Wednesday 19th April, 1961

Leonard to the family:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letter duly to hand on Tuesday and we were both very eager to see how Susan got on during her first days at school. Apparently she did not mind but Carol did – for a minute or two at least – but now she has got used to being on her own. Susan was soon in the wars then by falling down and skinning her knees. Glad Carol enjoyed her birthday festivities now it will soon be Susan’s turn. Looks as if she has a pal already at school – makes all the difference even to small children to have a special friend.

Glad to hear you have now got a shade and the lamp is complete. Strange you should get it at Eastcote – this was the first time we missed going there when on holiday with you. We like the shopping area there very much and with a car it is practically on your doorstep. Note Susan tied her shoes on to wire support of lamp – presumably for good luck but I don’t suppose she thought so when you had dealt with her.* We imagined they would try and celebrate the rearrangement of the beds in their room but Father & Mother apparently took a dim view of the idea.

Fancy mothers having to listen to the headmistress for half an hour when their children go to school for the first time. Quyite a good idea no doubt to get all the gen but this is the first time I’ve known anything like this to happen. Hope June did not think she herself was starting school again. Anyhow they were happy days when you look back upon them.**

We had another letter from Uncle Joe at Tiverton this morning asking us to go down early in May for a long weekend as we cannot manage Whitsun so have decided to go to Tiverton on Friday 5th prox. and on to Exmouth the following day for a weekend at the bungalow.*** Last October they took a coloured snap-shot of Mum and I standing either side of the car and sent us a copy this morning. It is a lovely shot, one of the best we have seen for a long time. Must remember to show it to you in due course. We have asked Don & Joan to come up next Sunday the 23rd inst. and they have replied accepting so let’s hope it will be fine & warm. I understand he is bringing up another consignment of cider. Sorry about that last bottle of yours. Query was cork loose.

You are quite right about the donkeys. Apart from Salthouse Fields the paths around Wains Hill have to be negotiated very carefully now-a-days. I see there are also about half a dozen ponies and one carriage – something like the 6.5 p.m. Special but called the ‘Spaceship’. Nothing like being up to date.****

The horse in our field is getting along alright and what grass he does not eat is trodden down so same effect – for me – is attained. Have been round with the wheelbarrow a couple of times and it reminds me of years ago when I used to go out on the road – with others – with a Tates sugar box on wheels and pick up for your Grandad’s allotment. No motor cars in those days but plenty of horse carriages.

Chettiscombe and Chevithorne are two little hamlets with rather long names but both are somewhat picturesque and are only a few miles out of Tiverton. Halberton is a village roughly halfway between Tiverton Jun. and Tiverton.

We think Joe & Lydia do fairly well in letting the bungalow but if you own one of these it is much more convenient to be living somewhere near so that you can pop down occasionally – particularly at changing out weekends – to see how things are going on otherwise damage and breakages cannot be debited to any specific boarder. In Joe’s case there is someone they know well in residence on the Dock throughout the year and he does what is necessary.

I managed to get grass cut last Saturday afternoon. The garden soil is still like concrete and most difficult to work. Incidentally I unrolled the hose just after dinner today and about an hour later it started to rain and continued raining remainder of day. I bought 10 tomato plants yesterday & put them in the ring culture bay of greenhouse. These will provide the early tomatoes and my own plants the sequence. Runner Beans (in boxes) are coming up and I’m trying to get the ground ready for transplanting. The first row of peas is a failure – seems to be an annual event – something eating them as soon as they come up. Now trying some in a box for planting out later.

Going back to your letter again what a nice lot of presents Carol had for her birthday. I’m sure she had a wonderful time and what a novel idea to have a ‘birthday’ chair at Sunday School.

Our new neighbours – in Cummings house – were busy during the weekend putting a cement wash on the walls and it looks very nice. The people next door again – Mrs Drewett’s – are also there daily painting and papering but they have not moved in yet.

Thanks for the promise of more plum wine – it’s excellent. Have you tried the cherry I brought up – quite a pleasant taste to it. Cornish looked over yesterday afternoon & I gave him a drop of the orange which he admitted was good. The parsnip is still working under fermentation lock and I shall let it continue indefinitely.

On TV the other night we saw a primary school in which children were assembled for their first day and it was very amusing. One thing we saw was the issue of a beaker of milk complete with straw. Does Susan get any milk at midmorning? Rather looks as if she does as I notice the milkman who delivers it is named Baker.

Has Peter has his car put right yet? Hope no ill effects to Mr & Mrs Baker consequent on their unpleasant journey on Easter Monday.

Well I think this is the lot once more. Hope you are all keeping well.

All our love to you both and lots of kisses for our big school girl Susan and our three years old Carol.

Mum & Dad

*Leonard is clearly expecting the result of this innocuous-sounding prank to have been a ‘smacked bottom’, which was no doubt the case. I leave it to you whether the punishment was appropriate to the ‘crime’.

**It’s nice to know that for some people school is a pleasant experience and not an unmitigated hell of bullying during which the best a parent can come up with is ‘I expect you started it’.

***A bit of unravelling to do here. Firstly, business custom used to be to use ‘inst.’ for the present month, ‘ult.’ for the previous month and ‘prox.’ for the coming month. Since Leonard learned his business habits before and during the First World War it is really no surprised that he was still using them forty years later. (In the same way the present writer simply cannot use a single space after a full stop; having been taught to use two, it’s quite immaterial that the convention has changed; it’s as ingrained as breathing and could only be altered by a global search-replace.) Secondly, the early May Bank Holiday (often described as May Day but only occasionally falling on 1 May itself) did not exist until 1978. What Leonard refers to as ‘Whitsun’ is the holiday surrounding the religious festival of Whit Sunday which tended to float about in the calendar between late May and early June, depending on the date of Easter. Secularising the public holiday means that it became pinned to the last Monday in May – as the early Bank Holiday is pinned to the first Monday – which makes planning a lot easier for people who are not otherwise tied to a religious calendar. Proposals to move the early May Bank Holiday to October and celebrate Trafalgar Day instead have so far been unsuccessful; adding Trafalgar Day as an extra Bank Holiday would probably be more successful!

****Ooooh, boy, here we go down the rabbit hole! Trapnells of Weston-super-Mare (now Weston Donkeys) have run donkeys on the beach at Weston for generations. Clearly at this time they had also expanded their activities to Clevedon, although the two resorts are very different in character and it has to be doubted whether it was really worth doing. Apart from putting individual children on individual donkeys, they also ran carts or carriages with seats for the very young or those unable – or too nervous – to sit astride a donkey, and the carriages were always themed around whatever children were interested in at the time. Leonard’s observation of a “6.5 Special” ride no doubt ties in with the BBC TV series Six-Five Special which ran from 1957 to 1958 but which may possibly have been recorded and repeated in subsequent years. The Spaceship was no doubt the one in the photo below, taken at Weston-super-Mare the following year, named after ‘Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future‘ (which future was apparently the 1990s!) who was very popular in the ‘Eagle’ comic at the time and is still enjoying a protracted afterlife amongst his devoted fans.

Eva to the family on the remaining two-thirds of a sheet of Leonard’s writing paper:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letter. I expect the girls have been much occupied to do any drawings this week so much excitement about. We are now going to Exmouth May 6th for week end will be spending the Friday night at Tiverton then go down with Joe Sat. morning & expect Lydia will come in afternoon unless she gets time off. Her boss is negotiating the purchase of another shop as all those in Bridge Street are scheduled to come down to widen the road soon.

May is a busy month for me. On 15th we go to Glastonbury to look over Moorlands Factory where they make the sheepskin rugs & slippers etc. Whit Monday the Headstones***** will be down for day. June the first we go to Cannington Farm Institute & afterwards they will dump us either to Bridgwater or Taunton for tea. Mr Horton Coleridge Vale Road’s son is engaged I don’t know if you know the girl Janet Hart of Kenton Road Harrow.

It’s been drizzle on & off all day, I haven’t got any gardening done but Dad has been busy all the day. I wish it would get a bit warmer so that we can leave off jumpers.

Well I think this is all for now, hoping to soon hear the next school budget.

Bye bye for now.

Love from Mum & Dad

*****Presumably Geoff, Stella, and their daughters, who all lived in a house at Headstone Lane! I’ve never heard this expression used before – it will be interesting to see if it turns up again.


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