Wednesday 14 October 1959

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you both for your letters duly received and appreciated. Extra carbon in this week for St Mary’s Bristol. Very sorry indeed to learn that Dad in hospital for operation. It came as quite a shock, and as we had had no warning ,completely unexpected. By the time you receive this letter the operation should be over and we all hope it has been a success and that you are feeling as comfortable as possible. As you know I have some experience of these things and I am sure that although you may feel a little low at first each day will bring on improvement and you will soon take an interest in your surroundings. Perhaps few people actually like hospitals, but I have often felt the value of my having spent my time at Winford. June and Susan send their love and hope you will be out soon. Carol of course is too young to comprehend, but Susan asked me “is my Grandad in Hospital”?

I am afraid that you will have to resist the temptation to get back to the garden too soon however much it may fall in arrears or you may hinder full recovery. I enclose the Amateur Winemaker which should fill up a half-hour or so. I do wish we were a bit nearer so that I could come in for a chat as you were able to do for me when at Winford.* As things are, I think it will be better if I waited for your return to Clevedon and then fix up to come down for Week-end. I am feeling a bit better these days and we have all shaken off the colds we had and have had one or two fairly good nights. Carol woke up late last evening and got herself into a frenzy, could not comfort her anyway. I eventually nursed her back to sleep on my knee but previous to that she seemed to have extreme difficulty in drawing her breath. She is as right as a trivet to-day. I think she may have been frightened by car or motor-bike. The louts have started letting off fireworks in the streets at night and I have been after them a couple of times. Dorothy next door has telephoned the police but they have not been observed yet.

We have not lit any fires yet in grate but have put on the electric heater regularly in front room where children play all this week. Susan – little demon – although told not to touch heater put her cardigan over it. Of course it soon got scorched although it would not catch fire as only very hot air is produced. She also made off with Carol in pram when June was in one of the shops. I dont know what she will do next. I give her a good talking to each time but it does not seem to have any effect. She went to Sunday School last Sunday for the first time. (That may do the trick.) Tried to get her to tell us what happened but could get little information. June took her down to the Methodist Church where they look after the very young children and left her in charge of the Sunday School Mistress. She asked Susan her name and she answered “Susan Jane Atkins” When she was collected a little later she told us that she played with a dolls house and sat on a funny long seat. There were other little girls and boys there and she sat between two girls. One of the girls had brown hair tied up with pink ribbon and was called “Janny”. That was all she could tell us. When I last wrote to you, and was typing the bit about Carol and the wasps I guessed it would remind you of the Bee-Hive at Westbury. Not very strange that it should have stuck in the memory is it? Doug and I knocked the pantry down last week end. It came away fairly easily but it has left a bit of a mess. We filled in the gap left by the timber with plaster, and the corresponding channel in the ceiling with polyfiller. Bought myself a plasterers trowel for 4/6 and find there is nothing to it. Now that the pantry is gone it reveals the fact that the wall with inside kitchen door slopes outward from outside wall to the plaster, and inwards from the plaster to the door. This will not notice when all the painting has been done, but is just one more example of botched work in this building. We intend to put gas stove where pantry was so that cooking can proceed minus draft. On the list of purchases to be made are new sink unit and fridge. We hope to decorate dining room in the Autumn and the two main bedrooms fairly soon. The back bedroom now contains two life size crayon portraits on the wallpaper. (By Susan.) Part of concrete path I made is cracking right across and surface is crumbling and sandy. You can poke out the sand with your fingers, Looks as though I shall have to resurface it. My electric razor packed up last week end. Something broke inside whilst I was shaving. I had a look inside and the cause is a complete fracture of the only moving part. I am sending it back to factory for comments. Your kitchen should be super by this time. I expect you did find it interesting to watch. Peter (who failed to pass test) has just bought himself Riley Car £700**. No comment. Pauline seemed to have had a good holiday although I have a feeling they realised they had picked the wrong time to go. Jersey after the Season is much the same as any other place I suppose. Peter has got new job at Isleworth Swimming Baths. I don’t know any more about that yet. Don’t worry about office affairs Dad. We all have a moan now and then but the main essential at the moment is patience. I think I have the feel of the situation as well as anyone and I am convinced that something big is going to break before long. We heard yesterday that as a result of pressure the B.T.C. have revoked their decision on expenses and the position is restored to that which it was before we wrote our protest. As Wilkinson said in his reply “Status quo ante bellum”. As I forecast the only member of our group who was interviewed for London Asst. job was Manning. He had a grilling on rules and regs. with particular reference to L.T.E. Working ( former District Inspector ). Of course he is normally good on rules but got caught on those. Chamney who was formerly my assistant Spl A and who got Asst to at Worcester Spl B got an interview. Rose*** a former Traffic Apprentice Spl A also got one as did Norman Thorn Head Of Research Swansea formerly Traffic Apprentice and of Westbury. An unknown client from Lincoln also got one and that was that. No announcement has been made. The Old Oak L.D.C. after a stormy meeting with their members turned down our scheme. They said it was an excellent scheme and had no fault to find with the arrangements or the time a allowed but it did not give them enough money. My guess is that they are going to get it. Sorry to learn that Mums hearing aid broke down, that probably explains the trouble we were getting on the T.V. ( What price the election ) Cant see that anyone has incentive or cause to vote Lab. these days. I stopped up to midnight to see the results and a fine effort it was by the B.B.C. Eric next door was in charge of the equipment for all the election broadcasts in the London Area. We went to Michael [Benn]’s Christening a week last Sunday but Susan as usual announced that she wanted to go to the toilet so June did not stay till finish of service. I stopped and walked home with carol. She walked all the way home except for crossing roads. Have brought the wine in from the shed now. It is getting a bit too cold to keep a good ferment going out there during the night. Have put all the active jars in airing cupboard. Suggest that you fix yourself up with one of those, they can always be used for airing clothes when not wanted for wine. Well I am sure we all wish you both the best for now, that it will not be too lonely for Mum and that Dad will soon be able to get about again. Love from Alec.

*Winford Hospital – As a child Alec had been for over a year in the Fever Hospital just outside Clevedon, with either diphtheria or scarlet fever. He used to point out the building whenever we passed it, and recount how his mother was only allowed to visit him on Sundays and nobody else at all, and how all the toys and books (and presumably clothes) he had taken in with him had to be burned when he left. When he emerged from hospital he was lagging behind his school friends and was of course socially isolated, but his parents tried to make up for this by getting him a dog (Mike) which he loved dearly. Winford Hospital seems to be a very different sort of place, so it’s possible he may have gone there for physiotherapy after he left the hospital at Clevedon. I can find nothing about the place at Clevedon online except on Google Earth (51 deg 26’26 N; 2 deg 49’19W).

** £700 in 1959 would be over £16,000 in 2019, so Alec’s incredulity is well-founded. At the time June’s brother Peter was working in a handful of jobs that would hardly have made him a wealthy man, although he could have inherited some money of course. It’s also possible that he was betting on horses, which didn’t actually become legal in the UK until the following year. I have no information and am only speculating, but knowing Peter’s character I can well imagine him having pulled off a coup of some kind – although I’ll refrain from speculating further as to precisely *what* kind.

***There is a good chance of this having been Don Rose, who later surfaced as one of the British Rail staff moved en masse from London to York in 1967. June was still in touch with Don’s widow, Vera, almost until the end of her life, although the contact has now been lost.


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