Biography Irene Haensel
I was born on September 18th, 1938 in Hamburg, the "little" sister of Helga and Helmut. I attended primary school, often
interrupted due to the troubled times of World War II. Looking back, however, I remember a carefree, enjoyable
childhood although at times unable to play outside as I had no shoes to wear. We enjoyed great freedom to play outside
and roam through the moor at the end of the road - there were always plenty of children to play with. Our road,
Woltersstrasse, was paved with cobble stones and was a ideal for playing - nobody owned a car at the time. The
local police officer nicknamed "Schutzmann Bratkartoffel" (Fried Potato) knew all the children in the neighbourhood
and when the gong sounded, the Haensels knew, that mother was calling.
By tram -No 14- in winter and by bicycle during summer I attended secondary and high school which I finished in 1955.
Then followed a year at 'finishing' school for girls in Rottach Egern am Tegernsee (Bavaria). There I learnt all the
things that would be most useful in later life - how to run a household, cook, clean, infant care, and much more.
Following Rottach I spent several years in England and France to study the languages and culture. In England I started
training as a nurse followed by further training in Hamburg to qualify as a Doctor's assistant. I loved the profession,
which I gave up four years later to marry Richard Millard (an Englishman, born 1944) on 23rd February 1968.
Richard worked for the British Bank of the Middle East as a banker. As we were going to live in the Middle East, I
decided to take British citizenship. We were posted to Tripoli (1968) and Benghazi at the time of King Idris. While
in Benghazi (1969) Colonel Qaddafi and his allies staged a Coup d'Etat. We lived on the main street and witnessed
the commotion developing in front of us. We were glad to leave nine months later - not liking the political development.
After Lybia we were posted for two years to Alkhobar (1971), Saudi Arabia. Times were good: there was a houseboy, a
chauffeur, a gardener - colonial times, bliss! As a woman I was not allowed to drive, nor work. Our daughter
Sonya (born 1969) was chauffeured to nursery school and I was driven to do the shopping (so convenient). Richard's
working hours were from 7.00 am to 2.00 pm, 6 days per week. We had plenty of time together as a family.
Other postings were to Dubai (1972) with a house on the beach, ideal for the children (Fiona born 1973) and
Tangier/Morocco (1974). Sonya attended a french school and quickly overcame any language difficulties.
Richard changed from the British Bank of the Middle East and joined the Bank of Nova Scotia. His first posting
was to open a new branch in Bahrain (1976) followed by postings to Frankfurt (1979), Dublin (1983) and finally
returning to the City of London, where he retired from his banking career in 2003.
Our daughters attended boarding school from the age of nine on the Isle of Wight, close to their English grandparents.
They enjoyed the long summer, Christmas and Easter holidays joining us overseas and many weekends with their grandparents.
Whilst Richard pursued his career, I took whatever work I could get as a secretary. My knowledge of languages was most
useful and I am continuing to work beyond retirement to this day (2007). Whilst in Ireland I added qualifications as
a masseuse to my previous medical activities which I continue to practice - it has given me so much deeper an
understanding of the human body.
For almost 20 years we have been living in East Molesey, Molember Road, between the rivers Mole and Ember, which
join downstream the Thames at nearby Hampton Court Palace. The towpath along the Thames towards Kingston upon
Thames (for shopping) or the two Royal Parks (Hampton Court and vis-à-vis Bushy Park) are our local walking and
cycling destinations. The remaining time is for gardening, visits to museums & art exhibitions, theatre &
concerts. London offers endless opportunities and such varied cultural possibilities.
Visiting family & friends, near and far, are our favoured destinations. Other places we enjoyed seeing were
HongKong, Bali, Thailand, Mauritius, the Seychelles and not to forget the cycle trip from Passau to Vienna
with Richard in 2006.
The 'boots for walking' have not yet been mothballed. There are so many places I would love to see. Let's
see what the future will bring...