.
Damien joined the ladies for dinner at Thatched House Pub, Hammersmith.
On Marie’s last full day in London, the focus was a ‘leaving party’ for Melanie, at ‘The Mitre’, Fulham. It was a suitably big night, which concluded with the obligatory kebab on the way home. Melanie was heading back to New York to live.
Marie was to fly to Ireland the following day, to catch up with her Tipperary based niece, Kellie Kelly; her husband, Alan and their daughters, Liana and Emma. Kelly’s mum, Carolyn Soward and her husband, Neville, from Lismore in New South Wales, were to visit at the same time.
On the day of Melanie’s farewell party, I was flying back from Sydney with the Broncos, sitting beside legendary trainer, Tony ‘Springer’ Spencer, who slept the whole way, a tribute to my riveting conversational skills.
The players sitting behind us kept putting shredded paper in our hair. I had covered the Broncos’ 28-14 loss to Parramatta the previous night, with Parra confirmed as minor premiers. But their star forward, Nathan Hindmarsh had torn his posterior cruciate.
Parramatta’s former Runaway Bay halfback, Tim Smith was the star, on a night when New Zealander, Greg Eastwood made his NRL debut for Brisbane. Sam Thaiday, who had been taught by our son, Damien at Kirwan High in Townsville, was Brisbane’s best.
I had been batching with our youngest son, Lliam, who knows how to cook a steak, on the BBQ.
On the day Marie flew out, I had covered Broncos’ training at Red Hill, where affiliate club, Toowoomba were having their ‘Mad Monday’, after their season had come to an end. One of the players was dressed as a nurse.
Down south, St George Illawarra star, Trent Barrett had been fined $2,000 for doing push-ups in his undies, in a Wollongong pub. One of the females at work said she would pay the fine, if Trent would do it again.
All the sort of stuff we’re happy to see on our news bulletins, rather than terrorist bombings. Taken from Marie Ricketts’ travel diary. She has approved the above version of her travels.
1 Marie Ricketts in London in 2005
2 Siblings, Melanie and Damien Ricketts at Richmond
3 Marie Ricketts at Camden
4 Melanie Ricketts at Borough Markets.