Katrina ffiske chats with Robina Hattersley

During the Summer heatwave, the gardener at The Bishop’s House, in The Close, Salisbury, spotted a mysterious object laying on the river-bed. “While I was cleaning the river I saw something shiny and covered in mud,” Daniel Barter, the 23 year-old gardener said. “I pulled the item out with a hoe and dragged it to the side of the river. I realised it was a handbag but didn’t want to open it. I told staff at the house, they called the police who came straight round to look at the suspicious item.”

That same afternoon, a policeman was knocking on a lady’s front door, close to Queen Elizabeth gardens.

I followed in the policeman’s footsteps and knocked on the same door to discover the story behind the bag. I was greeted by Robina Hattersley, a fit, bright-eyed 83-year-old, warmly welcomed into her home, and given coffee and biscuits. Robina is a busy lady, going to the theatre, talks, and meetings, all on her sturdy bicycle, which stands in the hall.

“In February, this year, I had an appointment with my doctor, across Elizabeth Gardens at 6pm in the evening, when it was pitch dark. I’d just bought a new light for my bike so I put it on and it flashed. But as I cycled, the flash completely blinded me and a path I knew so well suddenly disappeared,” Robina said.

To me, this seems quite dramatic, but Robina was chuckling as she bit on her biscuit.

“I just kept cycling, I was so confident that I knew the way, but I suddenly  found myself with water was up to my waist. I had cycled into the river.”

‘Weren’t you frightened?” I asked. Surely, by now, Robina would want some sympathy but no she continued the story.

“No,” she exclaimed, “not really. It was cold and I just wanted to get out! I grabbed at the undergrowth on the bank, but the grass kept coming away in my hands. I shouted for help and eventually a kind, and luckily, strong, man jogged past and literally pulled me out.”

Robina was taken to the Health Centre where her doctor gave her hot tea, wrung her clothes out, warmed her up, checked to see if she was unharmed or had hypothermia and popped her in a taxi home.

“The kind man who saved me went back to the drowned bicycle and with the help of another passer-by dragged it out of the river and delivered it to the Health Centre. But my bag had floated away down the river.”

Robina lost her bag, wallet, notebooks, all those useful things we have in our handbags. “Surely you must have felt bruised and battered the next day?” I asked. “No, not a bruise anywhere, not one broken bone, but I had to take a deep breath before I got back on my bike.”

It was five months later in July when the policeman arrived on her doorstep with her bag. “Can you believe it?” Robina said, “It had floated into the river Nadder and that river joined the Avon, and then right round The Close to the Bishop’s garden. If it hadn’t been for the heatwave it might never have been found. Imagine, five months in the river! The bag had to be binned but the wallet was completely intact, not a mark on it, nothing had deteriorated.” Robina showed me the wallet. “If anyone is thinking of dropping their wallet into water for five months, then the Dante Wallet made in the USA is the wallet to buy.”

The gentleman who helped Robina was a sergeant in the Artillery. He had just dropped off his girls at dance school. “I managed to thank him, but I have lost his name.  I would like to name him in this story and thank him properly for saving me that night,” Robina stressed.

It was a pleasure to meet Robina and seeing her enthusiasm. “I wanted everyone to know how helpful and friendly people are in Salisbury,” she assured me.

If anyone knows the name of the gentleman who helped Robina could they email katrina@yourvalleynews.co.uk.

I will put them in touch with each other.

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